With smartphones already doubling as pocket-sized scanners for barcodes and checks, business process management software vendor Kofax sees an opportunity in bringing mobile imaging to accounts payable software. But one expert said mainstream adoption is still a few years away.
Amy Fong, purchase to pay program leader and senior procurement advisor at The Hackett Group, based in Miami, said a company that hasn't automated its accounts payable (AP) process won't derive much value from adding mobile capabilities that simply extend automated AP. But for those that have, she said mobile AP can have significant advantages. Fong enumerated the technology's potential benefits and risks, and offered implementation tips.
Mobile invoice approval adds convenience -- and risk
Kofax, headquartered in Irvine, Calif., announced the release of MarkView for Accounts Payable 8.0 earlier this month. The release lets users transfer pictures of invoices taken with Apple iOS or Google Android smartphones and tablets into an organization's accounts payable system, and also features mobile review and approval.
Fong said the software's ability to capture invoices on the go can be helpful for users who are working remotely. "We're all used to using our tablets and smartphones working on the road, at suppliers' sites or vendors' sites," she explained. "So now, you're not only able to access the system, but also capture invoices and route [them] through the appropriate workflow process."
Companies with multiple locations, such as fast food chains, may not have scanners or the same inputting technology as the main office installed at every location, Fong said. Having the ability to enter an invoice into the system via mobile devices can save time and ensure delivery.
Both Fong and Allen Carney, vice president of product marketing at Kofax, mentioned mobile accounts payable software's potential time-saving benefits for travel and expense (T&E) reports. Fong said other mobile T&E capabilities have seen a fair amount of adoption and mobile AP could further streamline the process by making it easier for executives to review and approve invoices while traveling.
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However, like all mobile technologies, mobile accounts payable software carries its share of risks.
"With mobile, there's always the risk of security," Fong said. "If you were to just have anybody taking pictures of receipts and emailing them in, there could be security [issues] there."
Image quality is another potential snag. "If you have a scan that's partially incomplete, it [might] require manual invention down the road," Fong said. She added that organizations might also contend with low user adoption and system integration challenges.
When developing mobile functions for MarkView, Kofax did not turn a blind eye to the risks, Carney said. In addition to offering top-notch capture quality, he claimed that MarkView for AP 8.0 is more secure than competing mobile accounts payable products that rely on email-based approvals.
He said that if an invoice awaiting approval is routed to a manager's inbox, it could be tampered with if the mobile device is misplaced or stolen. The new release of MarkView uses a browser-based approach, so users must first log in to the system before they can review and approve invoices. Pictures of invoices are deleted from mobile devices once they are uploaded to the system.
Carney said MarkView also offers real-time integration with SAP and Oracle ERP, which could help to assuage the pain of integration.
Mobile AP software to gain traction in upcoming years
Fong estimated that adoption of mobile accounts payable software is approximately three years away. "Over the next couple years we will see companies doing more to automate their AP process [through] invoice automation, electronic invoicing, imaging -- various ways to get off paper," she said. "As companies adopt those solutions, and many have, I expect they'll consider whether to use the additional mobile [functions]."
But Carney said there's no doubt about whether customers want mobile accounts payable software. "Over the past couple years, mobile has been the number one thing we've been asked for," he said. "We don't see it as necessarily driving purchase decisions, but we do see a strong desire [for it]."
When launching a new AP technology initiative, be it AP automation or adding mobile capabilities, Fong said managers should examine the process first, and consider which software option makes sense for the organization's unique circumstances.
"Look at users and use cases within your business. Some businesses have quite a bit of their supply base that is never going to send them an electronic invoice, and therefore they need a solution for capture from paper," she said. "It's also important to think about your employees: From a T&E perspective, what fits in with your current systems and processes? Think about whether you have executives in your approval process that travel [a lot], where a mobile solution could add value."
Emma Snider is the associate site editor for SearchFinancialApplications.com. Follow her on Twitter: @emmajs24.