I don’t do a lot of approving, however for the last 14 years I have been helping companies improve their approval process, so I thought I would give you a little historical timeline of AP Automation changes over the last 14 years.
Recently my company has just hired a new accounts payable person. I really feel sorry for her because she is in an AP position in a company full of so called AP experts. The difference between an AP expect and an AP professional is, at a certain point the work has to get done… you can figure out which role does that. However, the pain is still fresh when I caught the AP person several years ago who was new with the company filing paper invoices. Looking back I could have been a lot softer with more compassion than stopping and say, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?”
I started as an AP Automator in 2000. It was a terrible time for a tech company to start. Dot-Coms had just busted and no one seemed interested in investing in an idea, so we had to create values, sell our software and servicing the clients we sold so they would be happy (novel idea huh?). At that time the biggest problem we had was convincing people that putting invoices on the internet was a safe and secure place.
Enron changed everything. Up to that point I had been working with companies that were what can be best described as “early adopters”. You know those that like the newest and shiniest. With Enron came Sarbanes – Oxley rules and with that a need for automation.
Well… nothing. For years with the terrible downturn in the economy companies held onto their money. Sure there were a few that spent to cut cost, AP Automation does a good job at cutting cost, but for the most part… nothing happened. In that time, however a great thing happened, that is most people started paying bills online. Trusting the internet with financial information has become more commonplace.
I am happy to announce that companies, other than earlier adopters, have started getting rid of the paper in accounting. It hasn’t happen in mass, but more and more companies are automating AP. When I talk to people, all agree that it’s the way of the future.
I still believe that mass Accounts Payable Automation adoption is 3-4 federal law away. Until that time, keep looking at how much time automation can free up and what your return on investment. We have come a long way in 14 years, but there is much more traveling to do.
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