We were fortunate enough to recently present at the Higher Education Users Group (HEUG) Central - Illinois Conference. In a rapidly evolving financial landscape, higher education institutions are seeking innovative ways to streamline their operations, optimize cash flow, and reduce expenses. Accounts Payable (A/P) is a critical function in this journey towards efficiency, and automation has emerged as a powerful ally. Our recent presentation, titled "Automating A/P Invoice Processing," delved into the intricacies of A/P automation and its potential to revolutionize the way universities manage their finances was geared for universities on PeopleSoft.
The Three Pillars of A/P Automation
At the heart of A/P automation lie three fundamental components:
1. Data Capture
Data capture is the first crucial step in the A/P automation process. It involves the extraction of essential information from invoices, including amounts, dates, vendor details, and line items. This component serves as the foundation for the entire automation journey, ensuring that accurate data is available for subsequent stages.
2. Invoice Approval
Invoice approval is where automation flexes its muscles in streamlining complex workflows. This phase orchestrates the approval process, routing invoices to the right stakeholders for review, matching them with purchase orders (PO), and managing exceptions seamlessly. It empowers universities to eliminate bottlenecks and expedite invoice processing.
3. Posting to PeopleSoft
PeopleSoft, a widely used ERP system in higher education, plays a central role in finance and administration. The third component of A/P automation focuses on efficiently posting approved invoices to PeopleSoft, ensuring data accuracy and compliance with university-specific processes.
Enhancing Efficiency and Visibility
During the presentation, we emphasized that while PeopleSoft has these components built in, their efficiency can vary. Therefore, universities often benefit from augmenting their A/P automation capabilities with third-party tools designed for efficiency and flexibility.
Key takeaways from the session included:
1. Assessing Readiness
Understanding if your university is ready to embrace A/P automation is the first step towards transformation. Evaluating existing processes and identifying pain points can guide your automation strategy effectively.
2. Streamlining Invoice Management
A/P automation streamlines invoice management by simplifying PO matching, approvals workflows, and supplier onboarding. This not only reduces the burden on your team but also enhances accuracy and compliance.
3. Replicating Success Stories
Learning from the experiences of other universities that have improved their A/P performance through automation can offer valuable insights and inspiration.
4. Eliminating Manual Tasks
A/P automation eliminates the need for manual tasks such as monitoring your A/P inbox, handling paper invoices, and manual data entry. This frees up your team to focus on strategic activities and reduces the risk of errors.
Feedback from the attendees:
Our presentation drew a diverse audience from colleges and universities across Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. The tight-knit community of attendees underscored the value they derive from both the content and the sense of camaraderie within the higher education finance sphere.
A notable observation was that while many vendors offer Optical Character Recognition (OCR) solutions, true A/P automation solutions that cater to the unique needs of universities are less common. Finding an A/P automation partner that seamlessly integrates with your ERP system, like PeopleSoft, and is adaptable to changes in your institution's ERP landscape, is essential.
As the financial landscape continues to evolve, A/P automation is poised to play a pivotal role in helping universities achieve their efficiency and visibility goals. By embracing this transformative technology, universities can enhance their financial processes, optimize cash flow, and reduce expenses—all while providing their students and staff with a more streamlined and efficient experience.
If you missed our presentation or have questions about A/P automation for your university, feel free to reach out. We're here to help you on your journey toward a more efficient and cost-effective Accounts Payable process.