Doubling Up On AR/AP Automation

January 19, 2016 PYMNTS.com

In B2B payments, the name of the game is automation — but not for everyone.

There has been a slew of analysis on the embrace of automation in recent years. Research from Ardent Partners and Basware published last year, for instance, found that accounts payable executives are eager to automate their process of receiving invoices and paying their bills.

Accounts receivable professionals, however, aren’t too convinced that automation will benefit their corporations.

A whitepaper released last year by e2b teknologies highlighted several misconceptions and fears AR executives have about automation — namely, that automation will kill jobs, create friction in implementing new technology and introduce glitches in the way automation software is intended to run.

These issues, analysts concluded, are “based on half-truths and common misconceptions.” Now, it’s up to the FinServ players that provide automated accounting and payments services to knock down those half-truths.

Two companies in this market recently joined forces in an effort to show businesses just how far the power of automation can go on both the AP and AR sides of a deal.

Billtrust, a Software-as-a-Service tool that automates invoice delivery and payment, and ecmarket, whose recently launched Conexiom solution automates the entry of an invoice to a buyer’s ERP or financial system, announced earlier this month that they will be bringing both their solutions to their corporate clients.

According to Billtrust VP of Business Development Pat Amaral and Conexiom CEO and President Brent Halverson, automation in the buyer-supplier space can lead to greater efficiencies — in more ways than one.

“While the accuracy [of data entry] is critical, so is speed — getting payments out quicker and cash in faster,” said Amaral in a recent joint interview with PYMNTS. “Also, the customer satisfaction. You can do business with your customers the way they want to do business with you.”

Both Billtrust and Conexiom assured that, while they provide B2B automation services, they are in no way competitors, instead focusing on streamlining two different aspects of the procure-to-pay process. Conexiom automates the processing of invoices and purchase orders on the buy side, while Billtrust automates the creation of invoices and the acceptance of payment on the supplier side.

“Billtrust is always looking to partner with companies in the order-to-cash space that are helping clients solve the same kind of problems that we’re helping with,” Amaral explained. “We saw that ecmarket and Conexiom were doing that at the very front end of the sales order automation side to make it easier for clients to automate that process.”

The executives agreed that, at the end of the day, automation is all about the faster movement of cash.

“By reducing errors and speeding up processes, you’re giving people the ability to spend time on higher value-added activities,” said Conexiom’s Halverson. “It’s the timing of receiving cash into your business that’s going to be shortened.”

He added that Conexiom has explored case studies in which the automation of sales and PO-to-sales order processes reduces the length of the cash collection cycle. Adding Billtrust’s invoice and reconciliation services into the mix enhances these benefits.

“Combining these two solutions together should really speed that up even further,” Halverson said. “People sell things, they get the cash faster and that leads to a lot of advantages for those businesses.”

Indeed, another recent study, this time by by Billtrust, revealed that the number one benefit of electronic invoices and automated accounting tools is cost savings.

But Amaral also pointed to the improved business relationships that can result from faster, automated sales cycles — a part of B2B that’s becoming increasingly important to these companies. Billtrust’s recent survey also found that 89 percent of respondents cited a customer-friendly billing process as key to ensuring customer satisfaction.

In this case, that means Billtrust allows clients to deliver bills the way their buyers want to receive them, and ecmarket allows clients to manage those bills when they’re received. When it’s a win-win, it’s difficult for companies to deny the benefits of automation for both AR and AP processes.

“If you can make it easier for your clients and vendors to work with you, that helps the overall organization,” Amaral stated.

Read the full story here: http://www.pymnts.com/in-depth/2016/doubling-up-on-arap-automation/