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Elevating the Finance Function with automated Accounts Payable solutions

By Shaun Dicker, Head of Operations at Intervate – a T-Systems company.

Shaun Dicker
Shaun Dicker
With automated Accounts Payable solutions, organisations can expect to see a return on their investment within the first six to twelve months. From that point onwards, the solution starts generating increasing returns for the business. In fact, there are many benefits when automating the processes of receiving invoices, automated reconciliation of invoices against associated statements, and making timely payments to suppliers, business partners, tax agencies and other creditors.

In essence, it allows the finance function to become more proactive and strategic in their approach and ultimately transform the role from a cost centre into an area rich in innovation and new efficiencies. Surprisingly, not all mid-size and large companies have recognised the value of automating this function. Consequently, they are not deriving the most possible value from their Finance operations. In traditional thinking, the finance function was regarded simply as a cost centre to the business, an admin-intensive area that was fated to growing in scale, in proportion with a growing organisation. Even worse, it seemed to add more layers of manual processes as it grew.

Now, with automated Accounts Payable solutions, the finance division is re-framed as a strategic team that drives process efficiencies, ensures the optimal use of financial resources, improves balance sheet effectiveness, and focuses on relationships and engagement with key business partners. The direct tangible advantages of an automated Accounts Payable solution start with the benefits of early-payment discounts, and avoiding any late-payment penalties. In cases of more complex conglomerates and federated organisations, automation enables the finance teams to see where the same suppliers are being paid by different business units, and consolidate the invoices into one – often benefitting from bulk discounts. Other direct advantages are found in areas like tax penalty avoidance, reduced chances for erroneous payments, and savings on smaller administrative costs like couriering, paper, ink, and physical document storage for example. Over time, it all adds up to a huge saving for the organisation.

And, as automation takes over much of the ‘low value, high volume’ activities in invoicing, there is less need to grow the headcount in the finance team. In fact, many of the team members are redeployed to higher-value, more strategic activities. Finally, by handing over much of the day-to-day processing to an automated solution, the finance team is better able to plan, forecast and budget. In this way, for example, they can select the suppliers who are offering the most attractive early-payment discounts and structure the accounts payable function around generating the most value.

In general, it is the visibility and control which makes automated Accounts Payable so attractive. Being able to track the status of an invoice, from receipt all the way through its lifecycle, to the eventual payment, is a huge boost to the organisation. Some of the other key features of automated solutions include full compliancy with the relevant legislation – this is primarily the South African Revenue Services (SARS) Act, and the National Archives and Records Service (NARS) Act – as well as conformance with governance recommendations such as King III. Added to this, quality Accounts Payable solutions also cater for automated statement reconciliations, and effectively deal with any exceptions, queries, errors, inconsistencies and duplications through a flexible case management system.

Ultimately, all of these benefits help the Finance team to elevate its role within the organisation – and focus on the higher-value aspects of supplier relationships, enhanced engagement and communication with suppliers, and financial forecasting. Top-class Finance skills are retained in the organisation, as it adopts a leaner and more strategic guise. The benefits to the organisation are quick to realise, and very sustainable in the months and years that follow.

About Deutsche Telekom
Deutsche Telekom is one of the world’s leading integrated telecommunications companies with over 142 million mobile customers, 31 million fixed-network lines and more than 17 million broadband lines (as of December 31, 2013). The Group provides fixed network, mobile communications, Internet and IPTV products and services for consumers and ICT solutions for business customers and corporate customers. Deutsche Telekom is present in around 50 countries and has approximately 229,000 employees worldwide. The Group generated revenues of EUR 60,1 billion in the 2013 financial year – more than half of it outside Germany.

About T-Systems
Drawing on a global infrastructure of data centres and networks, T-Systems operates information and communication technology (ICT) systems for multinational corporations and public sector institutions. T-Systems provides integrated solutions for the networked future of business and society. Some 50,000 employees at T-Systems combine industry expertise and ICT innovations to add significant value to the digitization strategies and core business of customers all over the world. T-Systems generated revenue of around EUR 9,5 billion in the 2013 financial year.
Since the inception of T-Systems in South Africa in 1997, the company has cemented its position as one of the most successful T-Systems companies outside of Europe. A leading ICT outsourcing service provider locally, T-Systems offers end-to-end ICT solutions in both the ICT Operations and Systems Integration markets. Their extensive portfolio of services covers the vertical, horizontal, IT and TC space. T-Systems South Africa’s head office is located in Midrand with another major office in Cape Town, and 20 further representative offices in locations throughout southern Africa.

About Intervate
Intervate, a T-Systems business unit in South Africa, is a specialist provider of Enterprise Information Management (EIM) and transactional process automation solutions that improve productivity and collaboration, reduce costs and increase legal compliancy. We have over 14 years’ experience in delivering solutions to enterprise customers in both government and private sectors. Our technical expertise is supported by an understanding of the strategic drivers and challenges relating to EIM. This enables us to provide our customers with professional guidance regarding the best practices proven to deliver successful projects and business benefits.

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