Some suppliers may offer to send less frequent, consolidated invoices. These get sent to your finance department, under the guise that it means there are less invoices to process, so time is saved. Right?
Surely one invoice every month, or even quarter, means less time spent processing payments and more time spent on more important activities. This is an easy stopgap as something finance can do to ‘reduce workload’ without enlisting a project team, along with the backing of the CFO, to implement an automated invoice solution.
But what happens when that massive invoice lands in your in-tray (or preferably your inbox)? You can’t just stick it all under one code and process the entire amount in one go, that would cause all sorts of havoc with budget management and the last thing you want is to take budget away from HR and give it to Marketing…
So, you spend a couple of hours (or more) deciphering which line items should be coded where, and you start to doubt whether this exercise in time-saving is actually saving any time at all.
Even if you save 50% of the time you would have spent on single invoices, you still would not hit the lucrative 90% in time savings most organizations achieve from automation.
What is so good about automated invoicing, and why is it better than consolidated invoices?
Where consolidated invoicing still requires manual processing, automation does not, hence the name (clever, eh?).
The only manual touchpoint in an automated process is payment approval, and even that can be done via mobile app from the other side of the world! And that can even be bypassed according to your own rule set; you may want to auto-approve any spend below $100 to save even more time.
But what about the vast projects and implementation phases for automation processes?
They simply do not exist unless you make them exist.
Yes of course you could build a project team of 25 people all from different parts of the business to all agree on a solution, doom yourself to never settle on anything, and spend the rest of your life typing invoices into your finance software.
OR you could do some research on the current market, get senior management buy-in, and get started automating invoices. Finance is your domain, after all.
Would you expect to be involved in a project for a new graphic design tool for marketing? Of course not! So why do we put so much onus on supplier invoice automation software?
10 years ago, it would have been necessary for any disruptive (the bad disruptive) project to include people from all over the business, but these days it’s just like any other app. Decide you need it, find the right one, get a PO, get the ball rolling. To me, consolidated invoicing just sounds like an added headache on an already laborious process.
Consolidated invoices could also give you a false cash flow impression if there’s been any maverick spend with that supplier, you won’t find out until the end of the period, and by then you could have already allocated those funds to something else. And then there’s the other implications of a digitally automated process, such as the potential for analytical tools to drive real savings, but we’ll save that spiel for another time!
It’s a knockout!
There you have it, who wins out of consolidated invoices VS automated invoices? Of course, the invoice automation provider says automation wins the day, but perhaps you should consider your pros and cons and see what your outcome is (it will be automation every time!).