People love to buy things but they never like to be sold.
There’s a certain awkwardness to buying things especially of a higher valued nature. Cars, appliances, contractor services, even homes can evoke nauseating feelings due to the ride of emotions that are brought about from having to communicate wants and needs, negotiate terms, offer course corrections, and ultimately come to agreement for pricing, options, and delivery. Many people dread these situations, and often experience significant bouts of remorse after a purchasing decision has been made. Perhaps this is why people are so invested in the honest economy afforded by the internet. Blogs, community forums, and YouTube have transformed how people research topics and inform their decision making.
Such is the case with Accounts Payable software (especially with respect to electronic workflow capability) and this is part of our raison d’etre. We want to provide the best possible insights to all persons evaluating the accounts payable process from the lense of automation to help you glean from the things we’ve learned during our time of helping many organizations move from static, burdened processing to dynamic, streamlined efficiency.
So, with that said, we wanted to look at some electronic workflow non-negotiables that your Accounts workflow software must have if it is to be of significant value to you.
Three Electronic Workflow non-negotiables for Accounts Payable software:
Business intelligence flexibility - Accounts payable software for workflow has to have business intelligence flexibility. Business intelligence flexibility enables you to automatically route things based upon logic that is set in motion when setting up workflows. This business intelligence can and should be used as a process trigger to ensure invoices get where they need to from an approval chain perspective. Additionally, business intelligence flexibility can cover things like item / cost variances to allow invoices for automated processing or to be flagged for exception handling. However, if your system doesn’t afford flexibility around defining what the triggers are for such instances, then it means that everything boils down to manual intervention. This then means that the investment in workflow is moot on some levels, because even though you may gain electronic distribution of documents and decisions, you’ll be doubling down on what’s required for effecting decisions.
Mobile device compatibility - Some Accounts Payable workflow systems don’t have a clear path forward from a mobile platform perspective. Granted, long term players in this space that care about their customer base are obviously going to ensure that this is not the case for them. However, if you’re looking to get the most out of your AP workflow software, then you better be sure that it has the ability for at least your approvers to access their invoice queues through a mobile app so they can approve on the fly. We personally think that giving your people the ability to grab and go is helpful. This way approvers can download their workload to approve offline, and then sync back up once network connectivity is re-established. If your AP automation provider isn’t talking about this...perhaps you’re barking up the wrong tree.
Customized expense coding - Finally, and somewhat in relation to the first non-negotiable, your workflow must have the capacity to be augmented to reflect the nuances of your unique process. I’ve seen this be especially important on services (aka Non-PO) invoices within an organization where they want to code things with some unique departmental or project code related ID. While most people encompass this in some sort of numeric or alpha numeric text string (105.111753 where 105 is department and 111753 is the type within the department) others do it separately outside of a text string and thus have a need to book it a different way. A lot of this is predicated on how their accounting system reconciles GL codes, but either way your AP workflow software has to be able to accommodate this or you’re going to quickly find yourself getting frustrated.
So, those are just a few things to consider when evaluating what Accounts Payable workflow software is going to be right for you!
Here are some other items you should be thinking about to achieve highest value in your quest to improve AP! Also if you haven't yet monetized your process, you're letting profit slip right through your fingers daily. Check this out and tap into a new and sustainable back office revenue stream!