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

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

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

Post 400 – I did it!

Thanks everyone for following, reading and commenting! Enjoy the video!

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

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 1/2 Things to Know when Getting More Time in Accounts Payable

I got a funny feeling that I am writing too much about time. Not just time… but time benefits of Accounts Payable Automation, gaining time in AP, and how to use time that Automation frees up.

Just The Facts

Well, I did some research and found that I have written 3 articles in the last month about time. That’s not nearly enough. Thing 1, that you should know is time is the natural byproduct of Accounts Payable Automation. Thing 2 is the more time you free up from Automation the better the offering. WARNING – If you are not measuring time then you will have a difficult… well… time knowing if your Accounts Payable Automation project is (was) a success.

Just A Little More

I wish I was sorry about the drama, but I know one thing about people who are searching for AP Automation and that is if they don’t have any place to put additional time… they won’t automate. I know what you might be things… it can’t be that simple. Well, it is. Now, this leads me to thing 3. Thing 3 to know about getting more time in AP is the task and therefore the time that is being freed up has to be more valuable than the current task. Another way of writing thing 3 is to state, the time has to be used wisely. It can’t even be a lateral move, it has to be an upward move or the plan won’t look good. Which is thing 4, you must have a written plan for the time that is freed up. I don’t like to create what people refer to as a “science project”, but finding the time, disturbing the time and changing people’s work time needs a plan… a good one too.

Thing 5 – 6.5

Thing 5 to know when getting more time in AP is that not just accountants or finance people should be involved in the decision. Now, I know that may sound a little obvious, and I also know that when an accounting or finance department is shopping for accounting and finance software (like AP Automaton) then it is an accounting and finance decision. That’s true, but the essence of thing 5 is to explain that the ripples will be felt throughout the entire organization and they should be in on the decision or at least consulted. (And) Finally thing 6 and thing point 5 is to party. That’s right, celebrate the change, the management of the change and the use technology to make a positive change.

Recap

When getting more time in AP you need to know:

  1. AP Automation = Time
  2. The More Time The Better
  3. Upward Movement with Time
  4. Have a Time Plan
  5. Time = Change
  6. Pat Yourself on the Back!

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

There Are 2 Things to Know When Calculating AP Cost #APAutomation

One of the first steps in knowing the impact of Accounts Payable Automation is calculating what your Accounts Payable process cost.

Start Here

What is your current cost per invoice is one of the first questions I ask someone when starting or wanting to improve their AP Automation journey.

2 Things

1. Hard Dollar – This is cost that is associated to tasks that, when automated are eliminated 100%. Look at the chart below. The steps in the Accounts Payable process that are slashed are previously people, time and effort that the organization doesn’t have to do… software will take over the task… creepy huh?

2014_01_03_11_19_06_20

2. Soft Dollar. Well if hard dollar are costs associated to those process steps that are completely eliminated then soft dollar are those costs that impacted by Accounts Payable Automation, but not completely eliminated. (Again) Using the graphic above you can see the coding and approving of invoices are example of soft dollar cost. When automated, the ideas is automation can help (greatly if done right) coding and approving, but the tasks are still part of the process. They are business decisions that still have to be made, so they are not eliminated 100%.

Be Warned

I was thinking to write a title to this section more dramatic than “be warned”… but maturity has gotten the best of me (dang), so on with the warning.

If you base decisions (change, ROI, Cost Per Invoice…) on soft dollar cost you have put yourself in a position to not achieve your goal. Soft dollar is a moving target that cannot be accurately pinned down. I guess I can write that soft dollar is like shifting sand… and you know what happens when you build a house on that stuff.

More?

Now don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with soft dollar savings, it’s just not good when setting and achieving numbers based goals. Hard dollar on the other hand is a much better benchmark because the tasks are there and when automated they are gone. If the task of entering invoices into the accounting system cost your organization $4.50 per invoice, then you can expect to have a cost reduction of $4.50 per invoice. Now… here is the best news. At the end of the process you find that you only saved $3 and not the $4.50… you have more work to do. That’s probably the biggest benefit of using hard dollar 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

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

Has Technology Past Your Company By? #APAutomation – 3 Things

I feel bad for low tech people. If you think of it, being low tech is not so bad… you get to watch a lot more TV, take walks and have more face time with people… that’s face to face time… not Apple’s version of FaceTime.

The Setup

I have the fortune of talking with dozens of companies a week about Accounts Payable Automation. Rarely do I run into a company that I would consider “high-tech”. Most companies that I work are struggling with technology and some are even propelled unwilling into a high-tech world. There are three things you should be aware of when starting an Accounts Payable Automation journey and you consider yourself “low tech”.

Thing 1 – Low Tech Doesn’t Mean…

Low tech and easy to use are two different things. It has been my experience that the two don’t go together. As a matter of a fact, I have found that the two (low tech and easy of use) aren’t related at all, just.. To be clear (you are welcome) those AP Automation offerings that are low tech lack in a lot of feature, and therefore benefits, that will make automation easy. Also the technology is not the only thing that you should consider, take into account what services the service provider offers, and have that factor into your decision.

Thing 2 – Focus on Outcomes

Instead of evaluating technology as being low-tech or high-tech, better advice is to focus on outcome. That’s why I counsel people on calculating their return on investment and the amount of time that automation frees up. Those are two examples of forcing on outcomes that are valuable to your automation goals.

Thing 3 – Let the Software do the Work

Thinking you are low-tech and looking for a low-tech offering will put you in a very difficult spot of having to do most of the work. Now, follow my logic. If you opt for low-tech you normally get cheaper. If the offering is cheaper there will be certain things that you have to do manually. Those certain things generally are scanning, indexing (process), manual approval routing, just to name a few. You will be better off finding a service provider that will do as much work as possible. If you find a service provider that does, say the three things I listed above, then the software is doing most the work. When the software does most of the work, you will have more time to do other things, which is the point of AP Automation.

Finally

A little part of me always dies when a company and their leaders want low-tech offerings because they don’t see themselves as being high-tech. When you do that you leave a lot of benefits on the table.

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