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

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

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

80% of the Company Isn’t Sold on AP Automation – How to Change That

Oddly enough when I first started to help company get rid of paper invoices in 2000 I did a few things that seems completely ridiculous today.

Things

The first ridiculous things I did was approach the operation groups and try to sell them on the idea of approval efficiency. It worked ok because at that time all you had to do was show people automated workflow and they were completely sold on the idea (as long as they were an early adopter). The other thing was there was no mention of accounts payable anywhere in my speech. To sum it up, I didn’t work with accounting and I had no idea of account payable.

Today

It seems that today, I only work with accounting and accounts payable and I call what I do Accounts Payable Automation. In the last fourteen years who I work with and what I call it has completely flipped. I wonder what is going to happen in the next fourteen years.

The Problem

Because AP Automation is such an accounting department thing and it is technology, I have found that accounting and IT are the only two that seem to be interested in AP Automation. That means that 80% of the rest of the company doesn’t seem to have a need for it. The reason for that… They have no idea why. To change the perception of AP Automation as being an accounting and IT thing, they need to be taught the benefits of automation within their daily work lives. You may get a few converts if you explain the accounting department benefits, but is important to explain the benefits from the perspective of the rest of the company.

A Few Ideas

  • Mobility
  • Quick Answers
  • Full Audit Trials
  • No More Internal Arguments (about invoices that is…)
  • Less Time On The Task

And Then…

It’s difficult for me to list all the outside of accounting benefits, so you will need to do your own homework. Start by asking each department or a few people in each department why and how they would change Accounts Payable. That will give you good insight to the types of problems they are having. Also, don’t be afraid to ask the slow approvers or the people who seem to be the problem month in and month out. As a bonus, if there is any way to motivate and get them excited about the benefits you might be surprised how fast they are willing to change.

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

 

Bad Habits When Automating AP – 6 of Them

Habits are an interesting thing. You have probably heard the saying you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, good things dogs don’t run accounts payable processes. If you are like me, it seem like every time you turn around something is changing. Don’t get me wrong, I think change is good, so where do habits come in?

Habits:

The dictionary says habits are,an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntaryI think the two key words that affect AP Automation in the definition is “behavior” and “involuntary”: Both of those words denote that the person may or may not know they are doing the habit, and when that is the situation it makes it very difficult for them to change. On occasions I have known that people get core principles confused with habits. Those are referred to as “bad” and there are six of them that you need to be aware of with Accounts Payable Automation.

Habit 1 – Minimize Change – This is a common habit that comes from years and years of managing money where change is a bad thing because change could potentially open up risk. Accounting and finance people are naturally good risk managers, but a successful outcome of AP Automation is change. Making a good process better takes change.

Habit 2 – Let IT Drive – IT meaning information technology. Depending on your service provider IT may play an important role, or they may play no role at all. If they are in the driver’s seat that will insure your company will get a good piece of software. Getting a good piece of software is only half the objects, changing the process for the better is the other half.

Habit 3 – Control! – Paper needed control, Accounts Payable Automation doesn’t, it has reporting (enough said).

Habit 4 – Tip Toe – When you enter into automation there may be a bad habit of starting slow and changing piece by piece over time. Although that will see like a nice safe plan it puts your organization into a position to managing two processes. One, automated and the other paper, so in essence you have doubled your people’s work… not good.

Habit 5 – Stay Close To Home – This bad habit is directly associated to doing what your accounting or ERP system recommends. Although this is a good place to start, you should venture outside to make sure you have the best for your company.

Habit 6 – That’s The Way We Are – The worst habit with AP Automation is to not be open to new practices because you have never done them before. Sure, not everything new is good, but not every you have done in the past has worked. Right?

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

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

Bad Habits When Automating AP – 6 of Them

Habits are an interesting thing. You have probably heard the saying you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, good things dogs don’t run accounts payable processes. If you are like me, it seem like every time you turn around something is changing. Don’t get me wrong, I think change is good, so where do habits come in?

Habits:

The dictionary says habits are,an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntaryI think the two key words that affect AP Automation in the definition is “behavior” and “involuntary”: Both of those words denote that the person may or may not know they are doing the habit, and when that is the situation it makes it very difficult for them to change. On occasions I have known that people get core principles confused with habits. Those are referred to as “bad” and there are six of them that you need to be aware of with Accounts Payable Automation.

Habit 1 – Minimize Change – This is a common habit that comes from years and years of managing money where change is a bad thing because change could potentially open up risk. Accounting and finance people are naturally good risk managers, but a successful outcome of AP Automation is change. Making a good process better takes change.

Habit 2 – Let IT Drive – IT meaning information technology. Depending on your service provider IT may play an important role, or they may play no role at all. If they are in the driver’s seat that will insure your company will get a good piece of software. Getting a good piece of software is only half the objects, changing the process for the better is the other half.

Habit 3 – Control! – Paper needed control, Accounts Payable Automation doesn’t, it has reporting (enough said).

Habit 4 – Tip Toe – When you enter into automation there may be a bad habit of starting slow and changing piece by piece over time. Although that will see like a nice safe plan it puts your organization into a position to managing two processes. One, automated and the other paper, so in essence you have doubled your people’s work… not good.

Habit 5 – Stay Close To Home – This bad habit is directly associated to doing what your accounting or ERP system recommends. Although this is a good place to start, you should venture outside to make sure you have the best for your company.

Habit 6 – That’s The Way We Are – The worst habit with AP Automation is to not be open to new practices because you have never done them before. Sure, not everything new is good, but not every you have done in the past has worked. Right?

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 Things That Won’t Kill Your Vendor When Outsourcing Scanning #APAutomation #Fusion – 10:15

If you are at Fusion this week – comes see this session live!

Outsourcing is somewhat of a hot topic. When I first got in business I had a friend (that did much better than me) who started a company and told me that his company would never do anything outside of their “core” competency. When I asked him what he was talking about, he explained to me that his business did certain things really well and others not so well. He took all the things they didn’t do well and found someone else to do them – brilliant!

Scanning:

When you are looking to outsource scanning, that’s where you direct your mail to a third-party that (hopefully) are scanning experts, your partner should be highly optimized to open mail, scan and save the document in the electronic form you need. There are a few things that you need to know about the vendor before you start your outsourcing project.

Thing 1 – Hoops

Hoops are good for earrings or when it’s close to the word hula, but not with vendors. The more you make the vendor do in order to comply with your new process the greater headaches you will have to get the process up and running.

Thing 2 – Change

Great for a parking meter (I am on a roll today) but terrible for vendors and outsourcing. The type of change that I am referring to is making the vendor add or move information on the invoice in order to use the new service. I have found a direct relationship in the amount of information you make the vendor change and the length of your implementation process.

Thing 3 – The Key

The key here is preparation. The more you can get your vendor information before the change the better off they are. Now, be careful about this one, because you don’t want to give them too much information. Too much information will cause a lot of questions and a lot of confusion. I counsel people to do the smallest change first that has the biggest impact. An example of that is a change of address. If that’s all you need to do then that ‘s all you should communicate with the vendor.

Thing 4 – Options

This one is the, “out of the box” thing, but your outsource scanning will go much better when you limit the amount of paper you send your third-party. Now, your third-party won’t like this too much because the are going to be paid on volume. Having other options like email or a portal will greatly help you with outsource scanning.

Thing 5 – Track Record

Experience goes a long way. (However) Look beyond the fact that the scanning company has been in business for “x” amount of years and drill into their experience with your type of documents. Because this is an AP Automation site, your third-party knowing about the complexity of invoices is very important.

Thing 6 – All Together Now

This one might be a little cheep, but the sixth thing that won’t kill your vendor is that no hoops, little change, preparation, options, experience are check marks towards successful change. If you have a few of these that’s better than having none of these but all of them together will reduce your stress and your vendors stress, which is something I am sure you need!

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

3 Things To Know About People Before You Automate AP

I have been an Accounts Payable Automator since 2000. A lot has changed from that time. In the early days (I sound so old) the biggest conversation I had with people was about the security of the internet and how the internet was a legitimate place to store documents like invoices.

Times Have Change?

The more I preach, teach and council people about AP Automation the more I understand that it is less software and more people improvement. I have written a lot about AP Automation only being as good as the people, time and effort that it frees up. I hope my point is clear, that when you free the people up from manual task their skills can be used in other places… and the key to that is the “other places” have to be more impactful to the organization than the task they are currently doing. (So) If Accounts Payable Automation is people change there are three things you should know about your people before you automate.

Thing 1 – Skills

I hate to write this because it seem so obvious, but to be clear you have to know your people skills. Back to the idea that AP Automation is only as good as the time it frees up, and for automation to be well adapted in your organization the tasks that are being freed up have to be more important than their current tasks, so you have to know what your people are capable of. If your goal is to take the people who normally do data entry of AP transactions and move them into contract negotiation, they have to be able to communicate and negotiate well. If you don’t, you have more trouble than you started with.

Thing 2 – Time To Ramp

The next thing you have to know is know how long it will take to convert the people from one task to another. What is their ability to learn the new task? Similar to thing one, this thing is about the skills of your people, but not just their skills, but their ability to learn a new skill. The worst case with this thing is you are automated but if it takes months for your people to learn new tasks, you have wasted a lot of time.

Thing 3 – Change

Most people are resistant to change, however, if the change is communicated well and the proper amount of time is dedicated to the communication the easier time you will have. A few key indicators to lack or poor communication is the type and amount of resistance. If you know your organization well you will know these levels. If you are receiving more resistance on the change than normal then you communication was poor and you didn’t give yourself enough time.

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

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