Chris Elmore has been in the accounts payable world for 15 years in various roles, and has witnessed the transition from paper-based processes to completely automated AP and payment processes firsthand.
Elmore enjoys sharing best practices with other financial professionals to help them navigate day-to-day AP challenges. We sat down with Elmore to discuss his background in accounts payable and how AP automation is changing the landscape – check out our discussion below!
How long have you been in the automation industry?
CE: I’ve been working in the accounts payable automation industry for nearly 15 years now. What’s funny about that is that, for the first couple of years that we were doing this, we didn’t even know it was accounts payable automation. It was so new; we hadn’t found the right terminology to describe it. We’d say stuff “electronic invoicing” or “EIPP (Electronic Invoice Presentment and Payment),” but it wasn’t until around eight years ago that we officially labeled it as AP automation.
How many companies have you spoken with about AP automation?
CE: Over the years, I’ve consulted with approximately 4700 companies on the subject of automation. The thing about automation is that there are still many AP professionals who don’t know what it is, how it works, or the impact it can have on their job – that’s why there’s such a gap; it’s a huge shift.
You’ve written extensively about “New Time” as one of the benefits of AP automation. Can you expand on that concept?
CE: When a company decides to look into AP automation, they do an internet search and find a few automation companies and invite them over to show off their software. The idea is, at the end, there will be a clear winner because they’ve looked at everyone’s software. What actually happens is there are two solutions that are so close that they can’t make a decision. There’s only so many ways you can digitize an invoice. From putting it into an approval process, to coding and tracking it, to account system integration, all automation software looks more or less identical. One might be blue, another might be red, but there won’t be much of a measurable difference. That’s because the software is insignificant next to the benefits of the services provided. That’s why I came up with this concept of “New Time.”
New Time is the time you receive back from automation.
How does automation reduce fraud risk?
CE: When it comes to paper, AP professionals believe they have more control. “At least with the paper, I have it in my hands – I know it’s there.” This is misleading. With paper, you don’t have the ability to put a series of checks and balances on it. With automation, you can add additional approvals to the process with ease and create fraud monitoring reports that check for duplicate invoices. Our software tracks who enters the invoice, who approves it, and who batches it to the accounting system – and it can’t be the same person for each task. In the risk world, there’s the issue of collusion.