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A Sojourner's Message On Searching Out Accounts Payable Automation

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A journey of a thousand miles... 

One of the endearing tales that has been retold since the first Christmas certainly has to be the journey of the Magi.  Having traversed the deserts and mountains of lands afar to arrive in Israel in search of the King that was to be born as indicated by the astronomical phenomenon they were following (aka THE star).  Perhaps because the story as a whole is so compelling that the creator God would come into the earth at just the right point in history to redeem that which was lost, or just how majestic and humbling the picture of mysterious and wealthy dignitaries prostrating themselves before a toddler…either way, it’s a tale and historical narrative that is endearing and easy to remember at this time of year.  That’s powerful, and seasonally apropos, but what does it have to do with Accounts Payable automation.

A lot in fact, and I’m happy to share them with you…


For starters

1.  The wise men had a destination.  For them it was finding their prize, in this case, the Christ child.  Just as many Accounts Payable and Finance leaders have a destination with respect to Accounts Payable automation, the endgame is to have an efficient, streamlined, paperless Accounts Payable process that is fundamentally different, and better than the previously manual and highly paper-based process.  As an AP leader, it’s important to define what your destination is.  Be clear about setting your goals as you set about the business of course direction.  Identify, what approach you’ll need to transform your process to include components like document management, workflow, business rules, dashboards, reporting etc.

2.  The journey is long & not easy.  Anytime you begin a long trek, it’s important to understand that by default it’s going to take time and that there will be obstacles in the path to completion.  For AP leaders this can happen during the phase where they need to get the buy-in of peers or other critical stakeholders like those who control Information Technology or equally importantly, the corporate coffers.  One of the ways to improve the process is by building a solid business case.  That means not just a one-dimensional costing model, which, don’t get me wrong, is a great thing, but looking at the issues around what your process, as good as it might be in its existing state is causing throughout the business.  AP as it relates to procurement, or customer service, or forecasting, or spend management, etc.  When you start to quantify the financial components of improvement, what it takes to get there, and the human / process aspects and implications of improvement, you’ll have the tools you need to make the long journey possible.  Also, from an implementation perspective, there can be many nuances to building customer specific business intelligence, logic, and workflow into any system, all of which will take time to think out, plan, and execute, but ultimately the result is worth it.

3.  Satisfaction.  There’s nothing like completing a challenging task or achieving a significant objective.  If you’ve ever played on a competitive sports team and won a league championship, you’ll know what that means.  I have to believe that for the wise men, seeing their prize with their eyes and setting their gifts before Him was probably an unforgettable and awe-inspiring experience.  Now, I won’t go so far to say that building Accounts Payable automation into your process will be an out of body type experience, but I will say that it will amount to being a major victory for you when it’s up and running because it will mean visibility, performance, speed, and control in manners just not before possible, when compared to a totally manual process.  For that reason, there’s a deserved pride that goes along with a job well done and transformation complete.

So in more ways than one there are some similarities between the sojourn of the three wise men of antiquity to those pursuing the AP automation road.

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