Whether you're the chief finance officer, chief information officer or accounts manager, the financial, management and operational advantages of adding invoice automation to SAP certainly add up - to 60% cost and efficiency savings, writes Kurt De Smet.
Any stage in the accounts process that involves manual processing is a drag on efficiency and profitability. So it's no surprise that SAP users are turning their attention to extending automation beyond core processes to traditionally paper-intensive areas, such as procurement and invoice processing.
If critical financial data from documents such as orders, invoices and goods received notes is turned into digital form, it is usable in the SAP core and management systems, and it is possible to make real gains in efficiency.
So what benefits would your organisation see from automating invoice processing? And what impact would it have on IT infrastructure and operations?
Doing the maths
In a full e-invoicing environment, automation can bring about cost savings of 60% - a compelling business proposition for CFOs and finance managers.
Automating invoice processing helps cut expenditure by minimising the need for manual intervention, delivering cost savings and efficiency gains.
Another key consideration for the finance department is clarity, and the ability to plan and forecast. Invoice automation can unlock valuable business data, giving a clear, top-level picture of events, enabling better planning and easy identification of further savings.
Making invoice automation fit the SAP jigsaw
CIOs and IT managers need a system that fits snugly into the SAP picture and keeps the rest of SAP implementation in its "vanilla" state.
There are two ways of approaching this: using a tool installed inside SAP or an accredited third-party tool working alongside SAP. You would assume a product programmed inside SAP would be the perfect fit, containing the latest functionality and easily integrated. But you would be wrong.
Third-party IP workflow software inside SAP is not as advanced or as flexible as some "outside" software, such as Invoice Automation from BasWare, which we have deployed at Panasonic Batteries. So-called "open-heart surgery" options, which operate from within the SAP environment, need to be professionally installed, integrated and maintained by SAP engineers.
We chose the "outside" BasWare product because it offers more advanced functionality than other alternatives. It has fully certified integration with SAP and so has been seamlessly integrated into our existing SAP ERP infrastructure, giving us greater control over the accounts payable process and ensuring a streamlined and efficient process.
Plug it into the SAP interface and go
The time and cost involved in implementing an "internal" SAP invoice processing tool is why many companies choose an external third-party product that is a module of a state-of-the-art, purchase-to-pay system.
SAP has well-defined interfaces to support SAP-accredited tools and systems operating outside the SAP environment. That way, you get a focused invoice automation system delivering clear business benefits and extending automation, yet operating independently from SAP and unaffected by any SAP upgrades, giving greater stability.
Adding up the benefits
Extending automation into the finance department has strong functional and business benefits. It unlocks potential for future enhancements, realises immediate and sustained cost savings, and has the clarity to optimise business processes and maximise investment opportunities.
You will also get the buy-in of the CIO, who will be reassured by the simple out-of-the-box installation and easy integration via certified SAP interfaces (certified for SAP NetWeaver) - which means no downtime, no impact on SAP resources, and minimal set-up costs.
Kurt De Smet is European accounting manager at Panasonic Batteries