CloudX Blog

Eliminating the Accounts Payable Blame Game through AP Automation

Posted by Chris Cosgrove

Mar 30, 2013 7:48:00 AM

AP automation is more magnificent than Chazz Michael

 Chazz Michael Michaels is a team player...you should be too!

 

Everybody in a team setting feels better about their performance upon receinving an ‘attaboy’ accompanied with a hearty pat on the back after a job well done.  Consider baseball as an example…what other sport highlights individual achievements with so much physical affection?  Who knew that such a masculine sport would be hallmarked by one of it’s endearing idiosyncracies…the infamous butt-slap.  Nothing says, you’ve done a good job like that ritual in baseball.  The only other tight-pantsed, manly sport that I can think of that comes close, would be football…American, of course to our friends across the pond.  In the Accounts Payable world, however, getting accolades for a job well done are few and far between, and so, we wanted to discuss the blame game and how Accounts Payable automation in the AP process can position you for some high fivin’, chest bumpin', and rump slappin’ (optional and sophomoric, I know).

In an earlier post, we covered the known fact (to AP professionals that is) that the Accounts Payable process and those tied to supporting it often go underestimated, undervalued, and under-appreciated.  Our aim is to help change that, and with respect to the blame-game, we’re specifically talking about the incidents when invoices, and other miscellaneous documents like check requests, check copy forms, tax info, supporting docs…you name it, go missing.  The typical result of an AP file gone AWOL is the infamous double finger point (kinda like a triple Salchow for you Blades of Glory fans).  Typically the originator of the request/submitted document will blame AP for not turning something around in a timely fashion or for ‘losing’ the form they submitted.  AP in turn often points out that a form was not submitted accurately or entirely, and as such can’t be processed.  The problem is especially evident in a paper-based environment.  Why?  Because forms establish a chain of custody (document owner or originator), transaction instructions – cut check for amount, and the impetus, ie. reason for it…reimbursement, bill, T&E, etc.  If any of the information is missing on the form, or as an attachment to the form, the resolution to the submission generally goes sideways until it’s all assembled correctly and so the AP team can accurately book the transaction on the ledger.  While the blame game is certainly an option in the AP, it’s not a good one nor is it fun.

 

Getting out of the blame game and getting on with life!

 

One of the reasons that we advocate automated invoice processing, especially built around an electronic document management system (which most Accounts Payable software has in-built) is precisely to eliminate lost document issues and to provide visibility to documents in the process by their stage.  Having this kind of insight can eliminate a lot of the friction with AP and its customers…internal or external.  For instance, take the humble check request form…by adopting to a digitized submission and workflow process, you could bypass the wrangling that typically goes on over who dropped the ball, and have the docs in question in a secure, accessible environment.  When everyone knows what’s going on with a particular transaction, it’s a lot easier to resolve outlying exceptions so that the transaction can be completed.  Essentially then, an electronic approach can greatly reduce the instances of the blame game by providing accountability and support for all parties involved.

To take it to the next level, the goal would be to put this kind of technology in the cloud, so that it would be web accessible to all users.  By doing this, you could eliminate a lot of the costs associated with traditional software installs, ie. licenses and eliminate risks around the storage infrastructure.

 

So until the opportunity presents itself for you to take the automation plunge with some fancy AP software, we hope that these insights offer a fresh, if not funny, perspective on how to improve your everyday life in the AP world.  In seriousness, a lot of the quibbles that go on because of how we interact with paper in a given process, can be greatly improved through a streamlined and highly visible electronic approach (imagine the possibilities of improving dispute resolution with your external customers via  a Vendor Portal and the implications that has!). Getting to the end state, where the process is improved is the big question though…how to do that?

 

To answer that in the context of AP improvement, check out the eBook below!  Bear in mind that we advocate a Document Process Outsourcing approach, which is seminal in the market, but we think our recommendation here might surprise you! 

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Topics: Accounts Payable Process, Accounts Payable Process, AP Process, Accounts Payable Automation, Improve Accounts Payable, accounts payable software, Invoice Processing, ap software, accounts payable improvement, accounts payable outsourcing

Why Accounts Payable Process Perfection Is a Job For The A-Team

Posted by Chris Cosgrove

Mar 16, 2013 6:39:00 AM

Accounts Payable Process overhaul requires the A Team!

It's amazing how fast technology changes!

You buy a smartphone today  and tomorrow it’s obsolete.  The pace of change now moves astronomically.  I remember being one of the early guys on the college campus who had a cell phone, a flip phone with pull out antenna no less, in the late 90’s.  Now, the fact that I had a cell phone was astonishing, but to consider that carrying the same phone today would basically doom me to a life of ridicule and belittlement is a sobering thought.  I mean those phones and smartphones both exist to call people…right?  So what’s the big deal?  Oh, yeah…mobile computing, text and the power of data.

The technology world is changing at an exponential rate.  Computer power doubles every 18 months (Moore’s Law).   The law of fiber suggests that internet bandwidth doubles every 9 months.   Other areas of exponential growth include storage, content, and community.  Just consider the absolute techie tsunami that is social media.  In an astonishing  ten years, we’ve gone from no true social media existence to multiple platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Youtube, etc.) with user bases in the billions and net revenues in the hundreds of billions. Amazing!

So the world is more interlinked than ever before, especially by user groups, relevant content, ideologies…all of which are essentially communities by commonality.  The things that matter most to us be they professional, personal, individual, or corporate are easily identifiable and accessible anytime.  The good news for most people is that because of these types of communities, it’s easier to access niche information quickly and to leverage that knowledge base to make informed and empowered decisions.  

 

So here’s a morsel for anyone considering AP process overhaul.

 

Before going down the yellow brick road of AP automation, it’s really important to understand that while in concept it’s fairly straight-forward.   Take invoice processing as an example…convert invoices to data, push the data to the accounting system, handle exceptions in a workflow, speed up the process, reduce costs, and live happily ever after.

Right?

In application it can be very difficult.  The reason for this, at least traditionally, is because the tried and true Accounts Payable software deployment approach underscores the need to bring new ( and often unknown) technology into the mix.   Looking at AP or any other transactional document process generally requires the use of a certain technology stack in conjunction with various physical processes to achieve the highest levels of improvement.

 

Consider this, to get 100% accounts payable automation here’s the short list of what you need to install, deploy, tweak, and manage:

 

-Scanning hardware & software

-Advanced Capture (OCR) technology – (highly niche area…template based or layout?, who validates the OCR results? )

-Document Management & Workflow technology – (this is fundamentally different from managing data in a core application like an ERP and will generally require an SME to administer and manage)

-Business Rules technology – (again, much of what drives the interaction of these systems involves initial config work and ongoing process tweaking, which means more dedicated support time, which most organizations have finite amounts of)

-Data Integration Proficiency – (for many users of lesser known back end systems, integrating data can prove to be a massive exercise in frustration…for enterprise organizations, it can mean deploying a battalion to spearhead the task…either way, you need serious chops to marry systems well, and this is why a lot of companies turn to third parties/aka integration shops)

-System Rollout & User Training – (for bigger deployments the complexity increases, and it’s best to begin any project with the end in mind, allowing time to take a multi-phase approach instead of pursuing a gargantuan roll-out.

And you thought this was just about bringing some fancy shmancy AP software in?

 

Some other items to consider if you’re going for the fully monty in improving your AP operations:

 

-Electronic Payment Methods – ACH/P-Card

-Vendor Portal Deployment – Give your vendors an onramp to upload invoices to you dynamically and a self serve kiosk

-Electronic Supplier Settlement Network – Providing group discounting, negotiated purchase rates and electronic invoice presentment and payment

-Time & Expense Report Management – Often intertwined with Payables improvements, as internal customers essentially submit expense reports to obtain payables reimbursement for miscellaneous spend.

 

There are many items to consider in improving AP to include investment requirements, achievability, returns, process gains, resource constraints, sponsorship, shared vision between executives and departmental leaders and many more.  This is why we say it’s a job for the A-team.  You need a crew of folks with technical prowess, project management skills, and visionary leadership to rally the troops and compel the organization forward.  So get your Hannibal, BA, Faceman, & Murdock in line and get on with getting better!

 

To learn some awesome Accounts Payables best practices and our approach to AP services, check out our ebook below!

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Topics: AP Process, Accounts Payable Automation, Improve Accounts Payable, accounts payable software, accounts payable best practices, ap software, accounts payable outsourcing, ap automation, ap services, Invoice Conversion

Why Vendor Portals Are Needed To Improve The Accounts Payable Process

Posted by Chris Cosgrove

Feb 22, 2013 7:38:00 AM

 Accounts Payable Software & Vendor Portals need to give suppliers multiple transmission options!

People like options.

 

Options give people the feeling that they are in control…whether in business or just in life.  Consider Mini…by creating a platform that is highly customizable, they’ve endeared a huge global fan base because Mini owner get to pimp their rides from a seemingly endless menu of accessories and options that make their cars more personal and unique.  It’s seldom that people complain about having too many options.  With that said, options in the AP process are forcing Finance & Shared Services leaders the world over are being forced to address rapid shifts in invoice submission technology to accommodate the preferences of their vendors.  This creates challenges from an IT and invoice processing perspective. 

 

What problems you ask?

 

Creating & maintaining avenues by which vendors can supply their transaction data can become cumbersome and tedious in a hurry.  Paper, long being the dominant format that invoices are submitted by suppliers to their customers is being slowly reduced as new options including emailed invoices (PDF & TIFF format), Electronic Data Interchange, EIPP, and P2P (Supplier networks) take flight and gain adoption.  If you think about it, paper as a medium for conveying invoice transaction information requires the least amount of work from the supplier to produce, and as such, it’s one of the primary reasons that so many invoices are still submitted this way.  One of the reasons that vendors are willing to alter their submission methodology is that they are keenly aware of the fact that there are faster and less costly ways of getting invoices over to their customers…namely via an email transmission (eliminating the need to print & post mail, which is generally at least a $.60-75 cost).

 

What obstacles impede the adoption of more advanced supply chain transactions?

 

1.  Lack of technical resource – Advanced supply chain interactions like EDI require high levels of subject matter expertise.  Considering that each supplier will have a unique EDI file mapping requirement, it’s a cumbersome and time consuming process to define and validate data sets that will be amenable to both the purchaser and the seller.  Further, you have to consider that not every supplier will have the bandwidth or expertise required to adopt an EDI approach.

 

2.  Lack of scale -  Another factor to consider is that the smaller you are as an organization the less sway you have over your supplier base.  Conversely, if you’re a juggernaut in your industry, it’s easier to get your supplier base to tango with you, as you can use your scale as a leverage point to incent them to see things from your perspective.  (We’ve even seen instances where organizations have mandated EDI for their suppliers, and charged a processing fee per submitted invoice for those who refused to comply).

 

3.  Lack of patience – Some approaches to AP automation are faster to deliver business impacts than others.  If any or all of your improvement initiatives require your vendors to adopt to a new process, prepare for a war of attrition (aka don’t hold your breath).  However, if you can make changes to your internal process and leverage technology and an improved process (yes, we were thinking a DPO approach…how did you read our minds…?), you can realize improvements and benefits much faster than in instances that require lengthy roll-outs.

 

So, the primary reasons to consider a Vendor Portal are straightforward.  With a vendor portal, you can provide your vendors the ability to self-serve from an invoice submission perspective, as well as through an invoice status check perspective.  This gives you and your staff the added benefit of reduced inbound calls, which can be time consuming and distracting to core responsibilities.  Additionally, if your AP Software or AP services provider is worth their salt, this will be an included feature of their platform. Ultimately, the conversation around vendor portal technology comes back to how we started…providing options to your external customer.   The vendor portal (and your Accounts Payable process as a whole) should be flexible enough to accommodate multiple invoice formats to include E-Invoices and digital invoices (PDF/Tiff).   This underscores the reason why supplier portals are needed to improve the AP process, as they represent a means to create mutually beneficial outcomes with the least impediments to adoption.

If you want to see how Accounts Payable software and vendor portal technology can work together to make your invoice process faster, easier, more accurate and generally awesome….click here!

 

To learn more about Accounts Payable Automation and Accounts Payable best practices, check out the ebook below!

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Topics: Accounts Payable Process, Accounts Payable Automation, accounts payable software, accounts payable improvement, accounts payable outsourcing, vendor portal, e-invoicing

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