The “Smart” AP Function and the Role of Automation

Ardent Partners research has long pointed to the automation of key accounts payable processes, namely the eradication of paper-based invoices and manual capabilities, as one of several means of boosting the AP function’s true strategic impact. As companies begin to think about 2016 and how they can continue to extract value from internal operations, AP must be one of the first things that comes to mind.


Just a few months ago, I was joined by Concur’s A.G. Lambert and fellow Ardent analyst, Andrew Bartolini, to discuss key trends in the world of ePayables (a catch-all term utilized to describe the processes inherent in AP and the solutions that support those processes) and how these market trends would shape the future of the finance function. (Click here to check out the webinar if you happened to miss it.)



As 2016 draws closer and closer, some of those trends, particularly in the area of intelligence and analytics, will prove to be a true differentiator. Ardent’s recent ePayables research spoke to the value of a “smart” AP function that can serve a true “hub” for centralized intelligence related to financial planning, forecasting, and budgeting. After all, data related to invoices can hold valuable information regarding corporate spending, key spend patterns and trends, and the suppliers that the overall business is working with on a consistent basis.



Where does automation fit in? Simply, data extraction, reporting, and analytics are incredibly repeatable and impactful when they are not only automated, but linked to systems across the greater business. Invoice data is like gold: it can provide a wealth of intelligence to the executives that want to understand how current and future spending will impact their entire business. It’s within this line of thinking that AP can be pulled from the back office and put in the strategic limelight of other “high profile” functions.



As companies begin to think about 2016, they should understand that the accounts payable function is not only a source of tremendous internal value…it can truly impact the future of the business. The “smart” AP function drives intelligence and serves a centralized hub of information and data. And that, in the years ahead, will shape how business leaders will alter their perception of accounts payable.






Christopher J. Dwyer is a Research Director at Ardent Partners, a Boston-based supply management research and advisory firm. He is considered a thought leader in the spend management industry, with recognition from Supply and Demand Chain Executive Magazine as a “Pro to Know” in 2013. He has written hundreds of research studies and reports on the evolution of procurement, finance, and other key functions (such as contingent workforce management), and can be reached at or on Twitter (@CJD_Ardent). Visit to read more of his research.


Loading next article