Can accounts payable automation save outsourcing? New SSON report revealed…

In 2018, 62% of operations leaders were positive about investing in their outsourcing model. In 2019 only 28% feel the same way and 47% are actively seeking to decrease their reliance on outsourcing.

These findings by research firm, Horses for Sources, are significant. However, do they spell the end of an era for outsourcing or the beginning of a new one for automation?

How to revolutionise AP: a new report

At Basware, we’ve just released a report by SSON about how to revolutionise accounts payable by turning accounts payable (AP) into a value- and profit-engine in shared services. It hinges on several key points:​

  • Accounts payable offers much more than just efficiencies

  • How improved data input can help AP move from being a cost centre to a profit centre

  • How to process information in a smart way through digitisation

  • Why invoice data is the foundation of automated AP processing

  • Why analytics offers the insights needed to shift to profit thinking

  • How to gain buy-in for AP transformation

  • The value that automated solutions provide by mitigating risk and preventing fraud; and

  • How shared services can meet its objectives through automated AP

SSON has pulled together insights from external sources, perspectives based on a wealth of knowledge about trends in the industry and interviews with three Basware leaders: myself, Lauri Palokangas, Director Customer Insights and André von de Finn, Sales Director. It also covers perspectives on e-invoicing from both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

What do both hemispheres have in common when it comes to e-invoicing? 

Essentially, whether you’re in the North or the South, everyone is coming around to the fact that e-invoicing is becoming critical to business as usual. Mandates in Germany and ANZ are both requiring organisations to adopt e-invoicing. This is becoming non-negotiable. In the EU, the public sector has to move to e-invoicing while in Australia and New Zealand, the PEPPOL (the Pan-European Public Procurement On-Line) interoperability framework is being used to standardise e-invoicing across both government and business. These quotes from the report illustrate the reality both above and below the equator.

The Northern perspective

“What we are seeing in Europe right now is that the EU has issued a directive to mandate e-invoicing across the EU public sector. This means that receivers will need to be able to process e-invoices, especially as roughly half of all German enterprises have at least one public sector client. They will need to find a way to send e-invoices fairly quickly.” – André von de Finn

The Southern perspective

The move towards using the trans-Tasman PEPPOL specification and protocol represents a giant leap towards a future-focused e-business world for this region. The Basware Network has already been upgraded to support delivery of electronic invoices using trans-Tasman specification and protocol wholly within Australia.

In the SSON report you’ll read about how the aim for enterprises should be to automate the entire procure-to-pay (P2P) cycle. Starting with e-invoicing is one, but not the only route. The critical factor is to become digital. By doing so, enterprises generate real business value by reducing costs, increasing productivity and improving visibility around the entire AP and procurement parts of the business.

Automate for optimal human efficiency

Regardless of where you are in the world, e-invoicing is no longer optional: it is essential. The challenge is for anyone involved in shared services to move rapidly towards a world where the outsourcing of invoicing is enhanced by automation that allows for true visibility and the use of human intelligence: so that systems handle the mundane inputting and processing of raw data and humans manage exceptions.

Lauri Palokangas says, “The key is to optimise AP despite the challenges presented by scale and multinational operations and in the face of multiple ERP and procurement solutions. The first step in the journey towards optimised AP is to get all suppliers on board so that invoices come together in one place, regardless of where spend is generated. The next step is to integrate all procurement solutions that deal with spend, whether direct or indirect.”

Regardless of where you are in that journey, the imperative for change is more urgent than ever before.

Let me conclude with this advice for outsourcers from HfS: “Develop programs that get your clients leveraging the benefits of automation and AI quickly by hiring talent to make this happen, and forging deep, mutually-beneficial partnerships with software firms to work with you.” The same applies to anyone involved in outsourcing – whether that is within your organisation or by using another company’s Shared Services Centre. Basware is just one of the software firms that can help you and my personal commitment is that our depth and breadth of international knowledge, as well as our direct, personal approach will make you feel like a true partner in turning accounts payable into a profit engine.

See this insight in context: download the full report

This article presents just a snapshot of the depth of opinion, insight and real-world advice presented in the Basware and SSON report on How to Turn AP into a Value- and Profit-Engine. To get a copy of the report, download it here. And if you’re ready to forge a deep, mutually-beneficial partnership with Basware, get in touch with me by email.

Vice President APAC Basware