For many businesses, the Cloud is all about storage and backup, but it can be transformational, enabling a business to compete effectively in a challenging marketplace dominated by giants. Traditionally, retailers receive a large number of supplier invoices. Processing paper invoices manually takes time and significant resources, both human and financial. Achieving complete accuracy is difficult, as there is always a chance of errors occurring. In the omnichannel retail environment, invoices arrive in different formats from various locations. With invoices arriving on paper, online, in emails and PDFs, the turnaround time can be more than 14 days when invoices are being approved manually.
Retailers are now better positioned than ever to automate the Accounts Payable (AP) process. Cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions can be used by even the smallest retailers to automate back office business processes. Historically, complete automation would have necessitated expensive additional hardware and infrastructure from the outset, which left the availability of comprehensive process automation exclusively to large organisations. SaaS enables even smaller retailers to experience the same results without the initial investment.
Using Cloud software allows retailers to maximise their ERP system investment. One size fits all ERP systems are not suited or comprehensive enough for the evolving omnichannel retail environment. With the majority of forward-thinking retailers embracing online and mobile, ERP systems need to be adapted to meet the changing dynamic of the retail environment. The best Cloud-based automation programs are fully compatible with all leading ERP systems and can be integrated seamlessly. As Cloud software can be accessed from mobile devices, managers can now have access to small, specific applications across all connected devices, rather than having to navigate through central ERP systems for individual tasks.
For the majority of retail businesses security is often enhanced by moving to a Cloud-based system. Few retailers can afford the same high levels of security and data protection that SaaS solutions can offer. Utilising SaaS to automate the AP function is a fast route to better transparency, control and security.
For the smaller but ambitious retail business, Cloud-based process automation can even enable sustainable growth through technology. Technology-centred business expansion support is now vital for continued success in a competitive and volatile marketplace. When a Cloud-based automation system is in place, as a retailer expands they avoid issues with legacy software and updates, also the need to increase staffing in AP roles and the associated costs are significantly reduced giving retailers a completely scalable model for growth.
AP automation is the first step towards a completely streamlined finance function. Retailers are in a unique position to benefit from SaaS and build on their ERP investment. While the complete purchase-to-pay (P2P) and order-to-cash (O2C) processes can also be automated, AP automation is the foundation that will position a business for growth through Cloud technology.