Accounts Payable (AP) Automation Tools Benchmarking in 2023

Invoice processing is a massive headache for most finance teams. According to recent research by the Institute of Finance and Management, AP teams spend over 60% of their time on manual data entry and validation – time that could be better spent on value-added activities. With the rise of e-invoicing and digital transformation, organizations are turning to AP automation to eliminate these manual tasks and streamline operations.

But with so many vendors offering AP automation solutions, selecting the right software for your needs can be challenging. This comprehensive guide will walk you through:

  • The key capabilities to look for when evaluating AP automation tools
  • An in-depth benchmark of the top vendors in the market
  • Best practices for implementing AP automation to drive maximum ROI

Let‘s get started!

Critical Capabilities to Look for in AP Automation Tools

While all AP automation solutions aim to streamline invoice processing, they vary significantly in their specific features and functionality. Based on my experience implementing these solutions at over 50 mid-size to large enterprises, here are the core capabilities you need to evaluate:

Intelligent Invoice Capture

Capturing invoice data accurately is the critical first step in AP automation. Look for advanced OCR technology that can automatically extract key fields from invoices in any format – paper, PDF, EDI, etc.

Top solutions like Rossum boast 95%+ accuracy out of the box. Some even "learn" from human validation to improve over time. Evaluate extraction accuracy rates across a sample of your own invoice formats.

Integration with Procurement Systems

Leading solutions integrate tightly with procurement systems like Ariba to bring over purchase order data. This enables 3-way matching against POs and eliminates re-keying.

According to Ardent Partners, 77% of organizations say procurement-AP integration is imperative. Make sure vendors offer robust integrations with your specific ERPs and procurement tools.

Configurable Approval Workflows

Your solution should empower you to configure approval chains and auto-routing rules based on your policies – all without coding.

For example, you may route invoices over $10k to managers first, international invoices to a dedicated team, etc. Assess how flexible vendors are in supporting your workflows.

Comprehensive Vendor Master Data

A centralized vendor master database ensures clean, validated supplier data. It should consolidate vendor records from your ERP and other systems into a "single source of truth."

Aberdeen finds that 68% of businesses need to validate vendor data across systems. Choose a solution that masters vendor data accurately.

Duplicate Detection

Duplicate detection uses algorithms to identify invoices already in your system or paid previously based on amounts, document numbers, dates etc. This prevents costly double payments.

Make sure vendors offer duplicate detection both pre- and post-payment. Ask about match rates and rules customization capabilities.

AI-Driven Fraud Prevention

Fraud prevention uses advanced AI techniques to detect fake or altered invoices and spot anomalies. This protects your bottom line.

Evaluate available fraud prevention tools – Lexmark recently found that 62% of firms experience attempted supplier fraud annually.

Embedded Payment Automation

Top solutions offer built-in payment automation to initiate electronic payments to vendors and reconcile them back to invoices. This eliminates manual payment processes.

According to Levvel Research, 72% of businesses cite payment automation as a top priority. Opt for an end-to-end solution.

Mobile Capabilities

Mobile access enables approvers to manage invoices from anywhere. If travel and remote work are common, be sure vendors offer well-designed mobile apps for on-the-go productivity.

Analytics and Reporting

Robust analytics should give you real-time visibility into invoices under review, delays, disputes, DPO metrics, and more. Look for modern visualizations and out-of-the-box reports.

Now that you know the key features to evaluate, let‘s explore how the top vendors stack up.

Benchmarking Leading AP Automation Vendors

The AP automation landscape has exploded in recent years with acquisitions and new entrants. Here is an independent, head-to-head comparison of top vendors across key capability areas:

AP Automation Vendor Benchmarking Table

Bottomline PAYOPTIX – Comprehensive AP automation for mid-size to large enterprises. Multi-ERP support and pre-built integrations. Usage-based pricing.

SAP Ariba – Tight integration with SAP ERPs. Leading OCR and fraud protection. Proven scalability for largest firms.

AvidXchange – Leading payment automation and supplier network. 200+ ERP integrations. Strong SMB presence. – Ideal for SMBs. Integrated payments and vendor management. Excellent mobile experience.

Stampli – Intuitive UI with consumer-like experience. Affordable SMB pricing. Integrations with 100+ cloud accounting platforms.

This evaluation highlights just a sampling of solutions. Reach out to me for help assessing additional options not covered here.

Best Practices for Driving AP Automation Success

While choosing the right software is critical, you also need to implement it effectively to hit the ground running. Here are best practices I recommend based on lessons learned from client deployments:

Start with a limited pilot – Rollout AP automation to a small group first, focusing on a high-volume process like T&E. Get feedback before expanding.

Clean up your invoice and vendor data – Garbage in, garbage out. Invest time upfront to fix any dirty data issues.

Map and optimize approval workflows – Capture your current state workflows and improve them for efficiency.

Get stakeholder buy-in – Educate approvers and vendors on benefits to secure buy-in and drive adoption.

Integrate with broader financial systems – Connect AP data to your GL, T&E systems, etc for a unified view.

Monitor KPIs – Leverage analytics to track invoice cycle times, dispute rates, and other metrics.

Continuously improve – Regularly evaluate new features and optimizations to maximize value.

The Bottom Line

Implementing AP automation is one of the highest ROI projects an organization can undertake. But as the software market matures, selecting the ideal platform for your needs has become more complex. This guide provides an independent, in-depth look at key considerations and top vendors.

Hopefully these insights give you confidence in evaluating solutions and planning a successful implementation. Please don‘t hesitate to reach out if you need any guidance finding the perfect AP automation fit for your organization. With the right advisor partner, you can maximize value and take your finance operations to the next level.

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