CloudX Blog

5 Accounts Payable Workflow Software Best Practices You Need to Know

Posted by Chris Cosgrove

Sep 21, 2016 1:34:28 PM

accounts payable workflow software best practices are the yoda way

We will always champion AP automation!


While some may argue that AP automation is old news and bolder, fresher ideas like e-invoicing are the way forward, the fact remains that even best in class, leader type organizations can not mandate 100% adoption of these means.  Just as other advanced technologies like EDI have not displaced traditional invoicing there is and will remain a segment of all payables departments that depend upon alternatives to manual invoice processing. However, there are certain ways to doing things once the AP automation effort has begun that will yield better results than others.  As such, we thought it appropriate to take a more instructive role in this post to foster some ideas that may assist you in your quest to achieve maximum efficiency.


Here are five best practices to make your Accounts Payable workflow software deployment optimal!


1.  Leveraging location - One of the best ways to tap into the automation potential of AP workflow software is to harness header data off the invoice to drive the electronic workflow to the correct processor or approver.  In this case, if you have a geographically distributed business and correlated AP process, this is an ideal way to ensure smooth processing of invoices by your AP team.  By capturing the City, State, and ZIP information off the invoice header, you can use a geographic assignment within your workflow configuration to get invoices to their correct destination faster.  As an aside you can also leverage delivery (ship to or services rendered to) info as well.  This is a tactic that is especially helpful in processing third party invoices.


2.  Vendor assignment - Another easy to deploy and beneficial method to improving your accounts payable process is to auto-assign vendors to processors, GL-coders, or approvers by vendor.  This helps expedite vendor specific invoices to the correct processing route without intervention and eliminates manual processing steps.  This is an elementary step to deploying workflow and is probably the lowest hanging fruit from all the items in this list and should be done at the outset of an AP workflow software roll out because it’s very simple to put into motion.


3.  GL Coding Restrictions by Approver - This is more of a control to prevent errant coding of invoices, but one that should not be neglected.  In conjunction with a phased roll out departmentally, which is something we absolutely advocate, we believe that by restricting the available GL codes that an approver or exception handler has to choose from (think drop down menu), the chance of them selecting the wrong code and creating an inaccurate expense booking diminishes drastically.  


4.  Delegation in Absentia - Delegation becomes an important component for process continuity management especially as it relates to employees who are required to approve invoices who may have to travel frequently, or are out on vacation or leave.  Having delegation rules built into your workflow eliminates process bottlenecks and saves invoices from getting lost in the cracks of the process which can then result in missed discount capture or worse late payment fees.


5.  Automated Reporting - Reporting from workflow metadata is key as well to monitor the process of invoices throughout their various stages so you can see which invoices are moving swiftly through the process and which are bogging down.  Common breakdowns can be assignment by approver, department, vendor, amount, terms date, or due date.  By having automatic views into each of these data points intelligent action can be taken to ensure the best possible business outcomes.  Additionally, month end closing processes such as the common practice of accruing outstanding ‘suspected’ invoices in queue, can be facilitated in a moment because once invoice data is available within the workflow / business intelligence system, it’s available for dynamic reporting, which in turn will save manual effort associated with compiling that data outside of a system.


Moving Forward

Hopefully these 5 best practices to AP workflow software deployment give you a positive frame of reference for maximizing how your organization goes about automating AP.  If that’s not something you’ve done yet, we think you should check this out!  Also, if you’ve done this but haven’t monetized your process, you’re leaving money on the table instead of turning AP into a strategic profit center and we think that’s silly!  If you’ve a mind to achieve greater value and contribution from AP to your organizational health, then check this out!


Free eBook on AP Automation vs E-Invoicing:  What's Right For My Business?


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Topics: Accounts Payable Process, ap automation, accounts payable workflow, accounts payable workflow software, ap workflow software

Addressing Change When Implementing Accounts Payable Workflow Software

Posted by Chris Cosgrove

Sep 16, 2016 11:05:37 AM

accounts payable process improvement means change!

Change rarely brings about the best in people.  


In fact, in most people change tends to reveal their character (for better or worse), especially if the changes being wrought are acute or sustained.  Because people are creatures of habit and self-centered, anything that disrupts their experience of ‘normal’ is essentially viewed dubiously.  This is no different for those bringing about Accounts Payable process change...and with respect to that niche, which is one of our areas of core focus, nothing gets more prickly than deploying Accounts Payable workflow software.

The reason here is obvious in that outside of the AP department, the approval and coding process for most services (sic Non-PO) invoices has to go through the hands of numerous approvers.  In larger companies this process can be more complex, requiring multiple layers of approval for increasing levels of authority and fiscal accountability.  Thus, when presenting change, especially to outlying managers and officers of an organization, it’s critical to disseminate the message in a positive, informative, and supportive way.  Further, it’s necessary to plan out a strategic map of adoption as we’ve outlined here.

Here are three tidbits to help you when you plan to pull off your workflow tour de force:

    1. Over-communicate - This doesn’t mean be verbose, it just means communicate very clearly the plans you have for deploying the software and how the change is to be brought about.  It also means you have to communicate in sequences, especially with the groups (department heads / approvers) that you are phasing in chronologically.  Make sure your communications on this matter is clear and open ended, fostering dialogue and not draconian.  Nothing good comes from taking an authoritarian stance, when you are trying to get your organization rallied behind an initiative, and nothing kills momentum like the wailing and gnashing of teeth at the outset of a project.
    2. Clearly define deadlines - One would think that this would be so obvious as to not be included, but you’d be surprised by some of the scenarios we’ve encountered.  Just like the wise builder counted the cost in Biblical parables, so too must you.  That means going beyond just a fiscal reckoning, but also an accounting of time and resources that need to go into the project to pull it off.  Part of being a good project steward (manager) in the Accounts Payable workflow deployment genre, involves setting the boundaries for the testing, training, and ultimately conversion to electronic processes from manual ones.  In conjunction with the first point, these deadlines need to be realistic, so nothing that would make your peers’ skin crawl due to lack of notification.  Allow yourself a reasonable amount of time to address concerns, re-inforce the impetus for pursuing AP automation as it relates to electronic workflow and proceed.  
    3. Big rocks first- All we mean by this nugget is that you should prioritize the departments or personnel that will give you the biggest bang once automated.  This can be for logistical purposes or sheer invoice processing volume.  Another key thought here is that the inverse to the principle above is true.  While you don’t want buzzkills when getting out of the starting blocks on the AP workflow deployment race, you do want champions and cheerleaders.  That is not to say you want proletariat drones and ‘yes’ men who won’t give real feedback, it’s just that you don’t want to stake your success on the backs of critics.  Leave the folks that will be the most resistant to change for last.  Once you’ve got the others onboard and you’re making headway, you’ll have momentum with you and that’s a powerful thing.  If you don’t take the time to think through who the critical ‘big rock’ departments are for you, you just make the implementation effort harder in the long run.


While change is a constant, betterment is an option.

If you haven’t automated your accounts payable process yet, take a look at these resources and get on your journey to betterment!

Free eBook on The 7 Best Practices To AP Automation!
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Topics: Accounts Payable Process, accounts payable workflow, accounts payable workflow software

5 Tips To Deploying Accounts Payable Workflow Software Effectively

Posted by Chris Cosgrove

Aug 26, 2016 1:43:38 PM

Accounts Payable workflow software won't be deployed in day just like the Roman Coliseum!

If You Want Something Done Right...

We’ve all heard the adage that if you want something done right that you should do it yourself.  While there is a certain element of truth to this, at some point you have to work with others and when you tackle a daunting task like deploying accounts payable workflow software, then it’s best not just to go it alone and hope for the best, but instead to draw wisdom from the experiences of others who’ve walked the walk before you.

So from our experiences in getting people from point A to B (manual or semi-automated accounts payable process to highly automated), we’ve learned a few things that we’ll pose to you now.

Here are 5 Key Tips to Successfully Deploying AP Accounts Payable Workflow Software:

Define Stakeholders

You can’t build something if you first don’t count the cost.  That sounds almost proverbial, which it is.  However, the principle here is that it is key to scope exactly who needs to be involved in the deployment process.  For many companies this is an exercise in semantics, but it’s critically important to do so because it’s pivotal to the next point we’re going to discuss.  When it comes time to pull the trigger on AP automation and to bring AP workflow software to bear in your organization, you need to get the mighty ‘mo’ on your side.  ‘Mo’ being momentum.  Therefore, it’s critical to consider the people you need to get on your side to speak from an early adopter standpoint.  

Like Malcolm Gladwell talks about in his stellar book, The Tipping Point, there are three people necessary to propel a movement forward (mostly in the context of major societal events, but the principles are true nonetheless).  He argues that the three types of people necessary to spur a movement on are connectors, salesmen, and mavens.  First, connectors being people who have lots of valuable relationships and the ability to leverage their relationships for mutual benefit.  Second, salesmen have the unique ability to persuade others to accept innovative and new things or concepts.  Finally, mavens have the deep insight into specialty areas.  They are the people who are trusted in various domains and whom others look to for confirmation or disconfirmation of a subject’s validity or value.  When you put the three together, you’ve got the recipe for good things to happen, assuming the underlying topic is meritorious.

Brick by Brick

The next component of putting together a winning strategy for deploying accounts payable workflow software is by getting the understanding that Rome wasn’t built in a day.  So, in building on the first concept, you need to organize your workflow roll out strategically and map the approvers and other key stakeholders that are the lynchpins to getting momentum on your side.  One of the key ways to do this that we’ve seen is by identifying those who are most flexible with regards to new technology.  Certainly you want to avoid stumbling blocks or ‘Debbie-downers’.  In other words, find the ones that will rally behind the initiative to give meaningful feedback, not just rainbow blowers, but practical insight for making the workflow solution better in your environment.  However, if you start with the proverbial buzzsaw, you’ll wish you didn’t.  

We’ve seen it be the case that you start with the most forward-thinking or strategic departments first and then roll onwards from there building out your automation castle brick by brick.  Either way, that’s the key strategy...nail down one area well and move on to the next quickly.  With this approach to rolling out accounts payable workflow software you’ll be well on your way to rock star levels of automation.

Harness The Power of Delegation

So, one of the key components to AP workflow software is the ability it gives you to manage approvals or exception handling in the event that a key process stakeholder is indisposed or away.  Delegation becomes a very useful and necessary tool by which you can bypass the original approver to affect an outcome that advances the accounts payable process itself.  This may just be to ensure normal processing or it could be the case when you have a rush processing scenario and need to get a vendor paid quickly or that you’re trying to turn invoices quickly to capitalize on available early payment discounts.   Also, this is something that should be set by the system administrator when configuring your unique workflows.  Finally, we’ve seen that the best results to managing the process, especially in eliminating any potential bottlenecks comes through an active monitoring process.

Make The Cracks Airtight

The way in which you monitor the AP process is really simplified by dashboards because they present all your invoice information in a graphical layout by a variety of viewpoints.  Our philosophy here is that by knowing which invoices are in queue, and being able to quickly sort view by approver, vendor, amount, due date, and discount date, helps you mine out the gems (those with EPD capture potential) and eliminate the ones that will go against you by way of late payment fees if not paid timely.  In this way the Manager or Process Owner can quickly drill down into the invoices which need assistance, be they exceptions, invoices lagging or in paused states, or just as an oversight task.  This helps ensure that nothing slips through the cracks in terms of the process flow.

Communicate Better With Notes

One other component that helps within the approval process is to harness the inbuilt communication functions that are Notes.  With Notes you can append the internal decision history for an invoice to the long term invoice record.  In addition to getting multiple internal associates on the same page, it’s a useful tool to have at your disposal come audit time, because the rationale for having approved, coded, and paid an invoice a certain way is inextricably linked to the invoice data ad infinitum.  This saves internal team members the trouble of having to manage invoice approvals through e-mails, calls, and smoke signals.  

Hopefully this brief has helped you with some practical tips to maximizing your installation of accounts payable workflow software.  We’d like to think that we are chock full of good ideas in this regard, but you can always check out some of our richer content over here, where we’ve got some great e-books, case studies, and the like.  If you want to rock your accounts payable process out to the next level, check these posts out here and get it on!

Free eBook on The 7 Best Practices To AP Automation!
Read More

Topics: accounts payable workflow, accounts payable workflow software

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