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PODCAST: The Evolution of Data & Analytics in Accounts Payable

March 23, 2023
Data and analytics in accounts payable

Data analytics is an important and evolving piece of the accounts payable (AP) process. In this episode of our “Net 30” podcast, host Chris Elmore, AvidXchange’s chief evangelist, talks with Rhonda Greene, principal solutions consultant, and Chris Perry, account executive, real estate, about how companies can harness the power of data analytics to inform decision-making and improve performance.  

Greene, a 30-year veteran in the accounts payable space, leverages her work in the trenches to show businesses how to use data analytics to their advantage. Perry shares how he used data to streamline financial operations as a national controller for a major real estate firm. 

Listen to the full episode now or continue reading for a quick summary.  

Analytics for Accountability

Greene and Perry touched on the benefits of using an automated dashboard to track workflow within AP departments. Dashboard tools provide quick access to invoice status and help finance leaders optimize staffing and operations.  

Greene said many AP managers she works with use data analytics to monitor the speed at which invoices are paid. Analytics reporting gives a comprehensive view of how the department is performing overall.  

Perry noted that controllers can use analytics to ensure everyone is doing what they’re supposed to be doing at an adequate pace. With more finance workers going remote, he believes monitoring productivity is essential.  

Examining Performance

Greene and Perry agreed that one of the major benefits of an automated analytics dashboard is using it to inform strategy and decision-making. While AP workers might use the data for tactical purposes, more senior leaders can use it for planning.  

Access to data helps pinpoint bottlenecks and areas where processes need improvement. CFOs and controllers can evaluate the health of their departments at the touch of a button.  

AvidAnalytics - Leveraging Next-Gen Dashboards

Creating a centralized system that houses all AP data helps finance departments work more efficiently. Greene and Perry recommend AvidAnalytics rather than home-grown tools that try to tie in disparate accounting systems.  

Greene reiterated that an analytics dashboard allows organizations to identify process elements that are slowing payments. Without access to that type of information, teams can’t make gains.  

Elmore shared an anecdote proving the power of an analytics dashboard and AvidAnalytics in particular. After showing the tool to a prospective client, they remarked that it illustrated old data in a new way.  

Greene added that AvidAnalytics empowers employees across departments to more effectively perform their jobs. For example, individuals in purchasing can pull data regarding spend with a particular vendor.  

Overall, data analysis via a unified reporting dashboard like AvidAnalytics is a true game-changer for businesses looking to run the most agile finance organization possible.  

Learn more about the ways businesses are using analytics to their advantage by listening to the full episode below.  

Don’t miss an episode – Subscribe to the AvidXchange Podcast Network on SpotifyAppleiHeartStitcher or Anchor.   

LISTEN NOW:

Complete transcript: 

Net 30: The Evolution of Data & Analytics in Accounts Payable

Please note: The “Net 30” podcast is designed for audio consumption. Transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Host:

  • Chris Elmore, Chief Evangelist, AvidXchange

Guests:  

  • Rhonda Greene, Principal Solutions Consultant, AvidXchange 
  • Chris Perry, Account Executive, Real Estate, AvidXchange

INTRODUCTION 

00:00:05 

CHRIS ELMORE 

Welcome to the “Net 30” podcast. I’m CHRIS ELMORE, AvidXchange’s chief evangelist. AvidXchange is a leading provider of accounts payable automation software and payment solutions for middle market businesses and their suppliers. Now I’ve spent 22 years in this space and I’ve had over 8000 conversations with accounts payable departments, and I’ve actually written eight books on the accounts payable process. 

And if you want to clear a room at a party, you tell them you’ve written a book about accounts payable. Each month, the Net 30 podcast is going to unpack the problems solutions and innovations impacting the careers of financial professionals with a focus on accounts payable. And we’re going to do this in less than 30 minutes.  

In this episode, I’m sitting down with my good friends, Rhonda Green and CHRIS PERRY, and we’re going to discuss the evolution of data and analytics and accounts payable. 

Rhonda pulls from nearly 30 years in the accounts payable field to illustrate how those in the trenches of an AP department could leverage data to work more efficiently. While Chris, on the other hand, a former national controller of a major real estate management company, offers insights on how the right data can help a business make the right decisions at the right time. So let’s get into it. 

  

DISCUSSION 

00:01:18 

CHRIS ELMORE 

We’re at the AvidXchange Podcast Studio in beautiful Charlotte, North Carolina, where outside today it’s 35 degrees. But for some reason, inside it’s 110. Okay, you can talk, Rhonda. You don’t have to have hand motions. Rhonda did hand motion on the podcast.  

  

CHRIS PERRY 

No one prepared me for the heat. 

  

RHONDA GREENE 

Yes, exactly. 

  

00:01:48 

CHRIS ELMORE 

It’s the greenhouse effect. But this is a beautiful studio and I’m glad that I have it and AvidXchange has decided to invest. All right.  

So let’s tell you who we have here in the studio on the beautiful Net 30 podcast. We have CHRIS PERRY. We’re going to get into Chris’s background in just a second. And we have Rhonda Green, perennial on the show. 

So welcome both Chris and Rhonda. How you guys doing? Okay. Okay. Yeah, there you go. 

  

CHRIS PERRY 

Happy to be here, I had no idea. We had a podcast studio. 

  

CHRIS ELMORE 

We do it. It’s it. It’s all official and stuff. So, Chris, what should folks know about you? You got an interesting background. 

  

00:02:21 

CHRIS PERRY 

Yeah, I think it is. I think especially as you sort of come full circle to the role I’m in now, certainly I didn’t follow the typical path that you follow to become an account executive with a software company. But yeah, I started my career of, gosh, 20 plus years ago in accounting of accounting degree masters in accounting and started with a company called Arthur Andersen that some may know and then moved to Deloitte. 

 There’s a little thing called Enron that was a little bit of an issue with Andersen. 

  

CHRIS ELMORE 

All this financial speeding, actually, you know, funny AvidXchange history, Enron, Sarbanes-Oxley. That was quite the booster rocket for a little company back then. 

  

CHRIS PERRY 

Yeah, I mean, it it had to have been so yeah. I mean, spent 20 years really in accounting as a former CPA and then most recently was the national controller with Colliers International for a little over 10 years. And so within that role, we had, you know, pretty large operation. If you will, accounting operation of managing assets really all over the country. 

We probably had 1500 plus. And as part of that, you know, it was it there was a lot of difficulties, right, in terms of, you know, how we were processing information, how we were processing, you know, AP invoices specifically and then even having, you know, our sort of pulse on, you know, the operation of the business. And so it was partners like Avid Exchange that really propelled us to the point where we could obviously operate much more efficiently. 

It wasn’t just AP automation we were focused on, it was really automation across the board. And really that became a big passion of mine. I called it Accounting 2.0.  

So everything that we did within our operation had that Accounting 2.0 moniker attached to it. And so we wanted to be as efficient as possible. We wanted to have our finger on the pulse of the business, and I think that’ll really resonate with a lot of the discussion that will we’ll have today because, you know, visibility, access, speed, those were all really important in our what we were trying to do, you know, with running our property management business. 

  

00:04:36 

CHRIS ELMORE 

Yes, we’re going to get into it. Thank you for taking time out, Chris. And so we have Rhonda, of course. And of course, Rhonda back. So Rhonda. Yes, 27 and a half years? 

  

RHONDA GREENE 

Sure. Yeah, no, 27 years. Yeah. I spent many of that as an app manager. Yeah. So totally revealing my age here. But remember when AP was 100% manual. So I’m very passionate about it with automation and talking to people about it because I know firsthand, you know, what it can bring to an app department. And so, yeah, I’m just kind of a nerd when it comes to that. 

  

CHRIS ELMORE 

I’m with you there on that one. So we’re going to talk about data today. Is it I mean, because I’ve been struggling with trying to introduce this notion of data and try to make it sexy and entertaining. Is it possible? 

  

CHRIS PERRY 

I think so. I mean, we’re going to talk about speed to data is what I feel like. 

  

CHRIS ELMORE 

What do you mean by speed? 

  

CHRIS PERRY 

Data? Well, speed to getting information in data, obviously, is going to include that information. So how can you get to it fast and how is it how can you get it in a meaningful way as well so that you can impact your business with that information? 

  

CHRIS ELMORE 

Yeah. 

  

CHRIS PERRY 

What do you think? That’s exciting. Yeah. 

  

CHRIS ELMORE 

I mean, Rhonda, is that data sexy? 

  

RHONDA GREENE 

I completely agree. I mean, it really helps you make the best decisions for your business, obviously, to have it right in front of you and to be able to get to it quickly. You know, back in the olden days, you know, especially when everything was on spreadsheets, it took forever to come up with anything. Yeah. So close back then. 

Lasted a lot longer than a month and closed. Lasted a lot longer than it does now because everything was manual. 

  

00:06:18 

CHRIS ELMORE 

Yeah. All right, so let’s  start with the AP specialist/manager, which, Rhonda, you have some insight into. So the scenario basically is, you know, you have your day job, you have everything. And then if you think about how can a dashboard, you know, affect their day-to-day lives, what would be like your first reaction? 

  

RHONDA GREENE 

Oh, absolutely. I mean, I can see the AP manager using that all the time to really track how fast invoices are coming in and getting approved and getting paid. Are they being paid on time? Are we missing any discounts? Are all of my AP specialist doing what they should be doing in terms of getting them through the workflow, both, you know, in a manual environment and in an automation fashion, automated fashion. 

 So absolutely, it’s critical to be able to track how the department as a whole is doing. 

  

00:07:14 

CHRIS ELMORE 

Yeah. So I want to I got a follow up question on that, but I’m going to go right to Chris on the controller is a very similar question. What would a controller want to see if they logged in and had the perfect world? What kind of information would they want to see? 

  

CHRIS PERRY 

I think a couple of things. And Rhonda touched on the accountability piece, and you know, that was one certainly for me, that having, you know, access and quick access to data was super important because I could see, you know, have you know, you almost peel back the onion of your operation and be able to see, you know, who’s doing what, you know, at what speed they’re doing and are they doing what they’re supposed to be doing. 

  

00:07:55:07 – 00:08:19:10 

CHRIS PERRY 

So all of those things led to great decision making from just an overall operational and staffing standpoint. So again, having that information, then you flip over to, you know, the accounting side as well. And you know, in accounting, of course, we’re always under pressure to get information to some other party quickly after a close, for example, after a period closed. 

So whether that’s, you know, your chief, your CEO or your CEO or other stakeholders, obviously, you know, it’s important to get that information out quick, but more importantly, that it’s that it’s accurate. And so I think with again, any kind of automation, any kind of, you know, dashboard or analytical tools, you can get that in front of them quickly. 

And it’s more visually appealing. 

  

CHRIS ELMORE 

There’s a lot of emotion. 

  

CHRIS PERRY 

I told you I was really passionate about this. Yeah, yeah. Dashboard. The esthetics of it are nicer, they’re more pleasing. And I think that’s important. And you can’t really use side of instead of looking at a spreadsheet or maybe an income statement that might be have a lot of columns in it and a lot of numbers. 

  

CHRIS ELMORE 

Well, so here’s the question I have for you there. So now we have these beautiful dashboards and all of these we’re going to talk a little bit about AvidAnalytics, if you can believe that. We’re going to talk a little bit about it because this is a new tool that we have. But the thing is this, how can somebody take the leap from what they’re used to doing to go in and dig through that new stuff? 

  

00:09:28 

CHRIS PERRY 

I don’t I don’t know that it’s a huge leap, quite honestly. I mean, AvidAnalytics, for example, and it’s super, super simple to kind of navigate through how to run different, you know, dashboard reports or other reports. So again, I think that I don’t know that this is a big challenge, honestly, from the standpoint of how easy it is to get, you know, get that information and to, you know, visually see that. 

  

RHONDA GREENE 

That makes sense. To Chris’s point, to be able to have all that information right there, it just is a matter of really looking through your reporting tools to see which ones benefit you the most, like which ones that you really want to stand out. And so for an AP manager, I’m always thinking about, you know, speed to pay, making sure that invoices are coming in. 

They’re getting, you know, entered and getting approved and getting out the door. So it’s just really being able to take the time to go through to figure out what works best for you in terms of like when you immediately pull it up, it’s like, boom, there it is. Okay, we’re in good shape today. 

  

00:10:30 

CHRIS ELMORE 

So, so here. So we’re developing a couple of themes. I love the fact that, you know, the AP people are in the trenches. The information that they want to see is tactical. It’s working on what they’re, you know, must have in front of me. And then, Chris, you kind of alluded to the fact that, you know, the rest of the business is kind of going to the controller looking for information. 

And speed is important because you just want to get that task off your desk. So, you know, the CEO can have the information so they can do their job, you know, support the business. So now we’re coming down to the CFO between tactical and supporting the business. Where does the CFO fit in all this? 

  

00:11:12 

CHRIS PERRY 

There’s a little bit of both. You know, clearly from a tactical standpoint, I mean, I’m just not my sort of bailiwick, if you will, as obviously property management and the ability for them to be able to look at the landscape of their portfolio and have information that’s going to allow them to untapped value within a pool of assets or a single asset is their job, right? 

I mean, it’s going to be reviewing that financial information. 

  

CHRIS ELMORE 

Digging and mining, and the like. 

  

CHRIS PERRY 

Digging in mining for that value because that’s what that’s what their company is. Hopefully, you know, trying to, you know, successfully do for, you know, for their investors. And so, again, I think when you have that information quickly and it’s valuable, accurate information, then they can take they can use that to make great decisions within their business and within their portfolio and also to develop a tactical plan, if you will, or strategy around that business, because that’s ultimately why they are their strategy. 

  

RHONDA GREENE 

Yeah, absolutely. I know being in the trenches, that’s a perfect analogy for it. You know, I know that the controller and the CFO are looking at the performance of the team and, you know, holding them accountable to making sure that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing when they’re supposed to do it. And that includes things like, you know, tracking things by property or maybe tracking by vendor, try to say, who am I paying the most? 

So it’s really about having a kind of a shipshape department that’s running very smoothly so that we’re able to give that data on and pass it on to the controller so that he can say or she can say, you know, the performance and how we’re doing. 

 

00:13:16 

CHRIS PERRY 

Yeah. I think there’s we could really keep it fairly simple in terms of what the focus is. It’s, it’s the performance of the team, as Rhonda mentioned. So how are you performing operationally from that standpoint and the performance of the company or, you know, in real estate, the portfolio? And so when you maximize or when you. 

Yeah, I mean, when you’re when you’re maximizing value out of both of those different, you know, focus areas, yeah. Then you’ve done your job and, and you’re going to have a successful team and a successful company. And I think you’re also going to have a happy team because they have the tools that they need to do their jobs. 

  

00:14:02 

CHRIS ELMORE 

Yeah, we saw that with some AvidXchange information that those companies that are automated, they have it’s two sided. You have people who are doing less manual tasks and then you have people who love the fact that their company is invested in this. So when you did 2.0, so when you automate something, the paper is gone, information is visible, there’s no hiding it. 

 What was kind of the biggest ah-has that you had when that information showed itself? 

  

CHRIS PERRY 

We were growing incredibly fast, and I just could not believe how well we could keep up with that growth. And again, that’s the combination of having the information that we needed to make good decisions and have a good strategy because, you know, we knew we were going to be growing and we knew that we had to have sort of a baseline of a of a tech stack, if you will, to be able to operate in an environment that was going to be a super high growth environment. 

But even to this day, I can’t you know, it’s sort of mind boggling that we were able to kind of do what we did, you know, with the staff that we had, and not necessarily when we talk about a happy team. I mean, we were super proud of, you know, our pretty low turnover rates and everyone was invested in it, too. 

And it’s something that’s it’s, you know, counting can be boring. That’s not earth shattering. But it can also be fun. And we had because of this strategy, I feel like we had a lot of happy team members. I was super passionate about, you know, what we were trying to do through the use of technology and all of those things combined. 

Yeah, I mean the practical side of it was we were able to grow super fast and then we had the information that we needed to run a successful property management business. But you know, sort of part and parcel to that is that we had a great team that came in for the most part, you know, fairly enthusiastic about what we were trying to do. 

And that’s good. So it made it fun. 

  

00:16:15 

CHRIS ELMORE 

I mean, change is tough. So AvidAnalytics, brand new allows us to look at all the information that’s out there and then make that information visually appealing, visually appealing. So that’s in the form of a dashboard. Simply what that means is it just basically means that everyone’s looking at the same information. Right. Rhonda, what’s your reaction? 

  

RHONDA GREENE 

Oh, that’s powerful, especially, again, when you’re looking at and you’re going to talk about this later. But holding your team accountable, making sure that the invoices are flowing in and flowing out like they should. So really, you know, if you have that access for everyone on your team to see that kind of see how they’re doing compared to others as well. 

  

00:16:58 

CHRIS PERRY 

I think it’s hard for me to sort of overstate how, how, how much having, you know, tools like this can allow you to track what your team is doing. And you can make great decisions on how you’re staffed. You know, what they’re doing. What does their day look like? Because you’ve got the information on at your fingertips on what they’re doing. 

Yeah. And especially in this day and age when you have a lot of folks that are working remotely, I mean, it’s the, the age that we live in. You have more, again, that that access to that data and that visibility to what they’re doing. And you can make good decisions. 

  

00:17:38 

RHONDA GREENE 

That is such a great point. And it’s something that I talk to people about all the time about, you know, when you have a remote, you know, or hybrid environment. Yeah. You know you for COVID, AP wasn’t really a department that you thought of as one that would work remote from home. So to be able to have that accountability, to be able to pull up on a dashboard, making sure, again, that everyone is doing what they’re supposed to do is powerful. 

  

CHRIS PERRY 

And, you know, quite simply, how many invoices per app specialists are you processing per month in 2003? That information might be a lot more difficult to come by, even though that was a pretty simple should be a pretty simple metric to understand about what your app specialist is processing. So the ability to pull that information quickly, okay, they’re doing, you know, a thousand invoices a month or per app specialists or whatever it may be. 

 And you really you should, as a controller, have some benchmark metrics around what that number really should be. And so with analytics, you can get that information quickly and you can meet those performance metrics that you’ve identified are important to you as an operation. And then maybe I’ll pass to Rhonda on, you know, vendor selection. This talks about a lot about vendors then and how that information can be. 

  

00:19:04 

RHONDA GREENE 

Well, I think it goes back to, you know, everything was manual back in 2003. Right. So, you know, you’re relying on various reports. So you would maybe have to pull three reports to get one answer to something or, you know, you were pulling up a spreadsheet that contained your, you know, app reconciliation or whatever it was. So to be able to not spend 2 hours trying to figure out one metric is key. 

And I laughed when it came out because I remember it well that it was I worked a lot back and there, you know, it was tough and that’s why, again, I’m so passionate about what I, you know, do here and what AvidXchange does, because I know firsthand. Yeah. How you know, how automation can help and change. 

  

CHRIS PERRY 

I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t come to that realization and see that firsthand. 

  

00:19:59:16 – 00:20:16:14 

CHRIS ELMORE 

So yeah, yeah, I am. I don’t have a similar story. But I remember we were trying to convince people in 2003 that getting rid of the paper was a good thing. That’s right. It was a hard thing to convince folks of. 

Well, so here’s the thing. We’re going to kind of end on this. 

This is the last final thought. And that is, you know, we sit on a ton of information at AvidXchange, an absolute ton of information. And I don’t think we’ve ever really scratched the surface on how much information we are sitting on, you know, public information about 2 million invoices a month, a million payments a month at the month, and 8000 customers interacting with 800,000 suppliers. 

 And this is a lot of information. And so, Rhonda, what do you think is like that? Maybe just a few little pieces of information that people aren’t getting that they would be getting if they were automated through AvidXchange. 

  

00:20:58 

RHONDA GREENE 

So one of the things that that kind of jumped out at me about AvidAnalytics, which I think is very important because we’ve been talking about AP and the controller, but also, you know, if you are in a company that has a separate procurement department or if it’s something that AP kind of does in-house, being able to see the spend by vendor or supplier is powerful because if you see that you’re paying, you know, ABC Company three times the amount of the next one, why not pick up the phone and try to talk to them about better terms or better pricing or what have you? 

So I think it also can be a valuable tool from a purchasing standpoint as well. 

  

CHRIS ELMORE 

Where would you go Chris? 

  

CHRIS PERRY 

Well can we stay? 

  

CHRIS ELMORE 

On that point? Yeah. 

  

CHRIS PERRY 

I mean I just I’m like, I’m going to sit here and cheer for Rhonda back here because she’s absolutely right. And I think that, you know, again, you’re going to come into a meeting with that supplier much more prepared. You’re going to catch them a little bit off guard with that information. And, you know, I don’t know that accounting systems and I’ve worked with a ton over my career are that great at really compiling a lot of that information. 

I mean, you can get it, but you’ve got to go to kind of different places. And so again, to have a tool like AvidAnalytics is fantastic for being able to gather that information that you need to go into that meeting with that supplier. Here’s our spend. Give them the wow factor. Wow. I didn’t realize it was that much. 

Okay. Well, let’s talk you know, I have a relevant sort of real time scenario on this. And I was talking to Rhonda about it earlier, but a CFO, a controller, an accounting department is always tracking or wanting to track something, you know, expense by department or, you know, what are our legal expenses, what are and to relate a lot of it back to property management but you know commission, you know, whatever it may be, you’re always trying to track something and do it better. 

And I have a prospect now that I’m working with where they want to do just that. They want to be able to track their information and track their spend better. And that’s the tool that we’re recommending, i.e., AvidAnalytics because they want to do it in their accounting system. But I think going back to a single, you know, point of truth, you have, you know, they would be able to do that much better than I think, just relying on their accounting system for that information. 

  

00:23:47 

RHONDA GREENE 

Just being able to measure those important metrics. Right? And again, you know, I hate to keep bringing this up, but it’s so important for you to be able to make sure that those invoices are coming in and they’re going out, that they’re getting paid on time, and that includes getting approved on time. So I think the tool is very powerful with the reporting around the approval by workflow, by approver, because there’s always that one individual or team that’s really, really slow and they hold up the payment process. 

And so I love the fact that you can just pull it up and property management, I love the fact that it has the reporting by property that’s very powerful because that’s something that we get asked about a lot. 

  

00:24:37 

CHRIS ELMORE 

Well, from the perspective customer that I talked to, the reaction was I’m seeing the same information for the first time. And that to me blew my mind because what does that mean? Is it just it was it was just represented in a way that their brain just saw it completely different. 

  

CHRIS PERRY 

And that’s what dashboards do. You just said it a lot better than I probably said it earlier. 

  

RHONDA GREENE 

The charts and the graphs, you know, a whole lot easier to see performance or, you know, metrics than having to look at, you know, reports to try to your brain is just looking at a whole bunch of data where with a dashboard, you’re like, whoa, there it all is. 

  

CHRIS ELMORE 

No one has said game changer on this podcast. So I guess I need to, you know, AvidAnalytics could be potentially that game changer because it just gives us the information that we’ve been sitting on to our customers so they can use it. I think that’s been the whole kind of crux of this conversation today. CHRIS PERRY, thanks for your time. 

  

RHONDA GREENE, thanks for your time. Thank you. And we’ll see everyone soon. 

 ——————– 

OUTRO 

00:25:42 

CHRIS ELMORE 

Thanks for listening to the “Net 30” podcast presented by AvidXchange. This episode was produced by Travis Durkee. If you like what you heard, make sure you leave us a five-star review and subscribe to this channel. While you’re waiting for next month’s episode. Head over to AvidXchange.com and read our latest report on the seven forces shaping the future of finance departments. 

Spoiler alert, the growing importance of data and analytics as mentioned.  

One more shameless plug before we go. This conversation has somehow piqued your interest in accounts payable automation, AvidAnalytics. Or if you just want to know a little bit more about AvidXchange, there’s an additional link to request a demo of our solution.  

That’s it. We’ll see you next month on the “Net 30” podcast. 

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