Automation within accounting has always elicited significant benefits, but it’s never been more apparent since the onset of COVID. Accounting teams are operating in a very different world to the one we were used to before the pandemic.
A recent Beanworks survey of finance professionals found that 44 per cent of respondents had gone partially remote after COVID-19, and a further 36 per cent said their department was working from home full-time. For teams that were using traditional, manual methods in their accounts payable (AP) and accounts receivable (AR) departments, this spelled trouble.
Beanworks by Quadient is a trusted AP Automation software, processing more than $31billion in AP spend and counting. Beanworks accounts payable automation software and AI-powered data capture processes invoices and vendor payment faster for less, reducing data entry, speeding up the AP process and automating approval follow-ups, making your accounts payable more cost-effective and less prone to errors.
CEO Catherine Dahl here shares her thoughts on how account automation will be crucial for fraud prevention, providing time-saving processes that also significantly cut down on costs.
What has been the traditional company response to financial technology innovations nationally?
This has changed over the years and certainly during the pandemic. Pre-pandemic, CFOs were moving towards automation but not at a fast pace. Adoption can still be tricky, but overall, more and more companies are embracing automation. Once they go ahead with it, they can’t believe they ever lived without it before.
How has this changed over the past few years?
The move to digital has sped up. More and more businesses are moving to paperless digital business communications. So when your invoices arrive as an attachment in an email – if you have no way to process them digitally, then you would need to print them. Ten years ago, 75 per cent of invoices were paper-based and 25 per cent were digital. This has now reversed in recent times. The growing prevalence of digital invoices has created more pressure for businesses to find a solution that can digitise the approval and payments process entirely.
Is there anything that has created a culture of change inside the company?
At Beanworks we operate based on our core BEAN values, which stands for Beantrepreneur, Exceed expectations, All together, and Never accept status quo. Our parent company Quadient has very similar values that spell out as EPIC, which stands for Empowerment, Passion, Inspiration and Community. We promote these values as work ethics, how you do things. Since we encourage employees to never accept the status quo and advocate empowerment in the workforce, our staff are always trying to find ways to improve processes, automate tasks and generally do more with less. We actively promote a culture of change, or “managed chaos” within the company. Change is in our DNA.
What fintech ideas have been implemented?
Accounts payable (AP) is consistently ranked as the most frustrating and time-consuming part of accounting by finance professionals. As a company built by accountants for accountants, we empower accounting teams to succeed by automating all things AP — making it both simple and delightful.
Manual data entry is soon to become a thing of the past. A process automation system can’t make the sun shine longer, but it can help reduce workload and costs. Specifically, in relation to the Beanworks platform, using an automation solution for AP can reduce the cost of invoice processing by 60-80 per cent. For example, if you manually process 500 invoices a month, it costs your business $90,000 per year. But with automation, you would save $60,000 — which could be put to much better use. In addition, Beanworks saves time using AI to capture invoice details, such as line items, header information, amount, due date, unit costs, quantities, etc. Automation and AI will be crucial for fraud prevention, providing time-saving processes that also significant cuts down on costs.
Beanworks’ solution reduces the amount of time it takes to process an invoice. Payables are automatically routed through custom workflows, so POs, invoices, payments, and expenses are delivered to the appropriate team members for approval and payment. It also sends out reminders when there are tasks to be completed.
In addition, AP portals such as Beanworks can improve relations between a business and its vendors, as the approval process is accelerated and payments are made on time. Eliminating data entry can generate savings of an estimated $35,000 per year. This is no small matter at a time of tightening budgets and increased focus on liquidity in most businesses.
What benefits have these brought?
Everyone can make mistakes, but data entry errors in accounting are like throwing a wrench in the gears of a machine. Fortunately, Beanworks captures invoice data with 99 per cent accuracy. In addition, the smart technology employed by Beanworks reduces the amount of time spent on invoice data entry by 83 per cent. Companies can also use the dashboard functionality to learn how much time their teams are spending on approvals and coding within a specific time period, e.g., a week, month, etc. By utilising Beanworks’ all-in-one platform, AP teams can remove any paper processes and do away with other hard costs like postage and time wasted on approval delays, bringing average invoice processing costs from $15 down to $3 or less.
Do you see any other industry challenges on the horizon?
A recent report by TransUnion found that the percentage of suspected financial services digital fraud increased by 149 per cent around the globe. We expect that the alarming rise in the prevalence of fraud will continue for the foreseeable future.
Can these challenges be aided by fintech?
An AP automation solution like Beanworks uses AI to automate manual and repetitive tasks in accounts payable, which helps deter fraud by eliminating manual processes that provide opportunities for record tampering and falsified approvals.
It also provides cloud-based workflows, which generate audit trails that help prevent internal and external fraud risks by flagging duplicate payments and invoices. Businesses can benefit from having one single platform to manage all of their accounting processes, such as POs, invoices, payments, and expenses, as data flows seamlessly and with assured accuracy. The cloud-based technology also handles vendor banking data management security. Some payments providers also assume liability for correctly paying vendors, and enable every transaction to be insured with a guarantee or warranty.
With AP automation software, businesses can avoid unauthorised transactions by setting up a detailed approval matrix based on department, budget, vendor, etc. Approvers receive online notifications as soon as expense reports are submitted, and they can accept or reject each approval request through a web browser or even their mobile phone. Common discrepancies like duplicate invoices are automatically flagged in the system. Internal and external audits also become a lot simpler, as the details of every transaction are stored on a central platform for convenient access.