stressed accounts payable staff
stressed accounts payable staff
End-to-End AP Automation
May 8, 2024

4 Effective Ways To Reverse Burnout With AP Automation

by The Ottimate Editorial Team

Your accounts payable (AP) team is critical to your company’s financial operations. They’re working behind the scenes to ensure invoices are paid, vendors are happy, and financial records are accurate and up-to-date. 

But unfortunately, too many AP staff are burned out. They’re burdened with tedious, routine tasks — like data entry, preparing checks, and reviewing for inaccuracies — causing them to work overtime to process hundreds, or even thousands, of invoices each week. 

Thankfully, there’s a solution: end-to-end AP automation. Let’s look at AP’s current state and explore how automating your invoice and payment workflows can help reduce AP burnout.

The State of the Accounts Payable Industry

Recent research shows that 84 percent of CFOs face staff shortages within accounting and finance teams. And nearly half of them (47 percent) believe employee burnout around hours and menial tasks is to blame.

Not surprisingly, AP staff are often stressed and exhausted due to challenging workloads, especially those who rely on a manual, inefficient invoicing workflow. AP teams are processing more invoices than ever, and many work longer hours to make up for the additional work. 

Coupled with the challenge of hiring qualified AP staff, companies must rely on lean teams with limited bandwidth to manage invoices across multiple departments and entities — leaving them overextended and overwhelmed.

According to the 2023 American Psychological Association (APA) Work in America survey, employees experiencing work-related stress report emotional exhaustion, lower productivity, irritability, and a desire to quit, among other negative effects.

For AP staff, that can mean increased coding errors, late payments, and even fraud — leading to more serious issues for your company, including compliance risks and cash flow problems.

The Benefits of End-to-End AP Automation

Enter end-to-end AP automation.

The invoicing process is riddled with cumbersome and time-consuming manual steps, which can put a heavy strain on a team that’s already stretched too thin. But with end-to-end AP automation, you can automate tedious tasks — like coding invoice items to your General Ledger (GL) or matching purchase orders to invoices — and accelerate the entire invoice lifecycle.  

The right AP automation tool can also help ease stress for AP staff by increasing accuracy, managing vendor relationships, and improving cash flow in fewer hours and with less effort. 

Let’s break down the specific ways end-to-end AP automation can increase efficiency and, in turn, reduce AP burnout.

1. Eliminate Manual Data Entry

Yes, your AP team is smart and competent. But here’s the reality: Relying on your team to manually enter invoice data increases the risk of human error. 

Mistakes are inevitable, like adding an extra zero or eliminating a decimal point, and can lead to serious consequences for your business. Not to mention, locating and correcting these errors can be a major time drain. Frequent errors can also exacerbate your team’s stress, causing them to feel additional pressure or lose confidence in their skills.

With an end-to-end AP automation solution, you can free your team from the tethers of manual data entry — improving the accuracy of your invoicing process while boosting employee confidence and morale.

Most solutions use optical character recognition (OCR) to extract relevant data from printed and handwritten invoices and create digital copies in their system. Ottimate takes it further and deploys AI that learns your invoices, including unfamiliar abbreviations and inconsistent formats, to accurately extract, categorize, and match line-item invoice data to your GL. 

This not only ensures a more efficient and accurate AP process. But it also gives your team the support they need to cut their workload and shift their focus to work that drives the business forward.

NorthStone Country Club partnered with Ottimate to streamline its manual invoicing workflow, which was time-consuming and error-prone. Within a month, 90 percent of all their invoices were automatically GL-coded, which helped eliminate errors.

“I would suggest to you that the Ottimate invoice automation saves hours. It probably saves that team four or five hours a week, minimum, in terms of just coding invoices. And then, of course, the accuracy component adds to that.” – Steve Foster, CFO and Controller

2. Remove Common Approval Bottlenecks

One of the most common bottlenecks in the AP workflow is approvals. 

Some companies lack standardized approval processes, while others may require multiple approvals before an invoice is paid. Nevertheless, your AP team is likely spending too much time manually routing and tracking down approvals, which complicates an otherwise routine task.

End-to-end automation makes the approver’s job easier and, in turn, reduces the workload for your AP team. With custom-built automation rules that accommodate your team’s existing workflow, you can route invoices to the right person based on line-item details — like vendor, GL, cost center, or invoice amount — and make sure approvers only see invoices relevant to them. 

But that’s not all: Approvers can also receive reminders, view real-time insights to make informed spending decisions, and approve invoices and payments on any device. 

Hear from Nivea Hospitality, a hospitality management company that uses Ottimate to streamline its AP operations, including an inefficient approvals workflow that made tracking errors difficult:

“We didn’t really have an approvals process before Ottimate.” – Vanessa Troyer, CFO

“I approve each invoice that comes through… it’s fairly simple and fast because everything’s on one page. You can see the invoice, and [next to it] you have all your information and can see what it’s been coded to and that it’s in the correct month.” – Karen Troyer, Executive Director

3. Pay Vendors in Advance

Vendor payments are yet another pain point for AP teams. 

While more companies are embracing digital payment options to expedite this step, many still use manual payment methods that often cause payment delays. Take paper checks, for example: Printing, signing, stuffing, and mailing paper checks takes time and slows down the process.

And if a payment is late? You can expect vendors to follow up on its status until the invoice is paid. Responding to each inquiry can be frustrating and time-consuming for AP teams. A recent report found that 43 percent of teams spend 1-5 hours each month responding to vendor inquiries, while about 25 percent spend as much as 6-10 hours.

This can be mentally taxing for AP staff as too many inquiries can disrupt their workflow and force them to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously, increasing the risk of errors and extra delays. And the pressure to maintain positive relationships with vendors is an additional stressor that can lead to burnout.

With end-to-end AP automation, you can stop worrying about missing payments (and the litany of vendor inquiries that come with them). Payment automation solutions like Ottimate’s VendorPay allow you to schedule payments via check, ACH, or virtual card with a single click, ensuring your vendors are paid on time and with their preferred payment method. You can even expedite payments for even faster processing.

IRMG Restaurant Group achieved more efficient payments and greater accountability with VendorPay, Ottimate’s payment automation solution. This has resulted in more time savings, increased revenue, and improved vendor relationships.

“We still do [paper checks] in some cases, but we’re able to drastically reduce the check process itself, save a lot of time, and also [offer] ACH and vCard usage…our vendors love it.” – Matt Lau, Finance and Operations

4. Expedite Month-End Close

Closing the books is essential to ensure your financial data is accurate and complete, but it can be a painstaking task for AP teams. Without a streamlined process, you’re expected to manually track down invoices, mitigate errors, and record every transaction for that period — consuming time that could be spent on more important, value-driven tasks. 

End-to-end AP automation helps accelerate the month-end close process. There’s less manual reconciliation as AP automation reconciles GL accounts automatically, reduces the risk of errors, and proactively flags discrepancies — saving you time and effort. Ottimate’s AI even learns your invoices with each new upload, increasing speed and accuracy over time.

Here are specific ways AP automation simplifies month-end close:

  • Single source of truth: Invoices and supporting documentation are stored in a secure, easy-to-access digital library.
  • Audit trails: For all imported invoices, every transaction is tracked and recorded for reference and simple auditing and reconciliation.
  • ERP integrations: Invoice and payment data is instantly synced to and from your accounting system to ensure information is accurate and up-to-date in both places. 
  • Reporting: You’ll gain access to accurate, real-time reports, like AP aging reports, for easy auditing.

Reduce AP Burnout with Ottimate’s AP Automation AI

A high-functioning AP team is essential to your company’s overall financial health. But spending too much time on tedious, manual tasks can leave them feeling stressed and burned out. 

End-to-end AP automation can help reduce burnout by automating the entire invoicing process — from coding to reconciliation — and make it more efficient. It gives your team an extra set of hands (or more!) to handle routine, time-consuming tasks while they tend to more meaningful work. And all in time to make it home for dinner.

If you’re ready to foster a more productive and engaged AP team, Ottimate can help. Discover how a streamlined AP process powered by our best-in-class AI can lessen AP burnout and take your financial operations to the next level.

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