When I think of eliminating steps I always think of George Costanza and the step skipper. Enjoy:
There Is A Thought
When Automating Accounts Payable there is a thought that you need to create as few approval processes (workflows) and steps as possible. This is a good idea because it comes from the notion that automation should be efficient as possible. It’s a good thought, and trying to become as efficient as possible is a great because after all one of the great benefits of automation is efficiency.
Efficiency and Order
When looking at eliminating steps in an approval process, efficiency shouldn’t be the first consideration. The first consideration should be who needs to approve the invoice. I put an emphasis on “approve”. I really hate to write this, but the point behind an approval process is to approve invoices. The word approve, however, is where people struggle. When you automate your AP process before you ever choose a service provider you need to have a very good definition of “approve”. The one I coach people on is that approvals are only those actions that holds some sort of purpose in the invoice getting into the accounting system for payment. Some of these actions are:
- Sign off that the work has been done
- The goods have been delivered
- Check against budget
- PO match if not automated
- Conditional situations (job cost, capitalized expenses…)
- Coding assignment or validation
You may think that I have just given you some obvious advice, but when automating AP you need to take out those things that are associated to “Paper Dysfunction”. Paper dysfunction are those steps that are created because of paper. Paper unlike automation needs additional steps for controls, checks and balances. Other steps that are somewhat dysfunctional are people inserting themselves in the process to either get or see certain information on the invoice. I would see this a lot with utility invoices that needed consumption data analyzed.
With Accounts Payable Automation, your software will be your controls, checks and balances, that’s one of the great benefits of automation. Also, the person who needs to see or gather the information, can get a report of that information or the invoice, therefore there is no need for them to be in the approval process. The rule should be, only approves are in the approval process, everyone else is accommodated by a report.
Don’t be a step skipper like George said, but eliminate the steps that are needed for paper because you don’t need them for automation.
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