The average cost to pay a single invoice is more than $10. You know it’s a problem when you have to spend money to . . . spend money.
You may wish for a better way to prioritize PO-based invoices or envision a world without data entry errors, but that doesn’t mean your coworkers will be keen on changing up invoice processing. As long as invoices are getting paid, automating the process can initially seem unnecessary to both the top brass and front-line workers.
Here are some tips for getting coworkers on board with an A/P automation project.
1. The Skeptical CFO
You’re down in the trenches all day resolving issues and keeping track of approvals, but the only things a manager sees are escalated problems. Even if there are obvious bottlenecks, it’s not necessarily clear why an automation system is any less risky than the status quo. In this case, you have to prove why spending capital on a new system will actually save money.
Do This: Put together a short and simple ROI guide. You should know your cost per invoice, the amount of time it takes to process invoices, the number of inquiries from suppliers and how many accurate or inaccurate payments you’re making per month. Then, spell out how much better the company would do if it adopted your A/P automation project. To do this, you can even use this handy ROI guide that project managers from PSALM created while planning their document management project.
2. The Absentee Approver
You send this person an invoice to approve and then he seems to vanish into thin air. His inaction results in late-payment fees and missed early payment discounts. He never gives you the additional vendor information you need, and he probably avoids you in the hallway out of guilt.
Do This: Map out automatic workflows that include recurring notifications to approvers and plan to send them at an escalating frequency. At a certain point, you could also automatically escalate the approval to the absentee approver’s boss. Plan out “priority” folders where documents can be automatically routed so employees can quickly access items that need immediate action. Here’s an example.
3. The Cranky Coworker
A cousin to the absentee approver, this person is mayor of complaint city. For every change you propose, he has a counter point. He doesn’t want to give up paper documents. He thinks automation tools will be difficult to learn.
Do This: This article explains how automation works for many routine accounts payable steps that people are used to and skeptical about changing. Start onboarding and training coworkers early. Involve accounting and administrative staff at the earliest stages of the proposal and planning process, interview them to gather intel for your ROI guide and include them in vendor demos to sell them on the vision and generate interest in the project before you start ripping out file cabinets.
4. The Volatile Vendor
Even though your suppliers and vendors want to get paid, you’re likely no stranger to resolving inquiries and disputes. They’re probably sick of waiting to know where something is in your internal process, and you’re probably sick of wrangling down invoices from all areas of your organization to answer their questions.
Do This: While automation won’t eliminate disputes entirely, it will bring transparency and standardization to your vendor relationships. Work with a few suppliers to create a proof of concept for electronic templates for different types of invoices. This also gives you a great excuse to clean up your master list of suppliers—or make one in the first place. If it is possible to test an online portal to centralize supplier invoice submissions to your A/P department, even better.
Getting buy-in isn’t the only step you must consider during A/P automation. Get the complete guide to streamlining your accounts payable system.