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Recap: Key learnings at IOFM AP & P2P Fall Conference & Expo

Find out what’s happening now and in the future with Untapped's firsthand recap of the IOFM AP & P2P Fall Conference & Expo, including four key learnings everyone in AP should know.

Did you miss out on the number one accounts payable event in North America, the IOFM AP & P2P Fall Conference & Expo in Las Vegas, NV on November 12-14? Don’t worry, the Untapped editors covered the event and will share four key learnings from the conference. Daniel Saraste, VP of Product Marketing at Medius Software Inc., walked the floor and reported back with a full recap.

The conference is hosted by IOFM twice a year and focuses on critical topics for accounts payable and procure-to-pay. It’s an excellent opportunity for financial operations executives, leadership and their teams to get updated on the latest advancements relevant to their profession. The agenda included topics such as seeing into the future of AP automation, using metrics and reporting to empower AP leadership decisions and creating your path in AP.

Key learning 1 – Many vendors claim to be offering solutions for AP Automation

The variety of vendors represented at the show was diverse: fraud detection, scanner hardware vendors, payment execution vendors, OCR and interpretation companies, and travel and expense management companies were all represented. Despite their diverse offerings, these vendors all labeled themselves as being AP automation providers. This clearly demonstrates the hype around AP automation. Many of those vendors can provide benefits in certain areas for your organization, such as Travel and Expense solutions, but it’s important to keep in mind that AP automation is more than just static workflows and OCR technology. Cementing a manual process onto an IT solution does not create true automation, and a manual process performed on a laptop is still manual. True automation requires more sophisticated and powerful tools. There are only a few players who can genuinely automate.

Key learning 2 – It is difficult to be a prospective buyer

Seeing through the smoke, the mirrors and the marketing hype must be nearly impossible. Even for someone who is in the business and familiar with most of the vendors, it is a challenge to figure out what’s a core product functionality and what is just talk – especially given key learning one, i.e., the number of providers claiming to do AP automation is, in fact, very diverse. AP automation is about legitimate automating, as in touchless automating - the process from invoice receipt until it is posted and ready for payment in your ERP.

Many vendors claim to cover the whole process, but when you scratch the surface, you’ll find that they are either weak in some areas or have an outsourced/partner approach that covers for their weak functionality. If you are looking to automate your AP, be diligent, ask for proof, check references and demand to see it in action!

Key learning 3 – Cloud is the future

The benefits of de-coupling your AP automation solution from your ERP are so evident that almost all vendors are now pure cloud players. Only a few vendors still offer solutions that can be deployed on-premise or as hacked plug-ins inside your ERP. The cloud is now the de-facto standard for business applications, as we now can see that even the ERP systems are moving to the cloud. It certainly makes sense, as you don’t want to bring the on-premise inflexibility and upgrade complexity into the future by hacking your ERP with built-in solutions, be it AP or other. And nowadays you really should not when there are best of breed cloud solutions that seamlessly integrate to your ERP through clean and that provide upgrade-safe API-integrations. Don’t fight the tide!

Key learning 4 – Many organizations still struggle with paper-based processes

Many businesses attending the conference still send paper around their organization when hunting down invoice approvals. They share a first-hand testimonial about all the disadvantages of a manual process. Everything from lengthy closing of the accounting period, not being able to pay on time, missing early payment discounts, to poor visibility into the spend and invoice process resulting in inaccurate and poor cash forecasting and uncomfortable audit controls. As someone who has been in the business for over 15 years and knowing how these pains can be solved and how AP can create business value beyond reducing manual tasks, I am happy to see that conference visitors have made AP automation a budget priority for 2019. These days some solutions are available to organizations of all sizes from large enterprises to SMEs, so there isn’t a good reason not to take advantage of it.

Putting learnings into practice

If you are a prospective buyer make sure you know what true automation can bring, it goes beyond automating the process to creating foundations for business value and working capital reductions. Secondly, you need to understand which providers who claim to be in the AP automation space that actually can deliver on true automation. Thirdly as much of the business value only can be created using a cloud solution you need an excellent reason or requirements for not choosing cloud. Lastly, if you haven't made AP automation you priority yet, make sure you get in in your budget and catch up, as we change into the new year and write 2019 no one should be forced to struggle with manual paper-based processes any longer.

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