AP Middleware: The New Hero of Business Continuity
by Mandy Gragg
As the challenges of 2020 continue to spill into 2021, large organizations are rethinking their business continuity plans as they enter a more fully digital age.
According to management consulting firm Avasant, 60% of global enterprises are fast-tracking their digital projects in response to the disruption of the pandemic. Between 10 and 30% are planning to increase digital investment over the next 18 months to cope with the effects of a distributed workforce and client base.
Now more than ever, a zero-touch solution is crucial to maintaining operational tempo and success. However, executing successfully on this priority is often difficult in practice. As teams shift to digital workflows, enterprises are asking themselves new questions: Will all the functionality we had with manual processes truly be mirrored digitally? More importantly, how will that shift affect our short- and long-term strategies?
As businesses finish the digital transformation stage for customer-facing operations in response to COVID-19, the next phase includes automation of internal processes.
Automation in accounting
What does automation truly mean for accounting purposes?
In general terms, it allows businesses to automate workflow tasks such as entering invoice information into accounting systems, auto-coding general ledger accounts to invoice line items, and generating automated payments via check, ACH, or virtual card payments. Depending on the complexity of the businesses, some automation solutions are better poised than others to truly master improving overall efficiency.
Today, many enterprise businesses lean on all-in-one legacy vendor solutions with these key features already included. These systems boast unique efficiencies due to having consolidated functionality within a single solution. This makes change management a less daunting task, with less training required, across multiple platforms.
But that efficiency comes at a cost, especially for more financially complex organizations such as hospitality brands.
What the industry says about legacy solutions
46% of accounts payable and financial employees say that data entry and coding errors impact the speed of their month-end close process and slow down reconciliations. Add that onto the 94%-manual process of check processing for one-off requests, non-AP invoices, and check requests. When speaking with customers moving off legacy solutions, this was a prime reason for making the shift to a more specialized middleware platform.
Many enterprise-size businesses have more complex needs than a one-size-fits-all solution, especially in hospitality focused brands. Shifting these types of businesses into a more specialized middleware solution — that adapts to their needs through the use of AI and ongoing personalized technical support — has been the solution to address these needs.
Errors and longer processing times aren’t the only challenges. Onboarding legacy solutions is an often lengthy and costly endeavor. High levels of technical expertise is almost always needed on the client’s side to deploy these types of solutions successfully. Furthermore, implementation and future upgrades cause the client to spend large amounts of money consistently to keep the system running smoothly as the business evolves.
These challenges are often the reason many enterprise businesses continue to make do with what they already have implemented, as the barrier to switch as a consumer becomes incredibly high.
What is a middleware solution?
Middleware is software that provides common services and capabilities to applications outside of what’s offered by a legacy all-in-one ERP system.
Data management, real-time analytics, application services, messaging, advanced approval workflows, and API management are all commonly handled by middleware solutions. These solutions are much more nimble and allow companies a greater degree of customization in fitting them to their current workflows and existing ERPs.
Onboarding is also much less expensive with middleware. While the costs associated with switching may be high with legacy solutions, it’s much more cost effective on the middleware side. Beyond implementation, very few costs are associated with ongoing support. Additionally, in most cases, many organizations find that the cost of their middleware solution is completely eliminated due to the savings they achieve on improving efficiency and eliminating processing costs on the payments side.
Is a middleware solution right for your organization?
In today’s modern restaurant environment, many enterprise-size businesses use a hybrid of all-in-one legacy solutions integrated with middleware solutions. Depending on the challenges of the specific organization, the benefits of shifting the entire workflow digitally could boost efficiency and overall revenue exponentially.
Request an introductory demo with our team today to get a more personalized assessment for your business, as you move forward in evaluating your business continuity plan in 2021.
Mandy Gragg works at Plate IQ, where she helps finance professionals streamline bookkeeping operations with machine learning and OCR technology.
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