How to Switch to Paperless Accounts Payable in 5 Easy Steps
by Jacob Statler
Ever find yourself stuck doing paperwork when you’d rather be out running your business?
You’re not alone. Countless business owners feel the same sting. It’s the burden of paper.
We get it. And it doesn’t have to be this way.
Ditch the invoice relay, the paper cuts, overflowing file cabinets, and stained invoices.
A paperless accounts payable system can ease the burdens of manual invoice processing by freeing up your time and scrapping all the paper that goes along with it.
With today’s digital technology, streamlining your accounts payable system by going paperless is a no-brainer. Add in automation and the combo becomes magical.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of AP paperless transition.
- Why you should transition to a paperless accounts payable system
- How to select AP automation software
- Steps to transition to a paperless accounts payable
- The benefits of a paperless accounts payable
Plate IQ is the AP Automation software that reduces the AP paper shuffle and increases invoice processing speed and efficiency when you integrate it into your restaurant’s tech stack. Find out how we helped The Karl Strauss Brewing Company reduce their AP paper use by 95% and automate a dream invoice workflow.
What is a paperless accounts payable system?
Taking your accounts payable department paperless simply means switching paper-based daily activities and office workflows to electronic ones. You drop the paper in favor of digital storage, electronic payments, and utilize software to make it all happen seamlessly.
A successful transition to a paperless accounts payable system integrates automation to enable your AP department to run like a well-oiled machine.
Why does my business need a paperless accounts payable system?
Business operators are continuously looking for ways to streamline processes, increase efficiency, and reduce costs. Accounts payable is an accounting function that is prime for this kind of streamlining.
All things accounting lend themselves to being extremely paper-heavy. Ledgers, receipts, invoices, reports, paper checks — they stack up, fill file cabinets, and take up valuable space.
You may not even realize how much time and energy the paper shuffle two-step is sucking from your operation.
Running invoices here and there, waiting for approvals, and barely paying your bills by the due date (or a little late) because of that lag time are just a few stresses that can be eliminated by transitioning to paperless AP.
According to a study by the Accounts Payable Association, 54% of businesses said invoices were sent to the wrong place and 36% were concerned about late payments due to process delays.
The restaurant life is hectic enough, all on its own.
Moving your restaurant to a paperless accounts payable system will certainly level up your efficiency, but it’ll also help your business transition to true zero-touch.
Digitized invoices and electronic vendor payments enable a touchless process that we appreciate more than ever in today’s world.
Is your business big enough to benefit from paperless accounts payable?
Streamlining, organization, scalability, and on-the-go access are sought-after by all businesses big and small. Whether you’ve got a chain of restaurants spanning cities across the country or an up-and-coming food truck, a paperless accounts payable system will be beneficial.
Less time spent on manual AP workflow is time available for creativity and customer service. And every restaurant of every size can use more of that.
How to select the right paperless accounting software
You know you need to shed the paperweight and free up time spent on manual AP, so let’s address choosing just the right software to make your paperless AP dreams come true.
And trust us — as a leading AP automation software company that lives and breathes hospitality — we get it.
Selecting the right automation AP software for your business is critical. Knowing what to look for will help you decide which software goes on the chopping block and which stays.
Here are 4 crucial software features to be aware of in your decision-making:
- Detailed Reporting — Your software must provide extensive reporting features to help you clearly see the story in your spend so that you can steward that story. AP software should be able to create reports based on several variables like expense type, payment date, and status.
- Invoice Management — Automated invoice processing that allows for digitizing invoices, routing them to the correct approvers, and reconciling your complex restaurant invoices are critical components in moving to a paperless accounts payable system. It also shrinks the room for error and saves time spent manually entering data and running invoices to and fro.
- Integration — Your software should be able to integrate with your accounting software simply and seamlessly. For example, real-time invoice data syncing and chart of accounts mapping both ensure a smooth, efficient workflow. Think of synchronized swimmers. Each one swims individually, but because they’re in sync, you hardly give a thought to the fact that they’re not a single entity.
- Multiple Payment Methods — Your accounts payable solution should support multiple payment methods. ACH is beneficial because it eliminates the costs of printing and mailing checks, as well as the paper used. The PlateIQ card goes a step further by offering 0.5% cashback when you pay vendors using a virtual card and enables a true zero-touch payment method.
5 Steps to transition to paperless accounts payable
Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Tom Landry said it best:
“Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.”
And while Tom Landry probably wasn’t referring to improving his accounting system, this quote is certainly applicable here. Transitioning to a paperless accounts payable system is a process and you need a plan.
We’ve got the steps to help you plan your transition:
- Plan out the process — Where’s your accounts payable workflow right now? What improvements need to be made? How long does it take to process an invoice? How’s your approval route flow? Bring in team feedback here.
- Digitize your existing documents — Every AP department has loads of paper. The steady flow of paper invoices creates a never-ending task of paper wrangling. Now’s the time to establish a good way to convert them to an electronic format. Digitizing invoices can be done in-house or outsourced.
- Select an AP automation solution — We gave you a checklist above to help you choose the best software for your business. Once you’ve chosen your AP solution, consider how much will you automate? Spend time getting to know the system. Automation is part of the cornerstone in going paperless.
- Customize your software settings — In your new automated system, customizing is essential on the road to paperless AP bliss. Setting up your system specifically for your restaurant allows for automatic coding on incoming invoices and approval routing.
- Learn & Scale your AP automation process — Give yourself and your team time to learn the system. Over the first few weeks, your team should test out processes and ask questions. The more involved your team members are in the process, the sooner you’re able to create a successful streamlined system minus the paper.
7 Benefits of a paperless accounts payable system
A paperless AP system has many benefits. We’ve listed a few here for you. But, once your restaurant transitions to paperless AP you may find benefits specific to your operation that we haven’t even dreamed up yet.
Our top-rated benefits are:
Digitally stored invoices allow for full visibility of expenses which provides you with a better picture of your spending. The ability to see where an invoice is in the payment process keeps you in the know and helps you make better decisions about your cash flow.
This one speaks for itself: paperless is faster. The speed of invoice processing increases dramatically. There’s no more physically transporting an invoice to its next stop. Automated data entry, electronic invoice approval, and digital payments require significantly less time than required for paper invoices and payments.
Running reports is a breeze because there’s no need to rifle through a file cabinet to find documents then pour over a months’ worth of invoices to compile financial data. A click of a button produces your report. Bada bing, bada boom.
3. Accounting Controls
Paperless accounts payable software allows your accounting team to better track invoices and access financial data from anywhere. It also improves monthly reporting due to accessibility.
You have the ability to keep a closer eye out for any accounting fraud because there’s less human contact with invoices and payment methods.
4. Reduced Costs
Less time spent manually processing paper invoices reduces your cost per invoice, which increases your profit, a coveted outcome in the restaurant industry.
In a 2015 survey, people defined as“top performers” spent an average of $4.98 per invoice as opposed to the average $12.44 those defined as “bottom performers” spent. This simply reiterates the point that a paperless AP is a wise business decision.
5. Less Human Error
No manual data entry means fewer accidentally transposed numbers or calculation errors. Less paper means less lost paperwork. No coffee stains rendering invoices illegible. No more checks getting lost in the mail en route to your vendor.
6. Remote Access
Paperless accounts payable allows your accounting department to work remotely (that’ll come in handy if another pandemic strikes). On-the-go access promotes a smooth, continuous workflow.
According to a Buffer survey, 99% of participants said they’d like to work remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their careers. Obviously, remote work is here to stay, and putting systems in place to enable your employees to work remotely is forward-thinking.
7. Less Storage
AP departments come with mountains of paper that must be filed and stored for future access. Going paperless frees up physical space while still allowing access to data at the click of a button.
Plate IQ is your paperless AP solution
Plate IQ offers a cutting-edge solution to automate your accounts payable and help you transition smoothly to paperless AP. Their specialty is automation throughout the AP lifecycle.
From upload to bill pay, Plate IQ’s attention to detail will revolutionize your AP department. Their features include:
- Invoice Management
- Accounts Payable Processing
- Accounts Payable Filing System
- Bill Pay
There’s no time like the present
As a business operator, you’re always on the lookout for ways to improve.
Whether it’s front-of-house issues like switching out your menu items or back-of-house operations like moving to paperless AP to increase efficiency and profitability, each is important and provides value.
A paperless accounts payable system will lighten your restaurant’s AP load and broaden your bottom line. Which frees you up to focus your energy on creativity in your food and customer experience.
Jacob Statler writes about the unique challenges of hospitality AP automation for Plate IQ.
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