Why Accounts Payable Is So Much More Than Data Capture

I recently ran a webinar on this topic, including a demo of Esker’s Accounts Payable solution covering dashboards, reporting and our intuitive & customisable user interface. Please click here to view a recording of the session.

After being with Esker for the best part of 9 years and being involved in developing the business of Esker’s Accounts Payable (AP) capabilities, I wanted to take some time to reflect on what the solution represents these days, why it is so much more than data capture & workflow technology, and to share my thoughts on the wider benefits that shouldn’t be underappreciated.

When I first started at Esker, there was heavy focus on messaging around data capture and particularly OCR, with removing paper from processes/workflows, and how Esker wasn’t restricted by templates or different structures of invoices – these were the key requirements for many customers.

Of course, these things still remain in the solution to date, given they effectively form the backbone of a successful AP automation solution – but today, a lot of the technology is centered around Artificial Intelligence (AI) as opposed to ‘true’ Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and ensuring high amounts of data can be captured from Day 1. There has been a definite pattern shift across to far more companies being reliant on electronic invoicing, through e-mail, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and utilising web portal capabilities.

The way the technology has evolved means that solutions like Esker’s can take care of a lot of the ‘heavy lifting’ when it comes to capturing data from invoices and removing manual touch points from users – which is great in terms of the instant value that Esker can add into AP processes. I would argue this has also seen a real shift in terms of what additional benefits the technology can bring to a user, in terms of aspects that are pertinent to their involvement in an effective AP environment.

The ability for enhanced visibility of the process is something that shouldn’t be undervalued and certainly something that is at the forefront of our technology. Easy to use dashboards and a wealth of reporting capabilities available as standard, mean that any user can easily deduce what is happening in their AP process almost instantly. I have had lots of conversations on how difficult this can be to achieve in some ERP systems, with ownership falling to IT as opposed to the AP user, meaning simple tasks take time and in some cases need to be paid for.

It might seem simple, but having this available in Esker as standard is of huge value, given relevant stakeholders in the process can gain a real-time understanding of where the process can still be improved further. Bottlenecks can be easily identified & resolved, which can serve to improve aspects such as strengthening supplier relationships with an efficient AP setup – a key driver for many senior leaders in the current climate.
User interaction is also a huge driver for any successful solution for sure. Esker has prided itself for many years on its user interface, ease of use/access and it’s intuitive look/feel – compared with legacy CRM or ERP systems.
Users are free to customise things to their own colour schemes and logos, and have freedom to collate dashboards, KPI’s and metrics that are required as part of their role.

From a licence point of view, Esker is unlimited in terms of users. It means that different levels within businesses can have access to the information that is relevant to them, without hassle. Managers can deduce reports , whilst AP users can have access to metrics on invoices awaiting their attention.

I wouldn’t be on topic without having to mention the impact of COVID and the pandemic in general. I have found that customers old and new have hugely appreciated the ability to seamlessly move to remote working, and for their teams to utilise dashboards as their central point of call, given the office hasn’t been available as a focal point. This has seen our mobile application (Esker Anywhereᵀᴹ) become more relevant than ever, allowing users to review their own metrics on the fly and also to approve invoices away from a traditional working environment.

It also has seen suppliers themselves consider their involvement in the invoice process, given AP departments have worked remotely, and so the usual office isn’t available to call to chase payments for instance. Engagement with vendor portals has certainly become more favourable, whereby they can gain access to the status of invoices, again in real-time.

Data capture and removal of manual touch points will always be a key component of any successful solution, but I like to believe that value lies in so much more than that, especially when considering user interaction, that can drive further success and engagement with the process. Esker allows stakeholders to be key drivers in improving their own process, above and beyond removing manual touchpoints.

I recently ran a webinar on this topic, including a demo of Esker’s Accounts Payable solution covering dashboards, reporting and our intuitive & customisable user interface. Please click here to view a recording of the session.

Dan Weston

Dan is a Business Development Manager for Esker UK. He has been part of the Esker family since 2013.

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