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Gamification: When Accounts Payable Becomes Accounts Playable Everybody Wins

Gamification and AP automation transform accounts payable to accounts playable where employees enjoy work that feels like a game, become increasingly productive, and learn new skills.

The financial industry has been incorporating gamification into user experience for years. Points, rewards, and alerts are a common occurrence, so it is not surprising that gamification now moves into B2B payments and accounts payable.

According to Gabe Zichermann, founder and chief executive at Dopamine Inc., a consulting agency focused on gamified campaigns for employees and consumers, employees can increase their ability to learn new skills by 40% if employers can find a way to make work feel like a fun game. Having a good time helps them feel more engaged, which in turn makes them more likely to stay on the job and perform at high levels. This scenario is especially true for the millennial workforce that is prone to thinking in analytical, gaming techniques as they are used to play a lot of video games growing up.

Gamification reshape businesses

Gamification is applying the science and psychology of gaming in a non-game context to motivate and reward to perform certain desired behaviors. The aim is to boost engagement and improve accuracy in working environments. 

Elements of gamification such as leaderboards, badges, and levels have appeared in a business context for years. Nowadays gamification goes beyond the rewards, applying the essence of games—fun, play, transparency, design and challenge - to real-world objectives. In a business setting, that means designing solutions for everything from office tasks and training to marketing by combining the thinking of a business manager with the creativity and tools of a game designer.

The elements and tools of gamification applied to accounts payable

Accounts payable is traditionally seen as a pure back-office function often operating in a shared service environment, and repetitive tasks characterize the work. Research shows that work environments like this are challenged with consistent performance, culture, staff attrition, vision, direction and reputation.

The main features of a game are similar to those of a job. Common features include tasks, feedback, goals, path to mastery, rules, etc. But the human responses to each of these features are polar when looking at the work environment and the gaming environment.

As a game designer uses different strategies and tools to create a new game, so must accounts payable solution providers and AP managers.

Gamification of AP

When accounts payable becomes accounts playable

The gamification of accounts payable is enabled by the digitalization and automation of the AP process. Let’s take the everyday reality of an accounts payable professional to understand how gamification can change the work experience dramatically.

Repetitive tasks become fun and competitive

Sitting at a desk day after day, entering invoice and vendor data can easily become monotonous and as a result, productivity might begin to drop.

But imagine if there was a ‘fun’ and competitive element to these activities? If your accounts payable professional could see how many invoices they enter each day, how many their colleagues enter each day and how that is creating business value for the company as processing times decline over time. Do you think productivity would climb?

Goals defining success is clear and the feedback on success is instant

Games do not wait to reward you: buildings collapse and make noise, and scores increase instantly, etc. In real-world scenarios, however, an individual’s action may go unnoticed or unrewarded.  Adding hyper-feedback to a process can provide the right reward at the right time.

If your accounts payable professionals work in a true cloud solution they can measure process efficiency and business performance on key KPIs. As such they get instant feedback on key performance indicators such as Touchless Ratio and Invoice Processing Time. These can also be benchmarked against peers to drive the feeling of reward further and urge to improve. Also, on the individual level, the objectives, and feedback become clear. In a gamified scenario, when the accounts payable professional inputs invoices, their position on for example a leaderboard would change. This provides immediate evidence in real-time. The relevance of what they are doing comes from seeing their position to others. The consequence of their behavior is seen immediately in hard data on the leaderboard. And as a result of this follows action which will take them up the leaderboard again.

With clearly defined rules the path to mastery is not a blurry strategy but a clear action list

In games, the next desired action is usually clear. This clarity around objectives is often not as explicit in real-world scenarios but is added when attaching progress paths to your processes and systems.

For AP professionals this means that the AP solution needs to provide visible objectives and feedback, but this is not enough. Imagine if the AP solution also can prompt the users on how to increase targets, then the strategy to mastery becomes clear.

Remember the office assistant in the form of a paperclip in Microsoft Office that supported users by interfacing the Office help content? To be frank “Clippy” wasn’t very popular and it was removed altogether in Office 2007 and Office 2008 for Mac. The reason? “Clippy” wasn’t very intelligent or analyzing your specific use pattern providing information that was specifically useful to your level of performance.

Today, your AP automation tool do know a lot about how you are using the system. The next step is a AP solution that prompts you through pop-ups or emails with specific actions that will help you improve on your KPIs in line with best practices. With the advancements of AI technology, do not be surprised if “Clippy”-like assistants return soon, but this time with more intelligent information on how to improve to reap business value.

Hi user! We have noticed that you have a significant number of invoices that are sent for manual approval as they don’t fall within your deviation tolerance levels. As we can see that these invoices are getting approved without correction, we suggest analyzing the benefits of increasing tolerance levels to improve your touchless ratio in line with industry peers. For more information on how to change tolerance levels please watch this video.

Embedded gamification in the design of the AP solutions and AP communities

The psychological pre-requisites and technology foundation for gamification is undoubtedly in place for AP automation. To take it further, AP solution providers need to embed gamification technology into the design code of their solutions, both regarding aesthetic/graphical design and in features such as automated feedback. For full benefits providers of AP solutions should build on one of the most important reasons to play games – to gather friends. According to Aberdeen report, “How to improve the customer experience and boost financial success, April 2018”, leveraging the social aspect of gamification by building professional communities can drive benefits such as increased customer satisfaction and increased user engagement. Would you want to join the professional community where accounts payable becomes accounts playable?

Get started with gamification of accounts payable

  1. If you haven’t done so yet, automate and digitalize your AP process this is the foundation for gamification. Select a modern cloud-based software that provides support for gamification features.
  2. Set clear goals and measurable KPIs that can be benchmarked towards peers and competitors. Make sure to include both process performance indicators such as “invoice processing time” and business value indicators for example “cash flow.”
  3. Make repetitive tasks fun by introducing real-time feedback on a company, team and individual level.
  4. Make the path to achieving the objectives clear, working as a team towards the company goals.
  5. Now go ahead and have fun!
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