Generic Workflows – Yea or Nay #APAutomation

In the world of workflows, meaning approval processes, there is a school of thought that says when you automate Accounts Payable you need to streamline your number of workflows to make the automation system is easier to maintain.


Today I wanted to take on this notion and use a few of my clients as examples. I am unable to use their names but I can use their outcomes for the sake of education…. here goes!


Under this school of thought, re should be less, on of the great things about workflows and automated approval process is the notion of role-based approvals. The opposite of role-based approvals are approvals by a person or a named individual. Role based approval processes are wonderfully natural ways to consolidate processes into one consistent flow. Meaning that if the approval goes from an assistant management to a manager then to a regional and lastly to accounting, those are all examples of roles (another word for roles are job titles). The software would have the ability to find out and assign the people based on department or locations associations. If you had to name the people in the approval process then, using the same string as an examples, the approval process would be Mike (Assistant) Joan (Manager) Luke (Regional Manager) and Sally (Accounting). There are two problems with the second examples. If there are more than one location then you must have separate workflows with different names. The second problems is if someone leaves the company you have to change your approval process.

On the “Yea” side of the page there is great benefit for using a generic workflow if the software will do role-based approvals.


There is another school of thought that the smaller number or more generic of approval processes the more secure, easier to manage and quicker your automation system will be. It’s not true. Let’s take a closer look at each of those.

  1. Easier – True if you have a limited number of workflows to start it would be easier to get your automation software up and running, but it is the running part that speaks directly to the ability of your service provider. What I mean by that (you are welcome) is if your service provider’s software is good it will have no problem with a lot of approval processes. I have one client that has over 300. You would like that 300 is way too much, but the software using initial assignment triggers knows what to do with each invoices, and my clients doesn’t have to worry about it.
  2. Quicker – Have less workflows or one generic workflow, you would think that a single approval process would make things faster. The fact is Accounts Payable Automation, by itself makes things faster… getting rid of the paper makes things faster. The number of approval processes won’t speed up your process.
  3. More Secure – This false fact stems from the idea that if you had a single workflow you can watch it better. (Again) Back to your service provider’s automation software, it is the job of the software to track and report against changes, who is doing what, process goals and any delays.

Final Thoughts

On the surface it may seem that less is more with it comes to approval processes, but in reality, outside of role-based approvals, it is important to have as many workflows as your company needs to make sure that each invoice is approved at the right time by the right person.

Want to know more? Buy My Books!

The Argument to Automate – How Innovation Can INSPIRE Not Fire – click here to buy

The 8 Pitfalls of Accounts Payable Automation – click here to buy

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