Who is more qualified? AP Automation or a Person?

This is my man vs machine article. Who is more qualified – Accounts Payable Automation software or a good old human being?

The Argument

In my book The Argument to Automation – How Innovation Can INSPIRE Not Fire, I write a lot about why Accounts Payable Automation is good and the impact and benefit of AP Automation. I wanted to make a point that automation has been created to serve people and not to oppose people or get in their way. Not today, I want to take the idea and answer the questions, which is more qualified AP Automation or a Person?

AP Automation

…and in this corner is the challenger. Weighing in at so many dollars per invoice is Accounts Payable Automation. Ok, enough of that. Accounts Payable Automation is good at processing and passing stuff. It has a limited amount of capacity to make decisions and needs a decent amount of “handholding” in the beginning to set up, but once it gets started and is really running there is not too much you have to do to deal with it. It won’t take a sick day, It needs no vacations and it won’t make a fool of itself at one of the company parties.

A Person

In his corner is the champ… enough said. The great thing about people is when you employ them, they come with a certain set of experiences. Even if they have had no previous experience they still have abilities and gifts. That’s called “potential”. Even though we get kidded about this, accountants and finance people have the ability to change and adapt. People can learn, you can teach an old dog a new trick.

What’s It Going To Be?

Who is better qualified a person or automation? Well… both or neither, depending on the way you look at it. AP Automation is great for mundane process tasks that take very little skill, but automation can’t think and learn like a human can. (And) If you think automation will get to that point, I think you might be missing the point. AP Automation is built to serve and can only serve. It won’t eventually take everything over like HAL in the movie 2001 The Space Odyssey.

The Problem

Going back to the idea that we as finance people are not necessary the poster children for change, the problem is we like our task. We like the practicability of the task that we have grown to count on, and consider our job. The fear of automation is that it will take our job, but I think the real fear is that automation will change the job we have come to know, making an even bigger contender.

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

7 replies »

  1. Having observed all flavors of (intended) AP automation, I concluded that the most reliable solution is a smart combination of creative software and human subject matter expertise. An all or nothing combination often fails.

      • Chris, further to my comment I would add that the human SME participation should happen during capture, not just correcting automation errors.

      • Yes, the data capture process (i.e. field extraction and parsing) should be a team effort between an SME and creative software. What I have seen for years is the SME cleaning after some automation mess, which I think it is an inferior solution to what I advocate.
        We have had excellent results through software prediction/correction and manual clicking. Our software highlights candidate fields, then the SME clicks to validate and then the software reacts by displaying validation messages or presenting the next record.

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