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Remote Invoice Approval

DEFINITION

What Is Remote Invoice Approval?

Invoice approval is the method by which an organization receives, routes, processes, approves, and ultimately pays an invoice from a vendor or supplier. Remote invoice approval refers to software solutions that allow a business to conduct that process mostly or entirely remotely. Businesses are increasingly adopting remote invoice approval solutions to accommodate a rise in the remote workforce, and also to facilitate easier approvals for accounts payable (AP) teams that may be in a different physical location than other departments within the same organization.

Working remotely has become a major component of most organizations’ day-to-day workflows, and the invoice approvals process is no exception. As the modern workforce continues to evolve beyond the physical boundaries of an office setting, methods to track and approve invoices from any location are becoming increasingly important to businesses across all industries. Investing in accounts payable automation software with a remote invoice approval workflow is the solution of choice for more and more organizations.

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What Does the Remote Invoice Approval Process Look Like?

The process for approving an invoice remotely will look different depending on your industry and your particular business, but generally speaking, an automated invoice approval process will look something like the following:

  • All of your received invoices are collected and aggregated. That includes both digital and paper invoices that have been sent via physical mail, as email attachments, uploaded via file transfer protocol (FTP), or submitted through your website’s online portal.
  • Your AP automation solutions extract all relevant line-item details and data using artificial intelligence, machine learning, and optical character recognition (OCR) tools that can scan even handwritten documents and convert key data to a digital format.
  • Your AP software uses three-way matching tools to compare each invoice against corresponding purchase orders and receipts, making certain that all necessary data matches across all three formats.
  • Any invoices containing unmatched data are routed back to the department or person in charge of approvals, often an accounts payable manager. The approver receives a notification or alert to ensure the invoice is handled in a timely fashion. Once errors and inconsistencies have been corrected the invoice is re-submitted.
  • After the invoice has been matched and approved, all data is digitally uploaded into your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
  • Both the buyer and supplier can track invoice processing and status at any point using an online portal with full visibility into the invoice’s journey.

What are the Benefits of Using an Invoice Automation Solution?

An ideal remote invoice approval process automates all of those functions and more, streamlining your organization’s AP processes and helping your business save time and money. Here are just a few of the benefits of upgrading to an automated invoice processing software solution to handle all of your remote invoice approval needs:

Access to invoice processing tools from wherever you are

A remote work environment is only effective so long as your accounts payable team can readily access all of the same materials and information they would in a physical workspace. Accounts payable automation software makes all of the necessary invoices, data, and files your team needs accessible from anywhere with a stable internet connection. That gives AP team members instant access to both current and historical invoice data and allows for quick, seamless processing even when people are working from a variety of locations. That increase in speed and efficiency is not only convenient for your own team, it also helps to build stronger relationships and channels of communication with your valued suppliers.

Improved visibility into the invoice tracking process

Processing an invoice fully always takes time, but when things are moving more slowly than expected, visibility becomes all the more important. Being able to see where exactly an invoice is in the routing process is essential to keeping a supplier updated on the progress of their payments. The insights generated by an automated invoice processing solution give your AP department instant access to important tracking data, no matter where your team members are located. Not only does that improve communications with vendors and suppliers, it also makes it easier to pinpoint and correct errors, and provides an easily referenced audit trail for future reference.

Easier data validation using three-way matching

The process of manually matching an invoice against corresponding purchase orders and receipts is hugely time-consuming and prone to avoidable mistakes and invoice fraud. Every error in that process requires making manual corrections and re-routing the corrected invoice, creating costly delays and extra work for your AP team. Invoice approval software with three-way matching eliminates by automatically comparing all invoice data is validated against data included in the purchase order and order receipt or goods received note. Payments can only be issued once a match is made for all relevant data in each document.

Easier onboarding of invoice approvers

Training employees in to a largely manual system can be a long and tedious process, with a large number of physical steps to learn and an increased risk of human error and delays while a new employee is figuring out the role. Automated accounts payable processes with an easy-to-use dashboard simplify that learning curve considerably, allowing more employees to approve invoices more quickly. This also allows substitute approvers to step in easily when your usual approvers are absent or unavailable. That comes in especially handy when dealing with a remote workforce, as approvers no longer have to be physically present in an office for training or to review and sign off on invoices.

Automated notifications and reminders for approval

A manual invoice approval system makes it all too easy for approvers to overlook an incoming invoice, delay their signing, or simply lose an invoice in the day-to-day shuffle. Those risks are even more elevated when approvers are working remotely or spread out across multiple physical locations. Quality invoice processing software should include an option to send automatic notifications and reminders to all relevant stakeholders, helping to ensure that invoices are routed swiftly through your system required approvals are received on time, no matter where your approvers might be.

What Are the Risks of Approving Remote Invoices Manually?

Relying on outdated manual invoice approval processes makes it difficult or impossible for most organizations to keep up with the demands and realities of today’s largely online working environment. That is seldom more true than when it comes to remote invoice approval. Attempting to keep up with the demands of an invoicing system that needs to accommodate a large number of remote workers using manual data entry, matching, routing, and approval processes is a surefire recipe for human errors, processing delays, and compliance violations.

Businesses that still use partial or fully manual invoicing systems are much more likely to field complaints from vendors about:

  • High volume of invoice exceptions due to manual data entry mistakes and other human errors
  • Delayed approvals due to time-consuming manual processes and time spent correcting errors
  • Slower invoice approval processes due to time spent physically tracking down authorized approvers
  • Inefficient manual invoice matching processes that can lead to duplicate payments and other financial errors
  • More penalties for late payments and fewer discounts for early payments
  • Paper invoices going missing or getting damaged while being processed
  • Low levels of visibility into invoice tracking and processing, which further slows down attempts to correct errors and identify bottlenecks
  • Increased risk of fraud due to low visibility and accountability
  • Higher risk of compliance violations due to errors in data entry and delays in payments
  • Higher costs for processing invoices due to all of the abovementioned slow-downs, human errors, and inefficiencies

Ready to learn more about the many ways an automated AP software solution from MHC can help to streamline your remote invoice approval process? Contact us today to schedule a demonstration!

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