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In 2022 the effects of the pandemic will doubtless still be felt. The upside of this though, is that workplaces will continue to modernise, digitise and do better by their stakeholders. In the coming year, more and more companies will automate their accounts payable, driven by the following workplace trends:

1. Adoption of Peppol e-invoicing

The Peppol standard and communications network allows for the transmission of payables data from one finance system to another. This means data entry and other manual work is no longer required on the buyer’s side as the e-invoice arrives complete in their finance system ready for automated processing. This facilitates faster payments and lower operating costs, benefiting both trading partners.

The federal government is pushing Peppol as it anticipates that shortening payment times and reducing the cost of doing business will drive economic growth. In fact, it estimates that the widespread adoption of Peppol could return $28 billion to the economy over 10 years!

The NSW government will be Peppol-ready by 1 January, and all Commonwealth agencies will be on Peppol by 1 July. These governments are promising five-day payment terms or interest payments to suppliers who send e-invoices. As a result, in 2022 more and more businesses will come onto the network; many will choose to do so via an AP automation product to enjoy the same efficiency gains for their other invoices as they experience with Peppol.

2. Continuation of work-from-home

Remote or hybrid work will remain in 2022 as most employees (52%) value flexible working arrangements. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that 20% of the global workforce (certainly those in high skilled jobs) could work most of their time away from the office and be just as effective. As such, the use of cloud-based software will become more widespread, improving productivity and enabling fast, collaborative decision making.

In accounts payable, cloud-hosted automation products will support remote work. Users from across the business can log onto the software via a web browser and access their invoice approval tasks. With the solution capturing a history of every interaction with a payable, there is complete visibility across the invoice process lifecycle and into the payables data. This ensures that work-from-home does not slow approvals and disrupt the flow of goods to the company.

3. Increased focus on ESG 

The pandemic has brought environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns into sharp relief; most Australians (60%) now view global warming as a serious and pressing problem that needs immediate attention. Automating accounts payable helps to reduce an organisation’s environmental footprint as invoices should be received, processed and stored electronically, making the department paperless. Automation improves efficiency and reduces waste and energy consumption, enabling leaner, greener operations.

Sustainable business is also about doing the right thing by people. This means supporting employees with the right systems and processes to be able to perform in their roles, as well as providing pathways for professional development. An AP automation solution releases accounts payable officers from mundane manual tasks, freeing them up to take on more strategic and, potentially, more satisfying work.

From a vendor’s perspective, an AP automation solution means that they are paid on time, every time. As a result, their business and supply chain are not stressed by late payments, nor do they have to waste productive time chasing unpaid invoices. On the buyer’s side, the automation software ensures payments are accurate and compliant, enabling strong financial control and supporting profitability.

4. The rise of out-the-box products

According to Gartner, 85% of enterprises will adopt a cloud-first principle by 2025. As a result, the use of configurable out-of-the-box products is set to rise considerably. This means many more companies will enjoy the benefits of AP automation without having to take on a lengthy and expensive software build.

Off-the-shelf products are well developed and highly configurable to meet the varied needs of different organisations. Best-of-breed AP automation solutions have optimal procure-to-pay processes ‘built in’ and are ready to use with no modification. This means these products are:

  • Extremely effective
  • Highly affordable
  • Quick to deploy
  • Easy to use
  • Feature rich
  • Viable for the long term

With an AP automation product, the cost savings versus manual processing are generated immediately. Therefore, firms can expect to see a return on investment very quickly – often in about a year.

In conclusion

In 2022, the digitisation of our economy and work practices will continue, enabling us to ‘work better’, become more productive, and create value. AP automation has a role to play in the transformation of our economy and its adoption may be accelerated by factors that include:

  • the roll out of Peppol e-invoicing,
  • continued work-from-home,
  • greater awareness of ESG,
  • wider use of out-the-box software.

Amid all the disruption, the pandemic has also created opportunity for progress.

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