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strengths of the company producing them, which eliminates any objective view, and (2) Once published they are quickly out of date.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.

The Outcome and Impact of #APAutomation

I tell people who are new to Accounts Payable Automation, whether they are a users, evaluator or salesperson the same thing. I tell them the problem with AP Automation is people don’t know what it is, how it works or the impact that it will have on their organization. Then a pause for a minute and say, “other than that they are fine with automation” and a pause again to see if they laugh.

Need to Define

I have written many times in these articles that I wrote The 8 Pitfalls of Accounts Payable Automation to help define the automation world. I have also written many times that the book didn’t meet that goal, and became more of a best practice book (which is great!).The second book I wrote, The Argument to Automate – How Innovation Can INSPIRE Not Fire was intended to help people develop facts on use to answer the question, “should I (customer) automate AP”. So far that book has also missed it mark (not by much) and has become more of a tool to help define AP Automation (oh boy).

The Definition:

In both books I define Accounts Payable Automation with words… “the independent movement of liabilities through a predefined approval process” (p.18 The 8 Pitfalls). However, what I have found is a definition needed to be more “action” oriented. So my wordy definition changed to, Accounts Payable Automation is only as good as the people time and effort that it frees up.”

What Next?

Once I changed my definition from wordy to action(y), people had the opportunity to quickly understand and (better) were able to transfer that understanding to others within their company. As time has gone by, I have learned another very useful aspect about the action defining; it created a really big question that needed to be answered, and that is if automation is only as people as the people, time and effort that it frees up, then (1) who are those people, (2) what is that time and (3) how much effort?

High Level:

This is really the key to finding out if AP Automation is something that would work for your organization. The book (Argument to Automate) gives you a step by step process on finding people, time and effort, but the important question to ask yourself before you go through the steps is: Do you have any need for more time or to better use your people? If you answer yes to either one of those questions (or better both) then you have at a high level found out that Accounts Payable Automation is something you need.

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

Can Your Accounts Payable Process Withstand a Vacation? 4 Things

Well, it’s unofficially summer, and what comes with summer are vacations. My (then) 7-year-old son said that he liked going on long car rides. In my opinion it was a strange thing for a 7-year-old to say so I asked him why he liked long car rides. He said it gave him plenty of time to play on his iPad and watch his shows. I told him that when I was his age we didn’t have anything like that. He said, “well you had TV in the car?” I said no and at my house I only had one TV and it got three channels. He said, “I am sure glad that I live today”.

Times Are Changing

It’s true with all of the entertainment options, long car rides are better with four kids. Each kid has a mobile device and there is room for up to three TVs with a gaming system in our van. Besides all of the wonderful technology that makes our personal life more comfortable, or at least that’s what I think it does, how about our business life?

Have You Ever?

Have you ever asked yourself if your accounts payable process can withstand a vacation?  Here are four things to think about.

Thing 1 – Speed

One of the signs that your process is not ready for your company to take a vacation is your speed to process, which is commonly referred to cycle time slows down. Most companies don’t know their cycle time. The average is 21 days, however during vacation season it could stretch to 30 or more. The outcome is late fees. Even if you don’t know your cycle time you will notice that you are paying more late fees.

Thing 2 – Fire Drills

There are a lot of companies that I work with that don’t have late fees, which is great, but not having late fees may not tell the entire story. The reason they don’t have late fees is because they have someone running around the office like their hair is on fire looking for someone to pay an invoice that is getting ready to become past due. If this number increases over vacation season, your process is not ready.

Thing 3 – Additional Expense

If your expense to process goes up, your process is not ready for a vacation. Generally expenses around overnight packages go up dramatically during the summer because accounting professionals are trying to find the correct approval or signature.

Thing 4 – You Aren’t On Vacation

The last thing that proves that your process is not ready for a vacation is that you can’t take one. Even if you are at the beach, and your family is playing in the sun and sand, if you are in your room handling AP issues your process is broken and it needs to be fixed.

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 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.

With AP Automation There Are 4 Things People Realize

lRealization is a wonderful thing. I remember with my second child was about 10 months old, she couldn’t talk, but she could crawl. She would motor around the living room from end table to end table opening the little boxes that my wife had perfectly decorated. When she opened a box there was, to her, pure treasures inside. She was amazed by its contents, and she would get very excited. Her realization was there were things she had never seen in her life and my realization was she was very excited about a few pens, rubber bands and an old drivers licenses.

Automation Realizations

 When you get rid of the paper in accounting you will have a few realizations. I don’t know if they will be as dramatic as my daughter’s but if you aren’t ready for them, they can be painful. (So) There are four things that people realize.

Thing 1

One of the first things that people realize once AP is automated is they (people) have to do different things. Now, this might sound strange but if you are used to doing business one way and then a new way is introduced it is difficult for people to adjust. There are a few things to look for that are symptoms. One is people are printing out invoices and filing them to have a record (that one drives me crazy). Another is people if they receive a paper invoice will stamp and code the invoice before scanning it. You would think these would be isolated but they aren’t.

Thing 2

This one takes time, and it’s that people realize they have more information. I know… I know it seem elementary but it takes time for people to get used to the additional information. The thing that seems daunting to people is the volume of information is endless. Well, I am sure it has an end to it but I haven’t found it.

Thing 3

The third things that people realize is that paper is gone. Now, the first two things had a slight negative slant, while this one is positive. When a company realizes the paper is gone and they adjust to it… oh happy day! Be careful, however, to make sure you have picked the right service provider because it’s impossible to go back to the paper.

Things 4

This one may be the biggest one, and it does take time but the finial realization is that once AP Automation is up and running their company has changed. Now, not just changed but changed for the better. It is rare that an organization is able to buy a piece of software that will change their organization for the better.

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 Many Touches Can An Invoice Take? #APAutomation

My angle on the title was the old school commercial of how many licks does it take to get to the center…. well you know. Touching paper is nothing I talk with people about, so when I was talking with someone who was already automated in AP and he told me touches was his internal selling point, I was very intrigued.

Cost Study

If you read any of my books, e-books, posts or articles you will know that my big thing is finding the appropriate numbers within your organization to justify and drive AP Automation. With cost, I help companies find their cost per invoice, both paper and automated. The difference is a return on investment, but the pre and post number helps an organization know if their automation project has been successful.

Time Study

Time, just like cost, will give you a before and after automation number. Unlike cost the important thing about the after time number is an immediate number that will let you know the impact of automation. As I have written many times, but can’t write enough… Accounts Payable Automation is only as good as the time people and effort that it can frees up, so knowing your number or amount of time is the direct link to the impact of automation.

Touches?

(So) I was talking with a CFO that has been automated for about five years and I asked him how, five years ago, he justified automation to his organizations. He told me at first that he went down the route of ROI and reducing his cost. He found his number, $72,000, but he realized something very important… no one was going to write him a $72,000 checks. The money was a symbol of a positive outcome. That’s when he decided to evaluate the number of times his company touched a paper invoice.

Webinar

Like I wrote earlier, I was very intrigued with evaluating automation by the number of touches. If you think about it shuffling paper is the ultimate in inefficiencies. I don’t think there is anything more useless to a company than pushing paper, so counting the number of touches a paper invoice gets touched is a great benchmark. Yesterday on a webinar I asked the audience how many times they think they touch an invoice… the answer was 10 – 15.

Really?

My co-host on the webinar was shocked by the results. After the webinar he said there was no way that number could be that low. My CFO friend’s number, after he did his research was 40 times... That’s right, he estimated that he was able to eliminate the 40 touches from his process, and his people are a lot better off because of that.

Want to know more? Buy My Books!

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

The 8 Pitfalls of Accounts Payable Automation – click here to buy

Ups and Downs of #APAutomation Change – !

In my book The 8 Pitfalls of Accounts Payable Automation, I wrote that the process from decision, purchase, implementation and go live was like riding a roller coaster. In the spirit of this article there are 5 ups and downs during the starting and ending process of change that you will go through with Automating Accounts Payable.

Ups and Downs

Up 1 – I have found that people are naturally excited about making the decision to Automate AP. There is a certain amount of patting on the back and glad-handing. At this point you tell me how happy they are with the decision and how much you appreciate my help. You ask me if I am a sports fan, because you have some tickets to give away.

Down 1 – Then when you see the contract for the first time, it hits you that what you are about ready to do is going to be a permanent change. You might not return my calls or emails as quickly, and you begin to question our relationship.

Up 2 – Once the contract has been agreed to and you are happy with the terms, you get a feeling that you are doing the right thing and are excited to get started. You and I are once again friends and you ask me how my kids are…

Down 2 – As the project gets scoped and your realize the work ahead of you and you come to a personal understanding that you have taken on another project on top of your current workload and you could care less how my kids are doing….

Up 3 – As you forget the life you once had, and settle into a new normal, all of the things in the sales process that were promised and you see your paperless professional life start to take shape. You now understand your codes, your environment, your approval processes and it is awesome!

Down 3 – With all of the planning and testing coming to an end the next phase hits you like 10,000 lost invoices… you now have to introduce this to the end users. Yep those people who think invoices and their approvals can be done “when there is time” not because it a financial obligation to the company. You and I know have meetings off site at a bar (I pay of course).

Up 4 – The first training class is upon you and guess what…. it’s not that bad. After a little bit of anxious moments to start the initial group is warming up nicely and seeing benefits for themselves. Yea! You and I go back to the bar to celebrate (I still pay).

Down 4 – There are sooooo many questions. You can’t believe that these people even took the training. Not just the internal users, questions from leadership and vendors. Oh why did you ever do this, you ask yourself. You and I are good, because my work is over, but you can’t ever remember what life was like when you used to have peace and quiet.

Up 5 – Now 60 days after go live. No calls or questions, the paper is gone, everyone is working well with the system and you have achieved your goals. You get a call from to me see how everything was going. We talk about how you can’t believe how much you stressed out during the process, and the pain in change doesn’t feel so bad. Overall you are very pleased with the process and outcome…

Down 5 – …I say great… “What do you think about Automating AR?” – Click… hello? hello?

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

Conference Call Video… Just For Fun

It has been a long time since I have posted anything that didn’t have to do with Accounts Payable Automation… but today is the day.

Check out this video – if a conference call was live:

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

5 Signs You Are Doing Well in #AccountsPayable

I have been on a stretch lately where I have been writing about the pain that paper brings to an account payable process. I would like to change that by writing about AP departments that are doing well and how you know you doing well.  This is my own person crusade, but on occasions I get flak for writing about negative stuff. I don’t think I can really help it. When I wrote my first book in 2011 (The 8 Pitfalls) I got advice (unsolicited) for someone who said people won’t read a negative book. 6000 copies sold later, I think people will read a negative book. I don’t really like this quality about myself, but it seems that people want to know when they are changing something like Accounts Payable, where things can go wrong, so they can prepare for them.

New Leaf

Well… today is a new day. I am going to leave all of those negative things behind and only talk about positive stuff. It’s like the time a boy came home from school and his dad asked him how school went. The boy said, “Dad, not so good I think I failed a test.” The dad said, “Son, quit being so negative all the time… be positive.” The boy said, “Ok, dad, I am positive I failed that test.” <rimshot>

Sign You Are Doing Well – 5

  1. Bills Are paid On Time – I even hate putting this one on the list, but I had to. The reason I hate putting this on the list is because it is too obvious. I believe that people read my articles for the un-obvious stuff, but if your bills are getting paid on time, and you don’t have any (or few) late fees… you are doing well. This is also a good time for me to recommend that you go back and read my article on DPO and Cycle time.
  2. Getting Discounts – If your process is fast enough and approvals are getting done without a lot of re-classes, which is a sign that you’re doing well. You know I have a hypothesis (unproven theory – that is only a matter of time) that vendors give discounts because most AP processes are unable to act fast enough to capture those discounts. I believe that when more companies Automate AP the less discounts we are going to see.
  3. Low Question Count – This is a very difficult one to capture, but know how many vendor calls you get per day is a great benchmark to know how well you are doing. I am in the middle of a study that (at the moment) I am unable to draw any significant conclusions, but initial results say that a good number of call per day is 6 per every 1000 invoices. More to come on that.
  4. No Paper – If you are a consistent reader of my stuff you will know that having no paper in Accounts Payable is my thing. I don’t believe it’s a judgment call either to write that if you don’t have paper in AP then you are doing well. Paper comes with so many habits that lead to the not so good side. No Paper means you are doing really well.
  5. Big Raise – You getting more money, parking space, own washroom and a seat in the executive dining room… oh wait it’s not 1965 anymore and I’m not Don Draper, but if you are promoted because of your improving AP, you are doing well.

Finally

Well, that wasn’t so bad for me… but with this little dose of positivity I think I will go back to helping you stay out of the pit!

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

Can Tony Soprano Run An Accounting Department?

I know… I have written some ridiculous articles in my time, and this one must really looks like it’s out of left field. Well, hang with me. Last year I wrote an eBook called “Could Steve Jobs Run An Accounting Department?” As far as 2014 went the Jobs book was the most requested and second highest rated talk that I did at conferences. It was a bit of a leap for me because I didn’t want to come across as disrespectful to accounting professional or making fun or our profession (we get enough of that). I wanted to take what made Jobs great and apply it to the world or accounting and finance. It seemed to work – thankfully. The feedback I got was it was a fresh look at management and innovation that people hadn’t thought about in accounting department.

Now What?

I started thinking about the Steve Jobs thing, and there were people/characters out there that would be an interesting idea on running an accounting department. That’s when I ran across Tony Soprano. I am somewhat late to the Soprano bandwagon. For those of you that aren’t familiar, Tony Soprano was the lead character in the HBO series that ended in 2007 of the trials and tribulations of a modern mafia family. I have just finished the 5th season of the show through the HBO app and am very excited about knowing how it all ends. I don’t know if it’s because I am a huge nerd (my kids would say a very loud yes to this) but while I watch the show, although fictional, I keep evaluating Tony the head of the mob family and his management skills.

What Won’t Work?

If you only know the show by its reputation you will know that one thing that won’t work in an accounting department is violence. That’s a big part of Tony’s management style and there is no place for it in the work world. I could picture someone not turning in their expense report on time without the proper receipts and next thing you know they would be sleeping with the fishes. Come to think of it though, that would solve all T&E problems. (Seriously) Violence is no laughing matter, and the show for the most part plays it down as it just being part of the job. Tony as a leader and manager of the family uses the threat of violence, that is anyone crosses him inside or outside of the family then they will more than likely lose their life. There is no place for that in an accounting department.

What Would Work?

So if you take the threat of violence out of Tony Soprano’s management style then what are you left with? This is something that strikes me, in every episode that would make Tony an excellent accounting manager and that’s communication. His language is bad and a lot of time if you make him mad he would blow a gasket, but the one consistent thing he does as a character every episode is handle conflict with excellent communication. Now Tony doesn’t just handle any kind of conflict he handles life threatening conflict. Here are a few things that he does to resolve conflict

  1. He deals with the situation quickly – as soon as he hears about it
  2. He works face to face. Could you image Tony having a problem with someone and sending an email to express his displeasure
  3. He uses a code and hierarchy of values to resolve conflicts. He happened to have gotten this code from his father and family that dates back centuries.
  4. Once the issue is settled he has a confirmation process, usually a hug, kiss (both those are optional in an accounting department), and before they separate he says, “are we good?”
  5. Lastly, and he does this so well, if the other party says, “Yea Tone, we’re good.” It’s over. He doesn’t harbor or carry anything away from the resolution.

So…

When I wrote the Steve Jobs book I answer the question if he could run an accounting department, and the answer was no. Jobs would want to change accounting and create his own process… maybe even develop a new currency. So, I guess I need to answer the question if Tony Soprano could run an accounting department. The answer is, if he gave up the violence and used his people skills, I believe he could.

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

How About Something Funny!

Corporate American got you down? Imagine working on this 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