AP Automation: How to Make Do With the Staff You Have

It's never been harder to hire for skilled entry-level work. As companies struggle to keep up with their workloads, automation becomes an ever more present solution to the labor market problem.

But just how far reaching are automation capabilities in accounting right now? Is there enough utility in automation technology to actually relieve the burden on overworked teams?

The last thing your team needs is a shiny new piece of technology that doesn't actually solve a problem, so let's break it down.

What does AP automation really mean?

AP automation is a custom-programmed solution that automates the accounts payable process. This technology automates manual tasks like invoicing, purchase order matching, and reconciliation. Using a technology known as robotic process automation, or RPA, custom software programs, known as digital workers, click through the manual digital processes an accounts payable team normally would, but with an accuracy rate of 99.99%.

The benefits of AP automation software

Accounts payable automation reduces staff hours dedicated to the manual process of entering data. Automating these processes allows a company to free up its human capital to focus on more valuable tasks related to company growth.
Some of the other benefits of AP automation include:

  • The elimination of data entry/copying and pasting between applications
  • A reduction in data errors, including duplications
  • Scalability, without the need to hire new staff
  • The increased security of company finance records

Making AP automation work for your team

AP automation solutions are customized to suit your company’s needs. Your digital workforce can input regular vendors, set up customized authorization workflows, and validate payables.

AP automation can make your company’s financial management easier by allowing you to:

  1. Streamline the vendor onboarding process
    Automate data exchange with your vendors, and send and receive invoices electronically.
  2. Manage expense reimbursement
    Have employees submit invoices and receipts through your AP automation software. Send them through the approval workflow, and release payments for reimbursements.
  3. Review and reconcile invoices
    You can set up your workflow so that your automatic invoicing matches the associated purchase order and payment(s). Once matched, rules will determine if they automatically reconcile or are added to a final approval page to be manually reviewed and reconciled.
  4. Reduce your risk of financial fraud
    Duplicate payments, false billing, and fraudulent transactions are flagged in the system for review. Common risks associated with traditional AP processes are minimized or eliminated through automation.

Types of AP automation

There are four main types of AP automation solutions:

No-code automation tools

Simple single-step workflow automation tools enable you to transfer information immediately into spreadsheets or other accounts, but these solutions require existing technology integrations, and are limited to single-step, variable-free workflows.

Low-code automation tools

You can use low-code tools to automate more complex workflows with several steps. Like their no-code counterparts, low-code solutions typically require existing technology integrations on the platform, and an existing team member to manage the automation itself.

High-code unmanaged RPA
At the enterprise level, companies can work with a team of consultants and engineers to build a custom digital workforce on an RPA platform. These bespoke automation solutions can be adapted to access and platform or portal, and can work to automate complex workflows with multiple variables.

However, internal resources are needed to manage the project, and oftentimes these solutions come at a six-figure price tag, and an 18 month time to deployment. Post-deployment, the onus of maintaining and updating the automations is on you, the customer.


Robotic process automation as a service, or RPAaaS, gives customers the flexibility they need to automate within their existing systems and processes, without the expense of monitoring and maintaining their automations in-house. At a time when engineering costs are at an all-time high (if you can even find the RPA talent required), RPAaaS makes it possible for companies to automate and see ROI quickly.

Is accounts payable a good fit for RPA?

Most accounting processes are entirely rules-driven, making them great candidates for RPA. Automation thrives on consistent, rules-driven processes. Where there is a need for absolute accuracy and consistency in a rule-based digital process, there is likely a strong use case for RPA.


Falon Hernandez

Falon is a Business Development Representative at Thoughtful Automation, and helps non-technical decision-makers determine whether automation-as-a-service is a good fit for the way their work gets done. Her career has put her in close proximity to the bottlenecks that automation frequently helps to eliminate, and she specializes in helping companies to identify those opportunities in their own organizations.

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