Are There Certain Invoices You Can’t Automate?

When people start their AP Automation journey (I like to refer to it as a journey, because of its ongoing nature) there are a few generalizations that they start with.  A few of them are, “Our vendor are too small for electronic invoices”, Our process is too complex for AP Automation” and “There are certain types of invoices that automation would more trouble to automate.” I will write about each of these, but first a rule.

The Rule

The unofficial rule of Accounts Payable Automation is you should never change a process using automation that makes that process more time-consuming and complex. If you follow my articles you will know that I define AP Automation as only being as good as the people, time and effort that it frees up. That means that if you automate you T&E process and you need to hire two people to help administer the process, automation is not working.

Too Small

I hear this a lot, but the numbers tell a different story. Small companies are the quickest to adopt because of QuickBooks. Companies that are under $5 Million in annual revenue are considered a small company (mom and pop). Of those companies 75% of them are on QuickBooks, which has the ability to email an invoice.  QuickBooks is the key to small vendor providing your AP Automation system with electronic invoice. The thing you have to beware of is making sure your service provider is able to receive an email as an invoice.

Too Complex

I have had a lot of conversation and AP Automation demos in my time. Frequently people want to use their own invoices, codes and approval processes for the demo. I don’t have a problem with that but what happens is the software greatly simplifies what they view as complex. That’s a good thing but on occasions people will be shocked to the point where they will feel like they have missed something. I have found that processes aren’t as complex as people think; they just seem more complex because of all the exceptions and fire drills.


One of my standard questions that I ask when I meet an AP professional is what percentage of their invoices are electronic. Every once in a while I get they answer of 100%, which I respond, “wow that’s great… event utility and telecom invoice?” To which they say, “Oh no… are you crazy?” Which I say, “a little” but the point is there are certain invoices that people don’t think can be automated. What I have found is every invoice can be automated it’s a matter of picking the correct service provider. Don’t let their limitations become your limitations.

Want to know more? Buy My Books!

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

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