Communication – Top Down or Middle Up – Which is Best #APAutomation

Ah – communication. It has a lot to do with positive change and leadership, which are two very important aspect of Accounts Payable Automaton. Change is the backbone of AP Automation, it is the core to making a successful organization paperless, and leadership is the engine that drives that change.

Two Kinds?

The two types of communications are dependant upon the size of your organization. Your accounting department has to be larger than what I call the “combo” role. The combo role (a great role by the way – staffed by extremely skill people who can do this type work) is when the accounting person is the CFO, Controller, AP Manager, and AP Entry Clerk. Companies that have specialized roles are going to be able to capitalize on this type of communication, top down or bottom up.

Top Down

This is the classic type of communication were a “C” level person or a board member formulates a plan and announces a new direction or a change. People comply in large part because they don’t really have an option otherwise. These top down messages are extremely difficult to generate consensus and adoption because of the perception that they are made on a spreadsheet or in a conference room.

Middle Up

This is the type of communication that comes from managers, like Director of AP or Controllers, in the business who have an idea to change or improve their department. These too are very difficult to execute because the people delivering the messages are seen as someone who has a personal stake in the outcome and doesn’t always know or consider the entire business.

Those 2 and AP Automation

Both types of communication have advantages and disadvantages when it comes to Accounts Payable Automation. On the top down type of communication the advantage is; automation becomes a company wide initiative. In my experiences these have worked as long as the organization has done the appropriate amount of homework. However, doing homework is the disadvantage. If leadership doesn’t factor the line level workers into their plan, there will be big trouble in making the appropriate amount of change. With middle up, to me, the most inspiring type of communication, it requires someone who has an excellent track record with leadership and some that knows the system very well. It is inspiring to me because most times the person in the middle communicating upwards could simply sit back and do nothing… you know, not rock the boat. The disadvantage here is the person in the middle doesn’t make a good recommendation and fails to automate. Something like that could stick with an employee forever.

Which is Better?

It would be very easy for me to write that the best options would be for both to work together, which is true, but that wouldn’t be true to the way I write. My experience has been that it will be one or the other. In that case I have experienced a greater success with middle up communication rather than top down. Typically “C” level folks are not focused on the things automation can improve, but the big warning is, either type has to do their homework to ensure a successful change.

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