I have made a lot of progress in the last few months around the definition of Accounts Payable Automation. Some of you may know that’s the reason I wrote The 8 Pitfalls was to help people define AP Automation. Others of you may know that I didn’t reach my goal when writing that book. Good news is, the book was a success for a different reason, however I still chased after a definition to help people.
Turns out that one of the reasons my definition of AP Automation in The 8 Pitfalls didn’t work was it wasn’t that useful. Now, it takes a lot for an author to admit something wasn’t useful. I freely admit it because I am looking for what works, not for what sounds good or what I think is good. I really want something that is useful (I hope you can appreciate that).
At the end of many articles and speaking engagements, I think I am on to something. Well, I know I am on to something because people are telling me that it’s working and the new definition is useful and easy to understand. The new definition is rooted in action, explaining the impact of AP Automation. That’s not the best thing, however, the best thing is the new definition is something that is easily understood and can (just as easy) be explained to others when asked. The new definition is, “Account Payable Automation is only as good as the people, time and effort it frees up”.
Thing 1 – People
I talk with a lot of people that don’t want to have anything to do with AP Automation because of it perception that automation’s key benefit is headcount reduction. For some companies, especially big companies this is a true fact. However, for most companies getting rid of their valuable employees just doesn’t make any since. What does work, however, are those people that are freed up by automation can better use their skills in more important places in the business.
Thing 2 – Time
Time is the business world’s unofficial second currency. Just like thing one, this thing allows an organization to more strategically use time. I had a friend who was talking with a woman that firmly believed that if her company bought automation then she would be out of work. He asked her, when she went to school for accounting did she take a class on data entry, filing or finding lost paper? She said no, and I think he made his point very well.
Thing 3 – Effort
Ask yourself a question… as a leader in your company, where do you want your people’s effort, on meaningless task or meaningful task? That answer is easy, but in most businesses in the US the proof is in the day in and day out meaningless task that accounting professionals do.
Time To Define
I wish I could claim that I made this wonderful definition up, but I took it from other industries and departments that are automated. If you look at something like the auto industry, years ago they replaced people with robotics and over time the people in the industry have become more technically skilled, and it’s better for the worker and the employer.
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