Get a Free Trial
NetSuite

Automating Accounts Payable: An Intro to NetSuite Invoice Automation

AC Vivian
Posted on  
March 22, 2022

NetSuite invoice automation (accounts payable automation) accelerates and optimizes the review, approval, and payment processes of invoices.

Read More

Through automated connections between vendor/purchase orders and invoices, automated approval processes, and automated journal entries, NetSuite invoice automation greatly reduces the time it takes to process payment while equally reducing the risk of accounting errors, effectively saving your business time and money and freeing up cash flow.

These days, invoice automation has altered the landscape of businesses and redefined what success looks like for finance teams—so much so that I’m confident in saying there are now only two kinds of businesses in the world:

1. The ones with a manual invoicing process

and

2. The ones with an automated invoicing process

As you might imagine, the businesses still clinging to a manual approach suffer shortcomings, stressors, and inefficiencies that their automated peers do not, such as:

  • Inaccuracies
  • Wasted time
  • High-cost invoicing
  • Lack of data insight
  • Complicated auditing

None of which you want plaguing your company, right? I mean, after all, finance is the backbone of your organization. One inefficiency leads to the next, and before you know it, you could be in trouble.

The good news? You don’t have to suffer the fate of companies using a manual accounts payable process. All you have to do is embrace invoice automation.

Seriously, it’s that easy.

But before you’re able to truly embrace invoice automation, you have to understand it.

My goal here isn’t to sell you on invoice automation (specifically NetSuite invoice automation)—it’s to educate you on what it is, why it’s good for your business, and how it works.

Ready?

Wait—before we get any further: You’ll notice I use invoice automation and accounts payable automation interchangeably. They’re the same thing as far as I’m concerned. I’m not in the business of splitting hairs, so if you want to challenge me on that, let’s take it to the streets. (Actually how about email? That feels like the more adult thing to do.)

What is NetSuite invoice automation (accounts payable automation)?

NetSuite invoice automation software allows companies to automatically (and digitally) ingest supplier invoices and review, approve, and pay said invoices without much effort from a human besides a quick review and a click or two.

There are a boatload of benefits of NetSuite invoice automation that I go over in more detail in the next section, but some of the highlights include:

  • Closing your books faster
  • Saving money on invoicing costs
  • Increasing accuracy in your invoicing
  • Reducing days sales outstanding (DSO)
  • Centralizing all finance processes under your ERP

Why is NetSuite invoice automation good for my business?

Well, you just read five reasons why NetSuite invoice automation is good for your business, so you might be asking yourself, Can there really be more?

Of course there can. And there are.

Here are 7 major benefits of invoice automation that’ll set your finance team (and, as a result, your organization) up for success for the long term.

1) Less expensive invoicing.

NetSuite invoice automation allows you to do more with the headcount you currently have.

Nobody will lose their job because of your investment in this software, but they will be able to perform at a higher level. While you save on the hard costs of physical invoicing (postage, paper, etc.), the rest of the finance team will save hours on the laborious processes of manual invoicing, as automated batch processing will free them up to perform forward finance tasks like projections, budgeting, and modeling. So, instead of chasing month-end closes, you’re able to move your business forward.

When you really look at it, although NetSuite accounts payable is technically a finance software, it’s more of a productivity tool than anything else.

2) Increased accuracy.

I don’t mean to bruise egos here but, when it comes to data entry, manual is synonymous with mistake.

Fact is, we humans make a lot of errors entering invoice info—errors that can easily be avoided with accounts payable automation software.

At face value, the benefit of increased accuracy is wonderful in and of itself. But when you realize that increased accuracy in your invoicing results in saving more time and money and goes a long way in building trust and relationships with your business partners, then you really start to see the big-picture value of accuracy.

3) More time saved.

No team could use more time than the finance team. And, with NetSuite invoice automation, there’s a lot of opportunity to get time back.

Instead of letting invoices wait and whither away in your inbox or on your desk for approval, only to be handed off to this person and mishandled by that person, accounts payable automation software automates the entire routing and approval process. This means you can get the right invoice into the right person’s hands by the right time. The result? Less time spent tracking down invoices and approvals, and more time for forward finance activities.    

4) Simple auditing.

Imagine this: Next time you’re audited, instead of running around like a chicken with your head cut off in an attempt to gather all the necessary documents, all you have to do is open your invoice automation software and “search” for the docs.

Sounds pretty nice, doesn’t it?

That’s what NetSuite accounts payable allows you to do. It links related documents and stores them together, so when you need to go back and refer to them, you can do so via a fast, hassle-free search and find functionality. And, you know what the best part is? You won’t have to worry about misplacing vital documents because they’ll all be right there in the cloud for you, ready to be accessed at a moment’s notice.

5) Zero-effort integration.

NetSuite invoice automation software seamlessly integrates with your ERP and other finance software, centralizing finance processes and giving you and your team a level of clarity and consistency that is key in successful finance practices. It also integrates with your inventory software, so inventory, invoicing, and all other ERP features happen within the same database set. Not to mention, single-sign-on to an individual software platform is a whole lot easier than constantly signing in and out of multiple platforms.

6) Better data insight.

It’s 2022. You’d think having a clear and actionable view of data would be table stakes for every business function by now.

It’s not.

Unlike manual invoicing, invoice automation software provides you with in-depth dashboards that give you an unobstructed view at the invoicing process and payment cycles of your business. With real-time data importing and exporting, you can quickly create reports and analyze data to identify areas fit for optimization. Needless to say, but this improved insight into data goes a long way in continuously improving your accounts payable process.

7) Protection against fraud.

In 2020, 74% of organizations were targets of payment scams. Sign of the times, I suppose.

But it doesn’t have to be that way for you and your team.

Invoice automation software makes invoice approvals a team effort, not a one-man or woman show. This increases the chances that someone will catch any discrepancies or red flags before they become a threat to your business. NetSuite invoice automation does this via approval workflows, which enable you to grant multiple employees access to various parts of the invoicing process, as opposed to restricting access to a single human who is more likely to miss the odd error or inconsistency.

How does NetSuite invoice automation work?

NetSuite invoice automation happens in essentially three steps:

  • Ingest.
  • Convert.
  • Process.

First, the software ingests the invoice.

Second, it converts the invoice into a digital format.

And third, it processes the invoice all the way through payment.

At a more technical level, NetSuite employs something called optical character recognition (OCR) to identify and pull out information from each invoice that it ingests. NetSuite also allows you to set up custom rules for different pricing models and approval workflows, ensuring your accounts payable process is repeatedly and predictably fast and accurate, regardless of the invoice.

Common use cases of NetSuite accounts payable automation

Entering data

Think about how many typing errors you make when you write an email. You’re probably hitting delete and rewriting fairly often, right?

Now just imagine making those errors while manually inputting data from invoices into your accounts payable software.

Yikes. Bad news bears.

Sure, you might be more careful with the numbers of an invoice than you are with the words of an email, but the fact is, humans are more error-prone than computers when it comes to data entry.

And so, one of the key use cases of invoice automation software is data entry. NetSuite automatically captures and enters data from invoices, ensuring your accounts payable process is as fast and accurate as possible.

Matching invoices

With NetSuite invoice automation, you can take a purchase order and/or receiving documents and automatically match them with the correct invoice.

The best part? It all happens in the cloud. No more matching between various documents that may or may not be in the same physical location. Simply digitize the documents and let invoice automation do its thing.

Coding invoices

Kick manual coding to the curb.

With invoice automation, you can set up customized rules that automatically set the right general ledger code for each invoice, effectively removing manual coding from the equation and all the shortcomings that come along with it.

This is a vital task in optimizing speed and accuracy in your accounts payable process.

Routing approvals

Tired of manually sending invoice docs to your peers in the approval process?

Yep, I’ve been there.

NetSuite invoice automation removes this time-sucking step and accelerates approvals with simple electronic routing of documents. This doesn’t just speed things up—it also maintains order in the process and reduces the risk of anything being forgotten or miscommunicated along the way.

NetSuite invoice automation: The way forward

Didn’t think you could be so intrigued by the accounts payable process, did you?

Well, that just goes to show much has changed with automation. And now that you know what NetSuite invoice automation is, why it’s a huge advantage for you and your organization, and how it works, you’re another step closer to bringing it to your company and transforming your invoicing process once and for all.

In the meantime, if you have any questions that I didn’t answer in this article, feel free to shoot me a note on LinkedIn and we can pick up the conversation there. Seriously, don’t be shy—I love talking FinOps.

Get Started with Zone

Interested in NetSuite, Zone Apps or Services? You've come to the right place. Click the button below to get started with Zone.

Get Started