Digitalising processes has helped many businesses stay productive throughout COVID-19; however, one of the key areas businesses may be struggling with is managing accounts payable (AP), according to Upstream.

AP processes, like invoice approval, typically involve a physical signature before the invoice can be paid, which can be challenging with people working remotely. If an organisation’s processes are manual, staff members may be printing invoices, signing them, then scanning them back in and emailing them to the next person in the workflow for payment.

Upstream accounts payable specialist, David Barton says this is time consuming and can affect productivity.

“However, approval procedures are a part of the chain of responsibility. They are in place to ensure that invoice details are correct before payment is made. Without this process, organisations could overpay or underpay suppliers, or miss payments and incur penalty fees.

“A digital invoice approval workflow streamlines the approvals process and lets organisations manage approvals remotely in a timely manner. It digitises paper processes, and automates manual and repetitive tasks, such as data entry and cross-referencing information, and confirms the invoice is clear to be paid.”

Upstream has identified three key features of a digital invoice approval workflow that can benefit businesses operating remotely:

Accessibility from everywhere

Being able to access invoices, files, and data, both current and previous, while working from home or remotely is key to keeping this part of the business running. Having to wait to be granted access or for information to be sent across from others can make invoice approval a long, drawn-out process.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and metadata

By adding metadata to files and invoices, organisations can link relationships like customers, projects and cases, making it easier to confirm if the invoice is correct and legitimate. A strong AI tool can automatically detect links and even suggest relationships between files using this metadata. Rules can also be set to automatically match purchase orders (POs) to invoices.

Invoice tracking and visibility

An invoice approval workflow can track the progress of invoices, keeping a record of the approval trail and sending notifications and reminders of actions that need to be done. This also provides the ability to see the exact status of any invoice in the system and report by invoice status.