4 Things that will help you know if your current process is ready for #APAutomation

I consider myself a person that does a lot of preparing. To give you an example my family and I moved about 8 months ago and I had a detailed project plan with an attached Spreadsheet that nobody but me paid attention to. In the end we moved but I think the rest of the family would have been better off if we would have fallen the plan.

The Key

I think the key to good planning is preparation. The better prepared you are the better the plan. Being prepared is one of the reasons I wrote The 8 Pitfalls of Accounts Payable Automation. Generally an automation journey starts with an internet search. The search present 3 or 4 service providers with great websites, which starts you on a path that leads to demos, analysis, more demos, and no clear decision. In The 8 Pitfalls I recommend that you do some internal soul search before you every pick up a clicker and start an internet search.

4 Things

Thing 1 to help you know that your current process is ready for AP Automation is to ask yourself and team, and then ultimately analyze the last time your Accounts Payable process was updated. It is a very good practice whether you automate or not to review your process to make sure it is current. If you answer this questions between 3 years and never then you aren’t ready to automate.

Thing 2 to help you know that your current process is ready for AP Automation is to create a process map of all invoice activities. Some of you are lucky (you probably didn’t think about that when you were putting it together) you were mandated to map the process. Larger or public companies are required to create written approval rules… that’s a process map. For those of you that don’t have this mandated, you will need to write down each step of each process to have a full view of where invoices are going, who is approving and what the exception process is during the approval process.

Thing 3 to help you know that your current process is ready for AP Automation is to establish a cost for the process. Regardless of how many invoices and the dollar amount on those invoices. your process cost your organization a certain amount of money. Traditionally I refer to this as cost per invoice (CPI). One of the key indicators that proves the impact of automation is cost reduction. If you don’t know your current cost you won’t know if it can be reduced.

Thing 4 to help you know that your current process is ready for AP Automation is after you have done your research, cost and map to take a very critical look at every process and ask each step what its purpose. I have a belief that is walk a step in a process back to it origin you will find out why it was created and who it servers. If that purpose doesn’t match with what you need to accomplish then you have to put a big red “X” on that step.

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

(Also) To get your copy of The 8 Pitfalls of Accounts Payable Automation – click here to buy

How about a children’s book? The Princess and the Paper – click here to buy

About The Author:

Christopher Elmore has written 8 books, countless articles, lectures at UNC – Charlotte and travels around the country speaking on on the topics of startup success, sales, presentation skills, change, entrepreneurship, accounts payable and payment automation. Having deep startup and entrepreneurial experience, Christopher was one of the six people that startedAvidXchange in 2000 and continues to work in the business today. If you hire Christopher to speak or teach at your company or event… you won’t be sorry! Request a media kit or contact us for more information.

When To Check On Your AP Automation Metrics – A Simple Guide

I have recently been on a fraud kick. No, not where I am stealing from my company or cheating people. I have been doing a lot of talking about writing about the benefits of AP Automation as it is connected to fraud prevention.

Process

One thing that the data and experience is showing is that the more you check and change (let’s call it update) your processes the less likely they are to become soft.

Soft?

I can’t think of a better word. I wish there was a better way of explaining that old processes or evaluated processes become learned and known. It is that act of leaning and knowing that opens your company up for fraud. The more a process is known the more likely it is to be a problem. If you are buying anything that I am writing, then the next question is when do you check which processes?

Metrics:

You have heard the sayings before; numbers don’t lie or trust in God everyone else bring data. Before I present my simple guide, I have to do a little of a disclaimer, a point of honesty. I have never been much on numbers. Now, don’t freak out because I am a numbers guy, but I put numbers and metrics in their proper place. There is no substitute for experience. I have worked with a lot of new leaders and managers that put too much trust in data, and I have come to realize that they have to because they have no other option. Let this guide be a supplement to your experience.

A Simple Guide:

Daily checks:

  • Past due invoices
  • Expiring discounts (this week)
  • Overdue invoices
  • Exceptioned invoices

Weekly checks:

  • Escalated invoices
  • Bill backs
  • Out of office (people on sick leave or vacation)

Monthly checks:

  • Vendor adds and changes
  • User sessions
  • Exceptioned invoices by vendor

Quarterly checks

  • Workflow or approval process changes
  • Missing workflow steps
  • Associated users to departments and roles

Annual checks

  • Volume by vendor
  • Approval times by users in the same (or similar role)
  • Overall system performance

Good And Bad News

The difficult part about checking numbers like is suggested in this guide is the getting started process. It will be a task and it will be an additional thing to do. That’s why most people don’t do it because it is hard to get started. The good news is once it is started it is much easier to maintain when it is a routine. The even better news is if you have constructed your AP Automation tools correctly the system can do the checking for you and tell you if there is any problem automatically.

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

(Also) To get your copy of The 8 Pitfalls of Accounts Payable Automation – click here to buy

How about a children’s book? The Princess and the Paper – click here to buy

 

4 Things that will help you know if your current process is ready for AP Automation

I consider myself a person that does a lot of preparing. To give you an example my family and I moved about 8 months ago and I had a detailed project plan with an attached Spreadsheet that nobody but me paid attention to. In the end we moved but I think the rest of the family would have been better off if we would have fallen the plan.

The Key

I think the key to good planning is preparation. The better prepared you are the better the plan. Being prepared is one of the reasons I wrote The 8 Pitfalls of Accounts Payable Automation. Generally an automation journey starts with an internet search. The search present 3 or 4 service providers with great websites, which starts you on a path that leads to demos, analysis, more demos, and no clear decision. In The 8 Pitfalls I recommend that you do some internal soul search before you every pick up a clicker and start an internet search.

4 Things

Thing 1 to help you know that your current process is ready for AP Automation is to ask yourself and team, and then ultimately analyze the last time your Accounts Payable process was updated. It is a very good practice whether you automate or not to review your process to make sure it is current. If you answer this questions between 3 years and never then you aren’t ready to automate.

Thing 2 to help you know that your current process is ready for AP Automation is to create a process map of all invoice activities. Some of you are lucky (you probably didn’t think about that when you were putting it together) you were mandated to map the process. Larger or public companies are required to create written approval rules… that’s a process map. For those of you that don’t have this mandated, you will need to write down each step of each process to have a full view of where invoices are going, who is approving and what the exception process is during the approval process.

Thing 3 to help you know that your current process is ready for AP Automation is to establish a cost for the process. Regardless of how many invoices and the dollar amount on those invoices. your process cost your organization a certain amount of money. Traditionally I refer to this as cost per invoice (CPI). One of the key indicators that proves the impact of automation is cost reduction. If you don’t know your current cost you won’t know if it can be reduced.

Thing 4 to help you know that your current process is ready for AP Automation is after you have done your research, cost and map to take a very critical look at every process and ask each step what its purpose. I have a belief that is walk a step in a process back to it origin you will find out why it was created and who it servers. If that purpose doesn’t match with what you need to accomplish then you have to put a big red “X” on that step.

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

(Also) To get your copy of The 8 Pitfalls of Accounts Payable Automation – click here to buy

5 Things to Know About An Advocate and AP Automation

It’s funny how small things can make a big difference when you are going from a paper to an automated AP process. I write a lot about doing your homework, and looking internally before looking externally before you automate. However, I really started to think about the project that I have personally done, and what separates the good from the bad. One of the things that I came up with in my soul-searching was the role of what I like to call the advocate.

What Is It?

An advocate is a person or group of people who are changed with managing the change when it comes to AP Automation. An advocate can be both positive and negative, but for the sake of this article I am going to write about the positive aspect of an advocate so you are able to use the idea strategically in your automated life.

5 Things

Thing one, I already wrote about, but wanted to make sure the point was clear. When I use a word like “advocate” it implies one person. It doesn’t have to be one person, it can be a group of people. With the larger companies that I have worked with there is a committee. Whether it’s a committee or a single person the role of the advocate will work the same way.

Thing two, the advocate is someone who has respect in the organization. There are two types of respect, there is titled and earned. People will listen to both, but both are not equal. Titled respect is someone who has a high title within the company. Earned is a person that others in the company lookup to. If you could create a perfect situation, it would be best if your advocate had both.

Thing three, is your advocate is an agent of change. There would be nothing worse than having an advocate that didn’t like change. The advocate you need should have experience with change, meaning they have been advocates for other successful projects.

Thing four, should go without writing, but I am going to write it anyway to make sure I am getting the point across. Your advocate should be someone who is brought into AP Automation. Normally the advocate or the group of advocates are the person or people who start the automation project, but they have to be a champion of automation.

Thing five… this is a tricky one, and one that is similar to thing three, but your advocate should be someone who has tenure with the company. Be warned, that if you are new with the company, that doesn’t mean you need to stay away from AP Automation, but it may mean that you need to recruit some of the old timers to help you.

Lastly

As I wrote in my introduction, an advocate is someone or a group of people who manages change within your organization. It is an extremely important role. It can be different or the same as the project manager, but it is a role that needs to stand on its own as an aspect of the project.

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

(Also) To get your copy of The 8 Pitfalls of Accounts Payable Automation – click here to buy

How about a children’s book? The Princess and the Paper – click here to buy

Does AP Automation Help Delegation – 3 Things to Consider

I write as many “meaty” articles that I can (sorry for the food reference, I have been exercising a lot). However, it is very nice every once in a while to write about sides benefits of Accounts Payable Automation. Delegation just happens to be one of those sides’ benefits.

Delegation

Delegation just happens to be one of those happy accidents. Accounts Payable professionals, or as I like to refer to them as “the heroes” have to do a lot of managing paper. Generally this doing a lot shows itself with additional responsibilities like filing, security and policing. AP Automation makes an impact on those three things, but be warned, the point of this article is to let you know that the change, although ultimately good, takes a lot of getting used to because accounting professionals are doers not delegator.

3 Things

Thing one is filing. I once asked a client why he hated filing cabinets so much. He said that it wasn’t the cabinets as much as the filing. Technically with AP Automation the delegation of the filing is done by way of implementing software, meaning the electronic invoices don’t have to be filed. That’s not the point behind thing one, the point is accounting professionals no long need to maintain a centralized filing system so they can now delegate the collection of invoices for reports, projects and audits. With AP Automation people can run their own reports.

Thing two works well off the back of thing one because if people can do for themselves the traditional thought is the company’s accounting practices will be less secure. In the last sentence the word “traditional” is important because with AP Automation the idea of security changes. With paper there was a lot of need for accounting to create multiple checks and balances to make sure there was no funny business. However, when the paper is gone and automation can track everything, meaning who does what, when, where and why the process becomes much more secure.

Things three, similar to thing two if the security of the process is delegated that means that the policing can be delegated too. With AP Automation policing generally takes the form of reporting on different people, situations and/or invoices. The system can (if constructed correctly) tell the right person what invoices are being held as well as which invoices are becoming or has already become past due or even a discount is expiring. It is a true statement to say that AP Automation can police itself so you don’t have to.

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

(Also) To get your copy of The 8 Pitfalls of Accounts Payable Automation – click here to buy

How about a children’s book? The Princess and the Paper – click here to buy

 

 

 

Competition – Automation VS Document Management #APAutomation

I have written a little about Accounts Payable Automation and Document Management, but I have never written about the two in context of competition. The next few days I am going to be writing about differences that you can evaluate as you choose an AP Automation service provider. My hope is, but the topics, I can help you cut through the clutter and noise to find the service provider that best fits you needs.

Document Management

The goal of document management is the take, what was previously paper, and turn it into an electronic document and store that document. There are two things to consider when matching document management to automation: (1) It generally accommodates for more than just invoices and (2) its primary benefit (which is big) is to eliminate the need to manage and go to filing cabinets, which helps with search and retrieval.

Automation

The primary job of automation is to free up time and use people better. This is not just with Accounting Payable Automation… this is with any automation. The point behind automation is to eliminate as many manual tasks as possible and your people can do more skilled things.

Competition

When looking at competing offerings it is important to know what you are getting into and how it matches up with what you want to do. On the surface it seems like an easy choice to go with the one that has the most options, but I have found the more options you add the less specialized the offering becomes. An example is going with document management will help with invoices, contracts, and other documents, but if your goal is to improve your Accounts Payable process you can fall short because of lack streamlining that automation can bring.

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

(Also) To get your copy of The 8 Pitfalls of Accounts Payable Automation – click here to buy

How about a children’s book? The Princess and the Paper – click here to buy

What Does Time and Desire Have To Do With #APAutomation?

I was thinking recently… that’s what I do… I was thinking about time and desire and what it has to do with AP Automation.

Background

I work with a lot of middle market companies. One interesting fact about a middle market company as opposed to a large market company is the ROI (return on investment). An ROI with a large market company generally comes in the form of head count reduction, which is something that a middle market company can’t do. A middle market company’s accounting staff do a lot of different task and don’t have the ability to specialize like a large market company.

Money

Generally an ROI is expressed in the form of a dollar amount. The average dollar amount that I get for the middle market companies I work with is about $98,000 per year. The ROI comes from a reduction in their cost per invoice, which means that the company saves on processing cost. The problem is – NO ONE IS GOING TO WRITE YOU A CHECK!

No Check

That’s right… I like to call this ROI, “funny money”. It’s nothing that you can’t take to the bank. The money is a symbol of change and impact and isn’t anything that can be calculated to the bottom line. The only time I have seen bottom line savings are from firing people.

Time

(Back to me thinking) – In order to capitalized on the ROI you must have the need for time and the desire to change. On average I help companies free up 8500 per year. Companies take that time and put those people on additional tasks that are more important to the tasks that they are currently doing. An example is, with Accounts Payable Automation no one is going to be doing accounting system data entry, which means you are able to take the people or person doing data entry and assign them to vendor compliance and/or pricing negotiation.

Desire

If you have a need to use your people better and need the time you have checked off the first factor that you can use AP Automation. The second, desire to change, is by far the most difficult. Doing what you are doing because that’s what you have been doing is easy to stick with it. To stop and tell you group that there is a better process our there and that you want to use your people in a better way and explaining how you are going to do that is much more difficult. You really have to want to change your process for the better, and until you get to that point it will be very difficult to automation Accounts Payable.

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

(Also) To get your copy of The 8 Pitfalls of Accounts Payable Automation – click here to buy

How about a children’s book? The Princess and the Paper – click here to buy

The Perfect AP Automation Demo

I have done a lot of demos in my life… I have also seen a lot of demos too, and (I hate to write this) most of the ones that I have seen are bad, not really bad, just bad. I have to admit that I have done a few bad demos too, but I am very fortunate to mostly get high marks.

Bad?

A bad demonstration usually has a few common characteristics.  One is that the person running the demo explains all of the features and processes that he or she likes about the software. Pay close attention to the words they use, it will clue you into all the things they think is important for you. The second characteristic is something that you have direct control over… I like to call it the “setup”. Meaning that the person doing the demo is set up to fail. Generally the setup is orchestrated by someone who has no idea of automation but produces a script for the demonstration. A lot of time this is accompanied by invoices and codes that are required to be loaded into the system. If your intention is to see what “your stuff” looks like, then – that’s fine. However, if you are wanting to know what life is going to be like without the paper then this method will fall short. The reason is you can only go so far until you need a full-blown implementation.

Good?

A good demo is in the hands of an experienced person. Someone that knows their software, client and (as a bonus) your industry. A good demo will have a healthy dose of “our clients say X about the software” or “the feedback we get from the users are Y”. A good demo will spend time on what the overall impact will be and helping you see an end-result picture using client examples so you can find out (conceptually) what life is going to be like without the paper in AP.

Make Sure

Make sure you see the live software. A sale engineer can do a lot with prototypes and PowerPoint. If they are unable to produce a live demo then you should put that service provider down for a big question mark.

Perfection?

At the end of a demonstration you should know, the impact of AP Automation, comfort level of doing business with the service provider, and a clear next step (references… more demos…)

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

(Also) To get your copy of The 8 Pitfalls of Accounts Payable Automation – click here to buy

How about a children’s book? The Princess and the Paper – click here to buy

Process Improvement 101 = Everything a Beginner Should Know #APAutomation

There is nothing wrong with being a beginner. There is something wrong with being a beginner and not wanting to tell anyone, and acting like you are a master. Even worst, if you think you are a master and tell everyone you are and try to boss people around, when really you are a beginner… Oh sorry about that, a little corporate america frustration showing.

In The Beginning

In the beginning there was an original process (I bet you thought I was going to say light – but that too is a process). The funny thing about an original process is most people don’t know where it came from and why (technically) it was created. I have counseled people on, if they know who created the process you can find out why it was created. There are six things a beginner should know about process improvement.

1. Focus on impact – One of the true signs of a beginner is spend too much time on the execution of the process change (like software installation) rather than the big picture… Why!

2. Make sure it service people – Save yourself from just buying and installing the latest and greatest by making sure your process improvement ultimately helps your people.

3. All should have input, but only a few should have decisions – Keep the decision group as small as you can, but more than one, because you never know where a good idea will come from.

4. Not everything is an improvement – Change for change sake is a terrible things. I see this with people who are new to a company and wanting to make a big and immediate impact. There is nothing wrong with that , but take a warning from point number one and find the why.

5. Experience goes a long way – I know this much seem like a strange bit of advice because it’s for beginners but with process improvement you can draw experience from other aspect of the business.

6. Don’t fear the change – Ultimately process improvement is change. Most people don’t like change until they know what it is for and why it is happening.

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

(Also) To get your copy of The 8 Pitfalls of Accounts Payable Automation – click here to buy

How about a children’s book? The Princess and the Paper – click here to buy

After The paper Is Gone In AP – When Do The Questions Stop? #APAutomation

As someone who has spent a lot of time either helping organizations change or doing the change, I have developed a pretty long list of what I like to call “key indicators”.

Key Indicators

These are actions, conversations, or questions that tell me where a person or a group really is in the process of change. The challenge is you can ask someone how they are doing and they will look you right in the eye and tell you there are doing fine. I remember a mentor I had early in business that said when someone asks you how you are doing 80% don’t care and if you are doing poorly the other 20% are happy to hear that. We have been condition to not tell the truth in certain situations. That’s why key indicators will help you find out how they are really doing.

With AP Automation

When the paper is going do the questions stop? Before you Automate AP you will notice that your organization will have, what seems like, a ton of questions. They will be mostly fear based, thinking that the lack of paper will mean there will be a lack of control. A key indication that the change has gone well is to notice the questions tailing off and then changing.

Changing?

The indication that your company is adapting well to automation is they will start to ask what I like to call optimizing type questions. These are questions where they are helping you improve the process. Questions that have their root in some type of improving the process. Some of these questions may not work or really be appropriate, but if you start to see them show up, know that your group is taking well to the change.

The Other Side:

The same is true that if you don’t start to see these questions, and you continue the hear the same questions over and over again, and they will be more rooted in – why are we doing this or basic questions they should have mastered like where to login or how to approve, these are indications that either the solution provider wasn’t a good fit or the training wasn’t done well enough, but with any case you have some work to do.

Oh

The questions never stop… and I hope I have made a case for that being a good thing.

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

(Also) To get your copy of The 8 Pitfalls of Accounts Payable Automation – click here to buy