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3 Reasons Why Accounts Payable Automation Can't Be Done By Robots

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Viva la revolucion!


In today’s modern world with all the host of technology that’s available to us there’s a subtle subtext in our conversations…is all this technology actually making life better.


Sure, who can imagine life without first world amenities like coffee cup sleeves, BPA free water bottles, Instagram, and Stevia? Just kidding…in seriousness things like e-mail, video conferencing, smartphones, and GPS have made our lives much easier in many ways.  At the same time, there’s a sense among folks that all this cushy technology is making us less relationally sensitive and progressively dumbing us down as we collectively rely up on machines to do things that used to require more cognitive function.


In Acccounts Payable, the tide is turning away from outdated manual processes to increasingly effective automated scenarios. But Accounts Payable automation doesn’t mean you can check your brain at the door.

Here’s three reasons why Accounts Payable automation will never be done by robots (Orwellian, I know… ;-)): 

  1. Funky things happen to invoices. – This may come as a revelation (primarily if you live in a bubble) but people are weird.  They do weird things.  Translation…many invoices are subject to interpretation as they get approved or revised, and as such can have a variety of adjustments made to line items or totals, like credits.  The point is, many invoices will have items that are outside the scope of the invoice that get appended to them and as such require some intervention.

  2. Someone has to be the traffic cop. - What I mean by that is that even under the best of automation scenarios there will always be invoice outliers that can not or will not be automated in terms of assignment.  This is especially relevant on Non-PO based invoices where you are looking to book the invoices lines against relevant GL-Codes  and ultimately obtain the approval of the correct approver, both departmentally and from a dollar hierarchy perspective.  With that said, especially for new vendors, someone has to man the fort so-to-speak, and  be available to direct the traffic of invoices to the right coders and approvers.  It’s simply something that will never be able to be fully automated as an organization will constantly onboard new vendors, or have vendors that change their address, both of which will trip up Accounts Payable automation systems.

  3. Someone has to be the silver tongued devil. – No this isn’t a license to unscrupulous behavior and I don’t know about you, but nothing unleashes the rage monster in me like having to deal with automated, quasi-intelligent robotic agents.  I typically find myself shouting “Operator, Help, Customer Service, Save Me!!!!” faster than a 911 Turbo S does 0-60 (that’s about 2.9 seconds for all you motorheads).  Inevitably though, no Accounts Payable automation software is going to eliminate the conversations your AP team has with your vendors.  Why? Because there are always going to be discrepancies that need to be resolved, and that involves communication.  Now this may not always be by phone, but regardless, it will involve person to person communication.  Sometimes that communication will be internal between department heads, procurement folks, or at other times direct liaising with the vendors themselves…anyway you slice it, that requires a sentient being capable of applying thought and problem solving skills to sitautions that extend beyond binary processing. 

The Endgame

The bottomline is that Accounts Payable automation can make a huge difference in your processing productivity, cost per invoice, and create unprecedented, actionable visibility within your AP department, but it will always require a deft touch to achieve.  In this way, it requires a synthesis of automation technology and physical process to make it hum.  We think that the best approach to that is by empowering your organization through Document Process Outsourcing and going for AP automation gold!

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