6 Steps For Migrating To A New AP Automation Provider

I don’t think I have made it any secret that I have written books. The two that have been published are the Argument to Automate and The 8 Pitfalls of Accounts Payable Automation. I get a good laugh for being the guy who have written AP Automation books, but it’s my thing and I am happy to bring to the world how to go paperless by selling a paper book (that’s something my then 13 year old son pointed out when I got the first run of books).

The Path

I wrote the 8 pitfalls four years ago to help people know where the traps were when getting rid of the paper in the accounting process. I wrote the Argument to Automate to help people understand (1) if they should automate accounts payable and (2) what the physical impact AP Automation will have on their company. Having written all of that, I think it is time for a new book to help people move from one AP Automation service provider to another, and this is the start of it.

This Means War

I am kicking the idea around that the book that helps companies move from one service to another will be called, “The AP Automation Replacement Wars”. I believe there will be battles and there will be causalities, but it’s also going to be a worthy fight. To kick things off here are six steps to help in migration.

Steps

  1. Do your numbers (cost per invoice and new time). I write about this a lot with companies that are just starting their automation journey. Even though all or part of your process is automated, the numbers will help you prove areas of opportunities.
  2. Wake up the users. It’s funny, when people use technology they get complacent, just like when the Accounts Payable process was fully paper. Let the users know there is room for improvement and get their feedback on what that improvement should be.
  3. Put leadership on notice. When you expend money for a project, leadership has a tendency to say, “I thought we already took care of that”. Help them understand that AP Automation is a journey not an event.
  4. Do your homework. Find the service providers that have a good reputation, some you have seen at events and shows as well as the feedback you get from colleagues you trust in your industry.
  5. Find the gaps. Once you have done your homework and have identified the service providers you could move to, find the holes they will fill and the improvements in your current process.
  6. Make the case. Based on the numbers and the attitude of the company as well as their willingness to change make your case to switch based on the numeric impact of the gaps.

 

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 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 who started AvidXchange 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

6 AP Automation Tricks Every Accounting Pro Should Know

I am sure you have heard of tools of the trade or tricks of the trade. AP Automation is no exception there are some tricks that you should know, even if you have had no paper in accounting for 10 years or you are just getting started.

Trick 1 – Time

I wanted to get the easy one out-of-the-way, but time is the single most important measurement with Accounts Payable Automation. Really with any automation it is only as good as the time the automation freed up.

Trick 2 – Fraud

Don’t lose sight of the fact that you are better off automated with no paper than with paper. For those of you that are just started out, you will be unease with this fact. Once you really look into the details you will realize that paper is the most unsecured method of transmitting information.

Trick 3 – Change?

The companies that automate better than others have a stronger culture of change. If you have been struggling with automation look at how well you communicated and the company has adopted change.

Trick 4 – Know Where You Are Going

Because AP Automation is such a change and accounting and finance people are a conservative group, starting small and adding over time is a great route to take. The trick is to know that you are starting small and you must have a vision for the end game.

Trick 5 – SaaS

Software as a Service is your friend. This has a big dependency on your internal IT folks. If they are control freaks then you may have a bigger battle. Fortunately SaaS is more common now so IT people are finding that them being outside of the project is a good thing.

Trick 6 – Focus

I have written a lot about AP Automation vs. document management. The conclusion that I have come to is that they both serve good purposes. However, it’s important to not get the two confused. If your goal is to eliminate paper from accounting, and here is the key, improve and change the process, automation is your focus.

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.

 

 

 

5 Conversation Starters for AP Automation

For those of you that feel alone in the desire to get rid of paper invoices by Automating Accounts Payable, I thought I would give you a few ideas to start the conversation.

There Are 5

  1. What is our current cost to process? AP Automation has a habit of impacting cost. As a matter of a fact if you don’t reduce your cost you are not doing automation right.
  2. What would we do with more time? The natural by-product of cost reduction is more time. As I have written a lot about, I help the middle market, which doesn’t have a lot of specialist in accounting so time allocation is a big deal.
  3. How has paper influenced our process? I like to tell people that their accounting process isn’t broken it is just suffering from paper related problems. Problems like lack of tracking and accountability.
  4. Can we use our people better? Along with point two this point takes the idea of time allocation further; meaning Accounts Payable Automation can eliminate tasks that are unskilled so your skilled people can work on more important things.
  5. What would better data mean to our decision-making? AP Automation can tell you multiple of dozens of things about cash, people, timing and time as well as expense management. With better data, there is always better decision.

Did You Notice?

In my conversation starters did you notice that I didn’t mentioned anything about software? That’s an important part about starting the AP Automation conversation – which it’s not centered on software. Now, the software is important and it needs to be evaluated, but if you live by the software – you will die by the software (price – timing – additional projects). If your conversation is started with impact and outcome you will have a better chance of getting the word going in the right direction.

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 usfor more information.

With AP Automation is Industry Knowledge Important? 3 Things

It is one of the things I ask when evaluating software… do you know my industry? That’s when the software provider say, “So, what is Accounts Payable Automation anyway?”

Important?

People, generally, believe their Accounts Payable process is unique. If you look at it from a high level, there are only so many ways to open, route, approve and enter invoices into an accounting system. The unique understanding they have tends to come from their internal pain as well as the pain they feel from their vendors. I get those responses a lot where the people evaluating AP Automation say, “There is no way your other clients have the inattention to detail like our users…” or ” Our vendors are so unorganized, there is no way we can automate with them.” Last but not least, “our process has so many twist and turns that I can’t possibly see how Automation would work for us.” With these messages, I can see where someone would gravitate towards a service provider that has knowledge in their industry, but it’s not the most important factor. Consider these three things.

Thing 1 – Problems:

There are some problems in AP that are universal and have to do with the paper and not the company. Problems like, lost invoices, slow process, no visibility to the process, and lack of defined approvals (just to name a few). There are also process problems like spending too much time on certain tasks like filing or data entry as well as skilled employees doing unskilled things like entering consumption information into spreadsheets. My advice when looking for an Accounts Payable Automation service provider is to concentrate on the things I listed first. Find the service provider that solves the problems paper creates… and find the one that does it the best.

Thing 2 – Experience (Period)

If you are looking for experience, industry knowledge should rank belong years. What I mean by that is it is more important (in this day and time) to have more years as an automator than industry knowledge. I wrote “in this day and time” because I wanted to make a point about AP Automation software and service as being early in its development. What I mean by that is AP Automation is still a new idea, and as time goes by there will be more experienced users, leaders and companies. (However) At the moment a company that has 2 years of experience with industry knowledge versus a company with 10 years… the company with 10 years should be more valuable to you than industry knowledge.

Thing 3 – Now!

When it comes down to it and you have two or three evenly matched AP Automation service providers and one has experience in your industry, that’s a plus…. I would recommend choosing that provider.

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

6 AP Automation Tricks Every Accounting Pro Should Know

I am sure you have heard of tools of the trade or tricks of the trade. AP Automation is no exception there are some tricks that you should know, even if you have had no paper in accounting for 10 years or you are just getting started.

Trick 1 – Time

I wanted to get the easy one out-of-the-way, but time is the single most important measurement with Accounts Payable Automation. Really with any automation it is only as good as the time the automation freed up.

Trick 2 – Fraud

Don’t lose sight of the fact that you are better off automated with no paper than with paper. For those of you that are just started out, you will be unease with this fact. Once you really look into the details you will realize that paper is the most unsecure method of transmitting information.

Trick 3 – Change?

The companies that automate better than others have a stronger culture of change. If you have been struggling with automation look at how well you communicated and the company has adopted change.

Trick 4 – Know Where You Are Going

Because AP Automation is such a change and accounting and finance people are a conservative group, starting small and adding over time is a great route to take. The trick is to know that you are starting small and you must have a vision for the end game.

Trick 5 – SaaS

Software as a Service is your friend. This has a big dependency on your internal IT folks. If they are control freaks then you may have a bigger battle. Fortunately SaaS is more common now so IT people are finding that them being outside of the project is a good thing.

Trick 6 – Focus

I have written a lot about AP Automation vs. document management. The conclusion that I have come to is that they both serve good purposes. However, it’s important to not get the two confused. If your goal is to eliminate paper from accounting, and here is the key, improve and change the process, automation is your focus.

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 usfor more information.

 

 

 

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.

With AP Automation, Is Cost The Most Important Factor? – 1 Sad Story.

I think I would turn off an entire group of readers if I wrote that cost wasn’t important. Cost is the way we establish value for things. Cost helps up benchmark and prioritize projects within the business world. Cost is very important, but today I am going to use a real life example to help answer the question, is cost the most important thing?

Once upon a time…

I was working with a smaller size company a few years ago. When the sales representative initially engaged me to help explain AP Automation, I was very happy to find on the other line of the phone a company that was very serious about automation. As you can imagine, the majority of conversations I have are with people who are sorting out if Accounts Payable Automation is right for them or not. Don’t get me wrong, I like those conversations too, but it’s just nice to interact with someone who knows the value, or who I thought knew the value (insert duh-duh-duh music here). A few minutes into the conversation, the prospective client halted the product and service discovery and jump directly to price negotiation. I bowed out and let the rep take over. Then the prospective client started explaining, almost bragging, how they always get a discount in every deal they do. They took pride is getting the best price… better than anyone. I could tell the sales rep will settling in for a continuous ride. After weeks, almost six weeks of pricing negotiations, the client and company agreed to financial terms. The client was happy and the sales rep was battered and bruised.

The rest of the story…

(I loved Paul Harvey) I followed up with the rep on this client to see how the implementation was going, and the rep told me something that, well, shocked me. He said that the implementation had stalled, which is something that never happens with this company and the client was trying to get out of the agreement. Turns out that once the client got into implementation they had no idea what they had purchased (at a good rate) and they had no real goals on what success looked like. Although the rep didn’t, I blamed myself a lot of that. Looking back I should not have let the company go into pricing negotiation so quickly without understanding the values or at least having some back of the envelope goals to guide them. It was a disaster all they way around.

Lessons?

The rep was trained that when a prospective clients wants to buy… sell it to them. That’s pretty easy to understand, and quite natural. However, as a consumer you have to protect yourself and not only know what you are buying but know the impact that it will have on your organization. Buyer beware is something I was taught at a very early age, and it’s still good advice. So is cost the most important thing… no, the offering and the impact is… then cost.

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 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 who started AvidXchange 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

Competition – The Best and Worst of AP Automation – 6 Points

Something I say a lot, when working with a company is, if you talk to 20 different service providers about Accounts Payable Automation you will get 20 different answers (or opinions) on the definition of automation. The definition itself is not the problem, but if you don’t have a common ground (like a definition) then it becomes very difficult to evaluate it.

An Example

For example when you are buying a car, a Nissan Maxima is a Nissan Maxima regardless of where you buy it. It becomes very easy to know what you are buying so it comes down to service or the deal you are getting, but the product stays the same.

Others

There are other problems with looking at competition that are accidentally perpetrated by the service provider. One of my favorites is the good old “side by side” comparison. I don’t want to throw marketers under the bus for wanting to put these together or sales people for distributing them…. I don’t even think ill of the people who receive them and are thankful, my warning to you is twofold. (1) They are based on the strengths of the company producing them, which eliminates any objective view, and (2) Once published they are quickly out of date.

I Started Thinking

This (thinking), in some situations can be scary, but I started thinking that there is a better way of evaluating competition as it pertain to AP Automation. (So) I have come up with a short list that I will expand on in the next few day. The list is to give your (the buyer) a few differentiator to benchmark in your search. Here is the list:

    • Automation VS Doc Mgt.
    • SaaS VS Self Hosted
    • Seat License VS Transaction
    • Time VS ROI
    • Find The Learning Curve
    • Get To The Bottom Of The Company
    • Dealing With The Biggest Competition (Do Nothing)

Stay tuned this week for more exciting information.

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 usfor more information.

Calm Seas Don’t Make Good Sailors – #APAutomation – #Fintech – #Sales

I am late to the Walking Dead movement, so I made a pledge that I would catch up thought Netflix while riding my bike. Don’t worry it was a stationary bike. I was well into achieving my goal when I came across an episode where the crew was in a prison and in the beginning of the episode was of a picture like the one below.

calmseas2

 

 

This really grabbed my attention, and thought it was a prefect symbol for so many things.

Smooth Seas?

I have had the terrible fortune of being in difficult seas. My father-in-law was a commercial fisherman. I married one of his daughters so, in his mind, I was naturally “help”. I wanted to get to know him better so I took him up on an offer which I know now was a job interview to accompany him on one of his trips. He woke me up at 3am, which at that time I was 24 years old and didn’t know it was possible to wake up at 3am and we headed out to his boat. When we got there the combination or choppy seas, dead fish and diesel fumes put me in a position to long for dry land. I was trying to tolerate the conditions when I noticed that it was very dark. I looked at my watch and it said 8am. It should have been light. About that time the radio was going crazy and the coast guard was asking all boats of a certain rating, which we were one of them, to go back to port. My father-in-law told me we were too far out and the storm was coming on too fast so we were going to have to ride it out. I thought that was a terrible idea and tried to convince him to out run it (bad idea). You know… lighting is a funny thing. You are forewarned of it coming. I would imagine a lot like bombs during war, but it’s on you so fast you have no time to react. The only point that I was in fear of my life is when we finally got back to land and the other salty fishermen were shocked and amazed that we were out in that weather. I was fortunate to have been with someone who knew what he was doing.

AP Automation?

It’s true I wanted to tell that story so all of my readers can know what a colorful life I have had, but it makes a good point about smooth seas don’t make good sailors. If you think of it, the more experience a person has and the more difficult that experience, with systems, change, technology and people the better sailor or accountant they are. The point to this story when automating… trust your gut and if you don’t have any experience with automation… trust someone else gut that you trust.

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 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 who started AvidXchange 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

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

With Workflow Should I Eliminate Steps? #APAutomation

When I think of eliminating steps I always think of George Costanza and the step skipper. Enjoy:

There Is A Thought

When Automating Accounts Payable there is a thought that you need to create as few approval processes (workflows) and steps as possible. This is a good idea because it comes from the notion that automation should be efficient as possible. It’s a good thought, and trying to become as efficient as possible is a great because after all one of the great benefits of automation is efficiency.

Efficiency and Order

When looking at eliminating steps in an approval process, efficiency shouldn’t be the first consideration. The first consideration should be who needs to approve the invoice. I put an emphasis on “approve”. I really hate to write this, but the point behind an approval process is to approve invoices. The word approve, however, is where people struggle. When you automate your AP process before you ever choose a service provider you need to have a very good definition of “approve”. The one I coach people on is that approvals are only those actions that holds some sort of purpose in the invoice getting into the accounting system for payment. Some of these actions are:

      • Sign off that the work has been done
      • The goods have been delivered
      • Check against budget
      • PO match if not automated
      • Conditional situations (job cost, capitalized expenses…)
      • Coding assignment or validation

Paper Dysfunction

You may think that I have just given you some obvious advice, but when automating AP you need to take out those things that are associated to “Paper Dysfunction”. Paper dysfunction are those steps that are created because of paper. Paper unlike automation needs additional steps for controls, checks and balances. Other steps that are somewhat dysfunctional are people inserting themselves in the process to either get or see certain information on the invoice. I would see this a lot with utility invoices that needed consumption data analyzed.

Good News

With Accounts Payable Automation, your software will be your controls, checks and balances, that’s one of the great benefits of automation. Also, the person who needs to see or gather the information, can get a report of that information or the invoice, therefore there is no need for them to be in the approval process. The rule should be, only approves are in the approval process, everyone else is accommodated by a report.

Skipping Steps?

Don’t be a step skipper like George said, but eliminate the steps that are needed for paper because you don’t need them for automation.

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 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 who started AvidXchange 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