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3 Secrets to Streamlining Your Accounts Payable Process Not all AP automation software is created equal. Leveraging the right AP solution that aligns with your unique vision and available resources will ensure your business grows without compromising its individuality.

By Francois Lacas

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It's a common mistake made in adolescence: bleaching one's hair to look unique. Those who achieve the envisioned look are few and far between, as the proper at-home technique evades most of us, leaving us to tell the tale of a period in life during which we sported preposterously orange hair.

Thankfully life grants us wisdom (and a collection of funny stories) as we age. We learn that nailing a unique vision requires tremendous study, discipline and teamwork. It takes time to create something distinctive. And gaining wisdom doesn't mean you have to lose your flair for the unique: it just means you've got a better eye for the solutions and processes that'll get you to your goal.

While hair couture is a fascinating topic — and apropos to leaving a distinctive mark on the world – today I'd like to take a look at one of the fundamental elements behind creating an exceptionally successful business: the Accounts Payable (AP) process. Leveraging the right AP solution that perfectly aligns with your business's unique vision and resources will ensure your company grows without compromising its individuality.

Related: How to Master Bookkeeping for Your Business Without an Accounting Degree

Why choosing an AP solution that aligns with your vision is a must

The urge to start or run a business stem from a creative place. Thankfully, the fundamental processes that run a business have come a long way, making it more possible than ever to make entrepreneurial visions a reality. The Accounts Payable process is one such fundamental element of a successful venture. Accounts Payable (AP) tracks and monitors the expenses owed by a company to its suppliers and vendors, which is crucial in managing the overall budget.

Each business has unique needs — and the AP process should suit their individual situation. Top-rated automation solutions for AP allow organizations to do the tailoring they need. For example, multisite organizations — like in the construction business or the B2B service industry — would benefit from Cloud-based Accounts Payable automation, as this allows for the capturing, processing, approval, and payment of invoices from any approved device at any location, with multiple and complex validation rules and routes (if you've worked on a construction project before, you know there's often a lot of movement amongst sites). Additionally, Cloud-based AP automation can track and reconcile orders, retention status, and lien waivers as they flow in from vendors, subcontractors and suppliers.

Another example of industries that thrive with customizable AP software is the industries where maximizing customer-facing time is key for satisfaction and business growth. In a fast-moving restaurant, in a retail store, in a consulting business, there's no time for manual mistakes. A fully-automated, no-touch AP process can significantly lessen the incidence of human error around the many business transactions flowing back and forth on a given day, streamlining and centralizing the purchase-to-pay (P2P) process and others pertaining to spending and suppliers. A customizable, seamless AP automation software can free these businesses up to focus on the distinctive elements that make their business special – like the food and customer experience for example.

The majority of businesses, large and small, can benefit from implementing Accounts Payable automation and Purchase-to-Pay automation moving forward, suited to their budgetary goals and specific workflow configuration. The increased productivity, accelerated cycle and data accuracy heighten coordination and collaboration between departments, and easier compliance with regulations and standards granted by this intelligent software improves business operations. Beyond, it improves business leaders' ability to predict cash flow and make better decisions as data automatically flow in real-time to their data analytics and data visualization tools.

What to look for in Accounts Payable software

Not all AP automation software is created equal. After determining your business needs and requirements around invoice processing, there are a few things to pay attention to when searching for the best Accounts Payable automation software for your business.

  • Seamless real-time automation: Ensure the Accounts Payable automation software syncs with your existing financial solutions and ERP system. You want your AP automation to act as a one-stop shop for invoicing and payment solutions. Some unique solutions leverage AI and machine and deep learning technologies to deliver an outstanding level of automation with extreme simplicity and traceability.
  • Simplicity: AP automation software should display user-friendliness, plug-and-play integration with existing IT systems, and unlimited flexibility in meeting evolving business operations needs. It should work for your business and not require a total restructuring of the systems you already have in place.
  • Scalability: A great AP automation software should be based on a pay-per-use model, and it should offer an all-in-one set of solutions, starting from invoice automation, then moving to automated invoice payment, then extending purchase automation. Rather than relying on a user-toll model, AP automation software should afford teams the flexibility and elegance of using only what they need to, when they need to. Elements such as customizable workflows, the ability to create codes to suit specific transaction needs, and Cloud-based integrations provide the end-to-end, structured dynamism necessary to meet the needs of your business as it evolves.

Related: 5 Cash Management Tactics Small Businesses Use to Become Bigger Businesses

Choose an AP automation solution that's as unique as you are

Running a business is labor-intensive. When it's work you deeply care about, it's a labor of love – and that means you'll go above and beyond to find the processes and tools that bring your vision to life. Only a happy few automation software solutions will allow your team's creative and innovative power to shine while preventing errors along the way. Market offering is wide, so it is crucial to make the right choice. Finding the right balance between automation, simplicity and functional scope is the only way to make your automated AP process suited to support the unique vision of your business. Just like finding the right hairstyle to suit your individuality, the right AP automation strategies will set the groundwork so your company can grow confidently without sacrificing what makes it unforgettable.

Francois Lacas

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Deputy COO

Francois Lacas is the Deputy COO at Yooz, a cloud global company that helps firms automate their procurement and accounting processes. With 25+ years of local and international experience, he is passionate about driving growth for fast-growing tech companies.

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