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2019 AP P2P Spring Expo and Conference: Summary and Takeaways

Get the inside scoop on the 2019 AP P2P Spring Expo in North America, including a summary and smart takeaways about AP automation today and in the future.

This May, our Editorial team got the inside scoop from attendees at the 2019 Spring AP P2P Expo about the industry-wide push for automation and the implications of an ever-expanding AP technology market. 

Twice a year, accounts payable professionals and finance leaders gather for the largest AP focused conference in North America, the AP P2P Conference and Expo hosted by IOFM. This year’s Spring show was bustling with educational sessions and an exhibition hall showcasing the latest technologies for the accounts payable and procure-to-pay processes.

If you missed out on this important AP event, fret not! The Untapped Editorial Team got the inside school from Daniel Shore, a Sales Engineer for Medius and former AP manager who knows his way around this event like the back of his hand.

Key Takeaway #1: All company sizes are now engaging & investing in automation of AP.

No longer is an AP automation project a luxury reserved for the enterprise level companies. AP technology has gone from an expensive, highly customized tool requiring extensive IT support to a state where there are streamlined, out of the box offerings to provide immediate lift for companies both big and small. 

Because of the rise in availability of offerings to fit a myriad of accounts payable process challenges, there is a precedent being set for companies to make AP automation a priority. As such, there was significant interest from attendees of this year’s show in engaging with AP technology vendors in the exhibition hall. Show attendees were prepared with intelligent questions, priority challenges they need to solve, and timelines in mind of when they needed to get up to speed with automation – or risk falling behind compared to their peers.

Key Takeaway #2: The prospective buyer needs to beware – further education is needed

Due to the rapid expansion of the market for AP technology and the wide variety of solution types it holds, it can be a challenging field to navigate for organizations just starting their automation journey. Seeing through the smoke and mirrors and marketing terminology of various vendors presents a challenge – and a risk – for prospective buyers. For example, many vendors claim they offer “AP Automation” but the phrase is being coined generically. They may offer optical character recognition (OCR), payment automation, or static workflow automation. 

For prospective buyers looking to cover their whole process, they need to educate themselves of the various solution types available and be prepared to ask vendors the tough questions, ask for proof and demand to see it in action. AP automation is about legitimate automating, transitioning the AP process (from invoice receipt to being posted in the ERP for payment) from manual or semi-manual to truly touchless, with no human involvement required.  If the vendor can’t demonstrate that capability, it’s probably for the best to keep moving to the next booth.

Key Takeaway #3: Both AP end users and finance executives are getting involved in making automation a reality.

Whereas in past shows, the majority of attendees were AP users looking to brush up on their professional certifications and network with fellow end users, this year’s show had a significant uptick in the number of executive attendees. And these executives – along with the end users – were interested in more than just the educational sessions. It would appear that the challenges of the AP process, what was once considered status quo and something only AP knew of and dealt with, have made their way up the reporting ladder and become a priority focus of the finance department. The executive buy-in, demonstrated by nearly half of the attendees falling under the “decision maker” category, is a sure sign of the times that AP automation is a necessity for 2019/2020 projects.

And for those companies that did not have decision makers in attendance, the end users are gathering the requirements to go back to their organizations and champion the cause for AP automation to stakeholders and the c-suite.  

Moving Forward Post Conference

Whether you were able to attend the show or if you’re catching up via this summary, the takeaways from this year’s conference offer guidance for prospective buyers and clearly define emerging trends that businesses need to know. The importance of AP automation is evident, and organizations who are not making it a priority in 2019 need to evaluate how they can rearrange budget and resources to make it happen, sooner rather than later.

As we enter the half-year mark of 2019, the response across all industries and company sizes is resonating through the halls of the AP P2P Conference and every finance event – manual, paper-based AP processes are unacceptable, and change is coming in the form of robust digital transformation through automation.

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