Workflow has been one of those words that has taken on a life of its own. It is also a word that is tossed around by service providers way too often where they assume the client understands the meaning and context.
Here is what the internet says about workflow;
A workflow consists of a sequence of connected steps where each step follows without delay or gap and ends just before the subsequent step may begin. It is a depiction of a sequence of operations, declared as work of a person or group, an organization of staff, or one or more simple or complex mechanisms. Workflow may be seen as any abstraction of real work.
That’s a good “text-book” definition, but I want to add to it for this article on design in Accounts Payable. Workflow is a predetermined electronic approval process.
Three Keys to Good Design
When designing workflow for Accounts Payable Automation there are three simple things to keep in mind.
1. Work with the end in mind – I stole this from Stephen Covey, but it works so well. Knowing what you want to accomplish is something that doesn’t come easy, but my advice here that seem to make all the difference is to have the conversation about the approval process void of any software abilities or limitations.
2. Forget the paper. The first chapter of The 8 Pitfalls, I write about paper dysfunctions, which is years of paper process, checks and balances that are not needed when you automate Accounts Payable. It is almost like you are stating over when you automate… I write almost, because you want your controls in place, but there may be a few things you can do without because it was based on paper like decisions.
3. Approves only please. This is an idea that only people who are doing some level of approving, whether that’s approve for receipt, budget, completion, coding etc. All those level of approvals denote some version of authority. If you have people in your approval process that just want to see certain transactions or be aware of what is going on, they need to receive a report, not be an approver.
Life is Good
When you get rid of the paper. life is good because you don’t have to case people down to answer simple questions, but you want to make sure you build a process that does not equal the paper but improve Accounts Payable.
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