We take a lot for granted, and believe it or not, being at the office occasionally is one of those things. At the office, printing is widely available, rapport can be built in the break room or over lunch, and we can get answers to the questions we have in real-time from our coworkers.
Think about it in terms of an overdue invoice within a manual accounts payable function:
Will your coworker drop what he or she was doing to help you resolve an issue with an invoice from an angry vendor?
And yet, the answer may have actually already been in your inbox, buried under thousands of other emails. The problem with the invoice was resolved, but it took twice as many people, twice the time, and twice the interruptions to find the resolution.
So was that interaction actually beneficial for the company? Not in the long term. That’s because those types of interruptions are productivity killers with the added context switching required to obtain the required information, and as they add up over time, it starts to form as a bad habit.
In the ‘remote reality’ created by the COVID-19 pandemic, this ‘luxury’ of having the ability to interrupt somebody else’s work to solve a problem evaporated. Employees no longer have the ability to just pop into somebody’s office and get their issues resolved in real-time. There are of course still phone calls, emails, and instant messages, but even those don’t have the direct, immediate response of in-person communications, and we took those for granted.
But perhaps there is a silver lining provided by the remote reality. Maybe we can all learn an incredibly valuable lesson about the nature of work from being forced into working remotely; a lesson we can carry into the future that will enable enhanced levels of productivity in accounts payable.
In this post, we’ll put some of the remote realities into the context of getting more done while exploring a vision for the long-term impacts that this will have on day-to-day operations for organizations, and especially AP departments, everywhere.
COVID-19 Could Change the Way We Work Forever
While some organizations are battening down the hatches with the intent to wait out the storm, others have realized this pandemic might just usher in a ‘new normal’ for office work. Here are a few things we’re likely to see in the long term:
Fewer meetings: Most people who close Zoom for their (fourth and) final video conference of the day let out a sigh of relief, not immediately say “Let’s do that again!” When mind-numbing virtual meetings become less of an excuse to disrupt schedules and are used to move projects forward, look for a groundswell around email and project management tasks.
Accelerated automation: Most businesses were already looking at automation, and the coronavirus pandemic kicked that into high gear. Data entry for invoices is a good example—without physical access to the paper invoice or someone to visit the office daily to receive vendor invoices, manual data becomes more obsolete. Once you’re already receiving digital invoices, it’s only a small step further to automate the data capture, or better yet, all of your procure-to-pay process.
More technology: Businesses are using more technology than ever to establish remote controls during the pandemic, and we don’t expect this trend to change any time soon as business continuity will remain top of mind no matter the business environment.
Automation Stands Out Among New Business Practices
Let’s zoom in on one of these new business trends that’s been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic: automation.
According to an article from Wired, one airline was so inundated with flight cancellation requests that it enlisted the help of robotic process automation (RPA) across company processes. In turn, it reduced the volume of mundane tasks and processed requests faster.
During the economic shutdown for non-essential businesses, some processes merely adapted, while others transformed completely.
For instance, a video conference is very similar to an in-person meeting—you can still hear and see people, scheduling conflicts arise, and they take about the same amount of time and energy. The only difference is that they’re virtual.
Other business practices, such as accounts payable automation, are not simply virtual versions of the former paper tray process—it’s a completely digital and controlled process with context that lowers costs. AP Automation is a great way to digitize your invoice processing workflows and enforce an accounts payable internal control checklist, but that’s only the beginning. Once all of your invoice data is digitally stored in a central cloud-based repository, along with any supporting documents, some truly wonderful things can happen:
- You can add context to your invoice approval process
- You can implement a 100% paperless invoicing process
- You can reduce the cost of processing an invoice by 90%
For more ideas on how to completely revolutionize your AP workflows while providing the capability for your whole team to work remotely, check out our AP Automation page.
COVID-19 Crisis is a Catalyst of Change for Accounts Payable
Every organization is talking about working from home, but only the smart ones are actually looking at implementing solutions that will work in the long term. And they should be—according to the World Economic Forum, 98% of people surveyed said they would prefer to have the option to work remotely for the rest of their careers.
This means that organizations are going to have to provide policies and technology that allow for truly asynchronous work environments—task-oriented projects as opposed to time-oriented schedules. Company policies can help with accountability, but in order to apply the automation you’ll need to adopt better workflows, you’ll need the right technology partner.
At Stampli, we’re committed to Remote AP and providing your business with the internal controls that existed pre-COVID-19—in a virtual environment. In response to the needs of accounts payable professionals during the COVID-19 crisis, we’re offering a 24-hour turnaround of our best-in-class AP Automation platform. If you need AP help fast, reserve your spot today.