Henry Ijams points out that upgrades in your personal life mirror upgrades in your professional life. The
reason you automate AP is “the same reason you don’t pay your own bills anymore with a check. You use online bill pay tools from your bank or pay your bills with your credit card.”
The same should happen with your accounts payable department.
As you begin working on AP upgrades, set clear goals and expectations, and ask questions along the way. How long will it take to choose a vendor and implement your new system? What percentage of invoices can realistically go electronic and on what schedule? How are you going to measure the cost savings and impact of AP automation? Do you have clear enough data to justify the expense of automating at all?
These are all important questions to answer.
Once everything is implemented, you need data and evidence to show that everything is working. Which specific goals has your system achieved so far? What else is possible that we have yet to automate or improve? These questions are likely not on everyone’s mind, but as a finance leader at your company, they should be on your mind.
If you only process around 20 to 50 invoices every month, you likely won’t see the big cost savings that larger organizations achieve through automation. Around the threshold of 100 invoices per month, then you can make an argument that automation is the best decision.
One worker can likely handle everything without automated systems up to that point, but once you break 100 invoices every month, putting systems in place can lead to meaningful improvement and results.
You and your team know your AP system better than anyone. Sit down as a group, including the clerks and staff members doing the day-to-day invoice processing and payments, to get a better understanding of their process flow, pain points, and suggestions.
You may just find that you have great knowledge and dedication from within the team that you didn’t know about. You might even find the next potential leader to promote or someone to put in charge of the automation project as a project manager overseeing the roll out.
If you find yourself overwhelmed with to-dos and tasks around the upgrade process, try implementing the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule.
The 80/20 rule states that about 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your work, and that the remaining 80 percent of your time only leads to 20 percent of results. Look for the 80 percent of invoices that take the most time and effort and focus on those as the first vendors to shift to the new, automated process. As more suppliers get onboard with the new process, you will find a quick difference in how your team performs.