Although the world has gone mobile, mobile solutions aren’t yet widely used by corporate payments departments. A 2015 survey by the Institute of Financial Operations (IFO) showed that only 16 percent of businesses used mobile solutions as part of their invoice approvals process. That number will soon increase, with more than 20 percent of businesses planning to introduce mobile invoice approvals tools over the next two years.
They’ll soon find more applications to choose from. Apple recently announced a partnership with SAP to make it easy for developers to create iOS applications accessing SAP data. This is part of Apple’s focus on corporate clients, which also includes a partnership with IBM to develop professional applications.
With the new increase in business-oriented mobile applications, firms that want to reduce errors and increase efficiency in their payments process should explore how mobile phones can help.
Receive Invoices Easily
Phones can be easily used to take pictures of invoices and receipts, reducing the need for employees to handle, manage, and track the physical documents. Employees can capture images of the forms while they’re out on the road, reducing the risk they’ll lose the documents.
While photos could be submitted to a processing team via email, using an app on the phone to submit the invoice allows additional information to be associated with it and smoothly gets the invoice into the payment processing workflow.
This online submission process doesn’t have to start when the invoice reaches your company. Allow suppliers to submit invoices via an app on the phone, and your office staff no longer needs to open envelopes, review paper, and key information into the payment approval process.
Approve Invoices Fast
The key benefit from incorporating mobile technology is that invoices and payment requests can be approved more rapidly. These approvals are often delayed because the managers with approval authority often travel or spend days at meetings away from their desk. The IFO report found that remote approvers complicated the payments process for 50 percent of businesses.
With a payments app on their phone, they’re able to approve invoices no matter where they are. Exceptions can be routed and handled in a timely way, as well. An additional benefit of that increased efficiency can be reduced costs, as late payment fees are reduced and you gain early payment discounts.
Beyond simply providing access to invoices for approvals anywhere, the mobile apps provide managers dashboards and access to data anywhere. This enables them to review budgets and current metrics and to incorporate that data into decision-making while they’re at those out-of-office meetings. Access to the data doesn’t have to be limited to approving managers; CFOs, Controllers, compliance staff, and other managers with financial responsibility can review data relevant to their positions from any location.
Major Mobile Benefits Require Back Office Technology
There’s more to getting the benefits of mobile payments technology than putting an app on end users’ smartphones. Although businesses can get some benefits from using mobile apps even if the payments process is largely manual, most of the benefits come from integrating mobile technology into an automated payment process that handles routing and workflow automatically.
The mobile technology should also be integrated with appropriate security controls. Companies should utilize technology such as mobile device management or enterprise mobility management to ensure that only authorized users are able to access the approvals process or data views from their smartphones.
Additionally, photos of invoices taken by phones should be deleted after they’re submitted into the payment applications. Companies may still want to have a process to receive original documents for archival or comparison purposes, in order to detect tampering or fraudulent invoices. Balancing controls with efficiency will always remain a challenge for the payments process.