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Setting Up the AP Team for Implementing Accounts Payable Automation Solutions

Preparing your AP team to implement accounts payable automation solutions means alleviating their concerns and showing its advantages to the staff and company.

So your company is taking a step toward automating your accounts payable process. Chances are, there’s the electricity of change in the air; executive stakeholders have a newly sharpened focus on the status of accounts payable, management is feeling the pressure, and the AP team is likely restless with the worry of what’s to come and what it means for their jobs. How do you prepare your organization for seamless implementation and long-running success?

In a recent webinar, we discussed the steps your company needs to take to set the stage for successful AP automation. First, it’s important to dispel the unease that your staff may be feeling about the project that lies ahead. Often, the thought of accounts payable automation solutions conjures up images of robots sitting in desks and human jobs replaced by machines, leaving the former without a job in an increasingly digital world. This image couldn’t be farther from the truth. Accounts payable staff will be of even more value in the automated world. But it’s up to the AP managers and Management to re-skill and train their AP teams to make that happen.

The Robots are Coming!

There is some truth in the instinctive fear of automation. According to a recent McKinsey Global Institute Report, nearly 40 percent of US jobs are currently in occupational categories that could shrink as a result of automation between now and 2030. Finance and accounting won’t be spared from this new tide of technology, either, as computers are inherently faster and more efficient at complex algorithms and mathematical equation solving. But just as every field requires continuous education and skill expansion, accounts payable teams can turn what may seem like a dire prediction into an opportunity for improving their career and professional circumstances.

As a first step, it’s crucial to ensure your AP team is top-notch, filled with diverse skill sets that contribute essential value to the AP process and to the business. Diversity breeds talent and the same is true cross-generationally as well. Having a mix of both seasoned professionals with years of experience under their belt and young professionals with new technical skills provides you with a well-rounded workforce.

Regardless of age, every member of the accounting team will need to be incredibly precise on their specific role and value to the team and process. For some, that may mean developing the social skills needed to interface with other areas of the business, communicate the data collected by the automated algorithms and advise upcoming implementations. For others, that may mean becoming skilled in the inner workings of the new system as a “power user” of sorts, who will assist in rolling out the new processes to the broader business and serve a key role in on-boarding new staff after implementation.

Successful Businesses See AP as Strategic Partners

In the past, people viewed accounts payable automation solutions as a luxury reserved for only the lucky few with unlimited budgets for IT projects. Over the last several years, however, that perspective has radically changed. AP automation has become a necessity in order for organizations to remain relevant, and the leaders of the business world are using it to transform AP into strategic centers of business insight.

As technology continues to develop and improve, the opportunity for the AP team to become an integral, tactical business function will continue to grow. For companies that have yet to embark on the process of automating the accounts payable process, management must make it clear to stakeholders the value they are missing out on - which could potentially spell disaster for the company’s financial well being in the next 5-10 years. Beyond the initial benefits of an accounts payable automation solution, a streamlined AP team can provide the insight to optimize the vendor pool, eliminate overspending and duplicate payments, take advantage of early payment discounts, and avoid significant losses that undermine the bottom line.

The age of digital transformation for AP is upon us, and the onus is on both the accounts payable team and management to shepherd in the technological developments that will improve their overall efficiency and control. They also need to retool their staff to step into a new role as a critical business partner delivering vital financial data to the C-suite and the rest of the organization.

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