Accounts Payable
How to implement a paperless accounts payable process

How to implement a paperless accounts payable process

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At BILL, we know a thing or two about accounts payable (AP). After working with thousands of small and midsize businesses across the country, we've learned an important lesson: that navigating AP isn't just about processing transactions. It's about fostering resilience, supporting scalability, and empowering businesses to succeed. And another lesson? No one loves dealing with paper invoices. 

That’s why we understand that making the move to paperless accounts payable can be so impactful. The days of drowning in a sea of paper, dealing with manual data entry, and enduring cumbersome approval processes belong in the past. In this post, we'll explore the path toward a paperless accounts payable process. Imagine a streamlined, efficient system that not only saves time and resources but also paves the way for enhanced accuracy and more strategic financial decision making. 

Let's modernize your AP and revolutionize the way your business handles financial transactions. 

What is paperless accounts payable?

Paperless accounts payable is the transition from traditional, paper-based AP to a streamlined, digital system. This means leveraging technology to automate workflows, enhance efficiency, and facilitate seamless collaboration. 

Invoice processing shouldn’t be a pain. Making the shift to a paperless accounts payable system empowers businesses to adapt to a dynamic marketplace, fostering agility, cost savings, and sustainability. A paperless accounts payable system can automate the repetitive steps of AP, while managing and tracking all of your invoices from one place—all in less time than manual paper-based processes.

Desktop view of paperless accounts payable with BILL
Paperless accounts payable with BILL

Why does your business need paperless accounts payable?

Saving trees is a noble goal, but shifting your accounts payable to paperless software will not only support the environment—it will also make a remarkable impact on your business. 

So why should you make your accounts payable paperless? Here are the biggest benefits.

Improved efficiency

Do you ever wish invoice data would import itself? A paperless AP process is about as close as you can get. Going paperless streamlines the entire AP process, reducing manual tasks such as data entry, filing, and approvals.  It can also speed up invoice processing—no matter how many paper invoices you might have. Automation eliminates bottlenecks such as approval delays and organizational challenges, leading to faster invoice processing, approvals, and payments.

Increased accuracy

Accounts payable automation is nothing to sneeze at. Automated AP systems reduce the risk of manual errors in data entry and invoice processing. Electronic data capture and validation help ensure accuracy, preventing costly mistakes such as duplicate invoices.

Faster approval workflows

A paperless AP process will save you approval time. With automated notifications and a centralized system, stakeholders can promptly review and approve invoices from anywhere, improving overall workflow efficiency.

Improved visibility and reporting

It's easy to get caught up in processing invoices that you don't step back and analyze the data. Going paperless makes this process easier by organizing all your invoices in one place so you can create reports, track expenses, and analyze spending patterns more efficiently for strategic decision-making. And with digitally searchable documents, finding the information you need is always a few clicks away. 

Enhanced security

One of the biggest downsides of a paper-based AP process is the potential security risk. AP software can help reduce the likelihood of fraud by:

  • Automatically comparing new invoices to purchase orders or receipts
  • Checking for duplicate invoices
  • Providing an audit trail for each transaction
  • Setting controls for who can access and approve new invoices

Streamlined audits

Manual data entry means a greater risk of mistakes—but with the right AP software, you’re always audit ready. Auditors can efficiently retrieve and review documents thanks to centralized electronic storage. Automation and digitization create comprehensive audit trails, minimizing the risk of errors and discrepancies. 

Reduced costs 

Don’t forget about cost savings—your paper-based accounts payable process isn’t completely free. Paperless accounts payable processes eliminate spending associated with printing, mailing, and storing paper documents. Businesses can save on paper, ink, postage, and physical storage space. Plus, you’ll save on all of the person-hours spent manually importing invoice data, tracking down paper documents, and finding duplicate invoices. 

How to implement a paperless accounts payable process

Switching to a digital AP process doesn’t have to be complicated. In this section, we'll break down how to make this transition smooth and effective in only eight steps. 

1. Conduct a needs assessment

Identify the specific requirements and challenges of your current AP process. Could your financial documents use some organization? Is your AP team overwhelmed with invoice data? Consider factors such as the volume of invoices, approval workflows, and integration needs with accounting software.

2. Research accounts payable software

Explore various accounts payable software solutions available in the market. Look for features such as automated invoice processing, approval workflows, integration capabilities, and security measures. Choose a solution that aligns with your business needs and syncs with your accounting software.

3. Secure leadership support

Ensure that decision-makers understand the benefits of going paperless and are committed to the implementation process. (Hint: it might help to tell them how many paper invoices your team deals with every week.)

4. Create an implementation team

Form a dedicated implementation team comprising individuals from finance, accounting, IT, and other relevant departments. Assign specific roles and responsibilities to ensure a smooth transition.

Here are three key roles you could consider:

  • Project manager: Leads overall project oversight, communication, and decision-making.
  • Subject matter expert: Provides expertise in AP processes, software systems, and configuration.
  • Change champion: Advocates for adoption, addresses concerns, and supports users through the transition.
  • Training coordinator: Develops and delivers training programs to educate users on the new system and processes. Training should be tailored to the needs of different user groups, ensuring effective adoption and utilization of the system.

5. Digitize your data

Work with the AP software provider to migrate existing data into the new system. Ensure that the software integrates seamlessly with other financial systems used by your organization.

6. Train employees  

Provide comprehensive training to employees who will be using the AP software. Cover aspects such as invoice submission, approval workflows, and accessing reports. Ensure that employees are comfortable with the new digital tools.

7. Implement approval workflows

Configure approval workflows within the AP software to match your organization's processes. Define rules for routing invoices to the appropriate approvers based on factors such as amount, department, or vendor.

8. Provide ongoing support

Offer ongoing support to users and address any issues promptly. Keep communication channels open to gather insights and ensure a positive user experience.

How to select the right paperless accounting software

Let’s be real: you have choices. But not all paperless accounts payable software is the same—there are several features that you should look for in order to make sure you’re not only getting your money’s worth, but also getting a system you can depend on. Here’s what to look for: 

User-friendly interface

Choose software with an intuitive interface that is easy for users to navigate. A user-friendly system reduces the learning curve and encourages adoption across the organization.

Automation capabilities

What can your paperless AP automate for you? Look for an option that offers robust automation features for tasks such as invoice processing, approval workflows, and payment scheduling. 

Integration with existing accounting software

This one is a no-brainer: make sure all of your software plays well together.  An interconnected digital ecosystem will save you time and effort, especially if it offers automatic syncs.

Security measures

Without security, everything can fall apart in an instant. Prioritize security features such as access controls, encryption, and regular security updates. 

Mobile accessibility

Get your AP work done from anywhere. Paperless accounts payable choices go hand-in-hand with mobile apps. Choose software that supports mobile access, allowing users to review and approve invoices on-the-go. Mobile accessibility enhances flexibility and responsiveness in a dynamic business environment.

Mobile view of paperless accounts payable with BILL
Accounts payable with BILL mobile app

Ready to make accounts payable paperless?

Paperless accounts payable doesn’t have to be complicated. BILL Accounts Payable stands out as the smart choice for businesses making the shift to paperless accounts payable processes. BILL leverages automation features that streamline invoice processing, approval workflows, and payment scheduling. The software's integration capabilities seamlessly align with a range of accounting software, including QuickBooks, Oracle NetSuite, Xero, Sage Intacct, and Microsoft Dynamics. 

Your paperless accounts payable system should go beyond the basics, and BILL does exactly that, offering security measures to safeguard sensitive data and an easy-to-use mobile app for on-the-go approvals. This comprehensive approach, coupled with stellar customer support, makes BILL the go-to solution for businesses looking to modernize their accounts payable operations and reap the benefits of a paperless system.

Learn more about BILL Accounts Payable here.

The information provided on this page does not, and is not intended to constitute legal or financial advice and is for general informational purposes only. The content is provided "as-is"; no representations are made that the content is error free.