“In every field of human endeavor, he or she that is first must perpetually live in the white glare of publicity.”
This is the first line from a famous print ad in 1915 from the General Motors division Cadillac titled “The Penalty of Leadership,” and it’s worth reading in its entirety.
At this moment, every Finance and Accounts Payable (AP) leader has a thought somewhere in their minds, whether lingering in the background of directly in the forefront: AP automation.
Perhaps you’re thinking back to a conversation from a peer who completed a successful implementation, a co-worker who’s concerned about future employment, or a member of the management team who wants to understand the viability and potential cost savings of accounts payable automation. Whatever uncertainty you or your organization may have around AP automation, the solution lies in a deeper understanding of what this technological shift means for accounts payable as a department, but also as an industry.
In this post, we aim to give you the tools to ease the tension internally and feel confident about the changes coming to the accounts payable profession and what it means for you and your team. We’ll discuss the challenges AP leaders are currently facing regarding automation, how automation will benefit everyone involved, and steps to overcome resistance to implementation. This way, when the entire organization looks to you to guide them through the AP technological revolution, you’ll be prepared to lead them to a brighter AP future.
Common Objections Every Accounts Payable Leaders has Encountered with Automation—And How to Deal With Them
Most financial and management professionals who’ve done their research are onboard with the concept of AP automation from an efficiency and cost-savings standpoint. This likely comes as no surprise to veterans of the corporate world, but just because something is logical doesn’t mean it will get implemented. Let’s take a quick look at the common objections to AP automation.
“Everything works fine—why change?”
Kodak once was one of the largest companies in the world. In 1997, Kodak closed its best day ever on the New York Stock Exchange, then in 2005, it was ranked #1 in the world in digital camera sales, and by 2012, Kodak filed for bankruptcy.
The technological revolution hit Kodak hard, but that wasn’t why it failed. Kodak went bankrupt because it refused to accept the new reality and make the appropriate changes.
- If your current AP processes ‘works fine’ now, do they also work in a remote reality we all experienced during COVID-19?
- What happens when the younger generations of financial professionals are accustomed to automation and not manual processes data entry?
- What happens when you discover duplicate or fraudulent payments during an audit — and ask if that could have been prevented with AP automation?
Just because the ‘status quo’ might be manual processes for the AP department in your vertical, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have your eyes open to what’s possible with automation.
“Can we trust the technology?”
There’s something that’s reassuring about an analog process because you can touch it. If an employee makes a typographical error while entering data, you can pop into the office and encourage them to be more careful. If an invoice gets misplaced, you can search through desk drawers and file cabinets until you find it.
Wait a minute; that doesn’t sound reassuring at all…
No, the reality is that computers and software are far more adept at certain tasks than humans, such as data entry, digital storage and filing, and networking. AP automation makes manual data entry, three-way matching, and filing a thing of the past—that’s all handled automatically now so your team can focus on quality assurance of automation output and critical thinking tasks.
Plus, with flexible workflows, hierarchies, and an always-learning artificial intelligence engine that gets smarter over time, best in class AP automation platforms let you conduct your accounts payable processes your way.
“Does AP Automation Cut Jobs?”
No, AP automation does not take away or cut jobs, rather, the software helps AP departments be more productive overall and it adds more control over your internal processes. AP automation platforms are designed to streamline (and all but eliminate) the most tedious and error-prone tasks involved in accounts payable. An AP automation platform can’t replace a living, breathing, thinking human being.
What AP automation platforms can do, however, is make the lives of your current AP department significantly better.
For instance, an automated AP platform can capture invoice data, code it with your general ledger, and prepare for their review, all without the actual invoice being touched or data being entered manually.
Additionally, a centralized AP system allows your team to collaborate with others in your department to make invoice or bill approvals a breeze—no more physically chasing down approvals and feedback because it’s all housed directly on the invoice digitally.
In summary, AP automation platforms are not designed to replace your team. They are simply an intelligent tool that assists AP staff, invoice approvers, and management.
How Automation Benefits AP Managers and Their Teams
Now that you’ve addressed some of the initial questions and concerns, it’s time to dive deeper into the benefits you, your team, and your entire organization will receive via AP automation.
A streamlined invoice approval process
One of the biggest invoice processing bottlenecks is the number of extra days added to the process by chasing down approvals. Non-automated AP team members have to dig through emails, re-send attachments, and remind their coworkers the context of each invoice or line item.
With AP Automation from Stampli, all collaboration occurs directly ‘on top’ of the invoice itself and with customizable automatic reminders—there’s no need for digging through long email threads or chasing down approvals because the entire context of the invoice is provided with the invoice.
In fact, 96% of the people who use AP automation software like Stampli are actually approvers, not accounts payable staff, and they love the context provided from the software and the ease of use from any device or location.
Find and maximize financial opportunities
Paying your vendors on time is a great way to build solid relationships with them, but paying them early may actually end up in cost savings for the company and that all starts with the ability to identify early-payment discounts. When your AP team is freed of manual data entry and time spent chasing down approvals, they have more bandwidth to explore these types of cost-saving opportunities among many others.
Minimize compliance risks
How to Overcome the Resistance to AP Automation
One of the best ways to overcome the fear of disruption in your current AP process is to make your staff and management team aware of the benefits of accounts payable automation. Moreover, outlining that AP Automation software like Stampli works with your unique processes.
Using some of the specific tasks we’ve mentioned in this blog post, such as automated data capture and streamlined approval processes, you can paint a picture of how individual workloads will improve. Or, zoom out and show how much time saved on those types of tasks will affect the bottom line.
Either way, make sure your staff and your executive team feel heard; don’t dismiss objectives, but rather talk through them with some of the tools listed above.
Just like the “Penalty of Leadership” print ad from Cadillac in the introduction, all eyes will be on you to lead the charge toward a more efficient, more accurate, and motivated accounts payable department.
We hope you found this blog informative and wish you the best of luck with your accounts payable initiatives. As always, feel free to reach out to one of the AP Heroes at Stampli for guidance.