xSuite Blog

Expert Knowledge on Digitalization & Automation of Business Processes

xSuite Blog

Expert Knowledge on Digitalization & Automation of Business Processes

Eliminating Accounts Payable Process Waste? Give the Staff Ownership

Topic: AP Automation


You know this already: Engaging your ground-level staff is key to ensuring success in digital transformation. But before you get to this stage, you will need to examine your company processes. Which is where you will see inefficiencies across the organization – and the names of specific individuals popping up in connection to these activities. And that’s where fear sets in. That’s where transformation stalls.

Your ultimate vision will ideally be to transform your process – and not only to keep your people on board, but to make them happier and more productive in their roles. The key to successful transformation involves motivating change in just the right places.

Through the lens of your AP staff

Within accounting, it is the AP clerks who tend to be under the most pressure. They need to interface with vendors when problems come up and put pressure on individuals up the hierarchy who are late with their part of processing invoices. On both counts, diplomacy and delicacy are called for. But do AP clerks get points for this? Unlikely. Only they, the people responsible for ensuring timely payments, will know the effort it takes to resolve an outstanding issue.

This is demotivating to say the least. Yet it might also be the place where internal disruption is best initiated. In fact, it might be the very place to plant the idea that the transformation of processes works best when those processes are defined by the very employees who will be using them in the future. In other words, success in transformation hinges on teams’ – and, more accurately, individuals’ – ownership of their part of digital interactions.

Leverage precision

While the IT team, the C-Suite and external project management all play a role in the digitalization process, your subject-matter experts, that is, your long-standing department employees, need to play a vital role in how to streamline AP processes. Their precision, process knowledge and judgement will be instrumental in designing a payment process that closes gaps, eliminates waste, ensures stability, and meets the needs of your company’s operations.

Manage change by allowing definition

Change management involves managing human potential to the benefit of an organization. As recognized by renowned expert John P. Kotter, leveraging potential is intricately tied to creating willingness. From the managerial standpoint, this involves motivating staff to align with business ideals. But let’s look at this again from the point of view of the process, which may well be the reason that you as an accounts-payable decision maker are considering change at all.

Say you’re wanting to optimize your processes with machine learning. To make sensible use of ML technology, you will first need to frame the problem by filtering your data mining discoveries based on your business objectives. Having done this, the key step to effectively defining which places in the process are best automated with ML will be that of engaging with your subject-matter experts. This will bring you to the next level of user-centricity.

After all, when definition of the digitized process is in the hands of AP staff, even new functions like AI-managed decisions for routing invoices into touchless processing will be experienced not as foreign elements, but rather as useful aids that contribute to comfort, efficiency, and easy operability.

Integral to the ability to define the digital new is knowledge of possibilities, gained through training and open conversations with leadership. Given this foundation, engagement can lead to a successful transformation. If your organization has chosen an agile approach to digital transformation or your implementation consists of multiple iterations, then you will need to reinstate ground-level ownership and foundational engagement at each new step.

Raise awareness of benefits

Management may have its own reasons for wanting to automate and digitalize processes. What might transformation mean to a bookkeeper though? Routine steps can become even more routine, ensuring a higher degree of reliability. With human error kept to a minimum, energy can be freed up. Employees’ decision-making power can then add value to operations – handling exceptional governmental provisions, providing for temporary tax laws, and onboarding new vendors, for example. Or getting months-end activities done in a relaxed, timely manner rather than chasing after approvals and managing the system to consolidate numbers for reporting rather than needing to rejuggle them before each deadline.

Through the predictability and comfort provided, quality integrated digitalization provides bookkeepers with obvious work enhancements and tangible process efficiencies. Awareness of the benefits and the ability to make use of them will make AP staff strong participants in transformation. Both at initial implementation and each new milestone, the opportunity to own the process will make your AP staff instrumental in achieving transformation.


Andrea von Wurmb

Andrea von Wurmb has translated technical subject matter for xSuite’s customers since 2011. Originating from New York, Andrea’s writing draws on internationally focused studies and thirty years of work in East Asia and Europe. She writes on diverse topics in the world of xSuite, new technologies, and change management.

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