Mary Schaeffer
Mary Schaeffer
Drowning in Paper?

Consider an imaging lifeboat.

June 3, 2010
by Mary Schaeffer

Accounting attracts mountains of paper. This is especially true in the accounts payable function in which the main responsibility is invoice processing. Savvy organizations have found that imaging can reduce both the amount of paper clogging the department as well as the headcount needed to process the paper drastically.

You often see imaging sold as a pay-as-you-go service. This approach is growing in acceptance especially because of budget constraints in recent years.

Here are 10 reasons why you should take another look at imaging:

1. Improve processing time giving your staff greater ability to focus on exception items and other value-added tasks. And we will be up-front about another result of the adoption of imaging: some departments have been able to reduce headcount in accounts payable due its introduction.

2. Improve departmental efficiency as processors are no longer responsible for keying in invoices and focus their attention on the accuracy of the information instead of data entry.

3. Send invoices to AP for prompt processing. Say goodbye to lost early payment discounts, the best investment alternative for any organization. However, to earn them you need to process invoices quickly. What better way to get that process started than to eliminate the data entry and mail time altogether.

4. Reduce the time drastically. Your processors spend less time retrieving documents from filing cabinets when they need to refer to them. Additionally, the documents will always be filed away where they should be. Misfiling becomes a thing of the past.

5. No more worries about documents taken from the files and never returned or misfiled when and if they are put back. It happens in every organization — in fact, a few lock their documents to keep out employees in other departments who plunder the files when they need to see invoices.

6. Eliminate rows and rows of file cabinets and reduce storage space.

7. Auditors can find documents themselves, freeing up accounts payable staff. All you’ll have to do is point them in the right direction.

8. Create an audit trail helping auditors and processors alike.

9. Difficult invoices won’t get “lost.” It becomes impossible for a processor to throw away or hide an invoice that they just can’t seem to get resolved. Not, of course, that this ever happens in your shop — just at other organizations.

10. Improve the sometimes-frayed relationships with other departments. When combined with workflow, imaging ends the “he “said, she said” games that sometimes go on between accounts payable and purchasing. The electronic audit trail makes finger-pointing difficult — it’s just too easy to find out what really happened.

There are numerous other reasons imaging is attractive; these are simply the main ones affecting accounts payable. If the imaging discussion has been off limits in your organization, use might use this article to get it back on the table.

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Mary S. Schaeffer is the author of over a dozen business books including Travel & Entertainment Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons) and Fraud in Accounts Payable: How to Prevent It (John Wiley & Sons). She is the publisher of the CFO & Controllers Accounts Payable Management Journal, a quarterly electronic journal for senior executives concerned about internal controls and cost control in their payment function, writes a monthly newsletter, a free weekly ezine e-AP News, speaks at accounts payable webinars, seminars and conferences and directs the organization’s consulting practice. Corporate Finance Insider readers should note that the views expressed in this article are solely the author’s and does not reflect the views of the AICPA or AICPA Corporate Finance Insider.