Have you heard the one about how many accountants it take to change a light bulb? <Answer from the accountant> “Change? No one said anything about change!” I think all of us in finance and accounting get a bad rap about change. The joke is an example of how inflexible we come across to the rest of the organization.
As my site, books and articles gets more and more popular (really!), I think I am on a crusade to let the rest of the business world know that accountants aren’t so bad… right? I believe that when people really understand the responsibility of accounting then they will understand why we come across as unable to change. The key word in that last sentence is “responsibility”. Most people aren’t reasonable enough to manage their own personal finances nevertheless the responsibilities of a company’s finances. It is that “need” to be responsible where I believe the image of inflexible comes from.
What About Automation?
If you have a responsible finance and accounting person that relies on their controls and processes it is difficult to change. Not because they don’t want to change, but because there is a fear of messing up a secure process, like Accounts Payable. There is a perception that when the paper is gone the process is somehow less secure, and there is nothing further from the truth.
Who Really Changes?
As the title states, there are five things to think about when it comes to who really changes in Accounts Payable Automation.
- Accounting – The most direct beneficiaries to Accounts Payable Automation is the accounting department as a whole. The direct benefit to the change is more time in the department to get more things done. The challenge is if you don’t have any more things to get done or need more time then Automating AP won’t really work.
- Leadership – This is the “C” level of your organization as well as the board. The change they will have to make is an adjustment on the type of information they are used to knowing and seeing when it comes to the entire payment process. Not just payables coming in and getting approved. It has been my experience that senior level people don’t pay too much attention to the approval process. The type of information they need to get used to is more on the lines of cash management. Automation will give this group a better understanding to where the money is and what needs to be done with the money. If leadership is not ready for that, they will miss a big opportunity.
- Approvers and Researchers – This group represents the day in and day out users of the Accounts Payable process. What I think is an interesting fact, in working with over 2,000 companies this is the group that thinks Accounts Payable Automation is for them, but it is not. Now, don’t get me wrong there are a tremendous amount of positive things that helps this group once automated, but they aren’t the direct beneficiaries of automation. The change here is to let them know there is benefit for them, but the overall benefit is the entire process. The reason I bring this up is to give you insight to objects they may have in change, where certain process may take longer in the automated way.
- The Process – Even though this is not a person the process has to change. At the risk of talking down to my readers, process change is the whole point when Automating AP. However, you really have to change the process when you automate, but not the wrong kind of change. You want to (and I write a lot about this) find a service provider that will not make you “fundamentally” change your process or “needlessly” change your process because their software is too inflexible or not mature enough. That’s bad change. However, when you automate taking the paper dysfunction out of the process is important. (Want to know more about paper dysfunction… read this)
Who really changes, well my point (you are welcome) is in order to capitalize… really capitalize on Accounts Payable Automation, every aspect of the business will need to change, but it has to be positive change, not just change for change’s sake.
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The Argument to Automate – How Innovation Can INSPIRE Not Fire – click here to buy
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12 Replies to “Who Really Changes? 4 Things to Think About With Accounts Payable Automation”
Great post and information on accounts payable automation. Leadership is important and I agree your team needs to be ready for the change.