AP » Addressing the ‘darkside’ of AP/AR automation

Addressing the ‘darkside’ of AP/AR automation

AP/AR automation can help businesses achieve improved forecasting, cost reduction, and increased productivity but only when applied properly

According to senior financial officials, finance teams should be wary of implementing automation within accounts payable and accounts receivable (AP/AR) functions if existing processes are broken.

On May 4, 2023, The CFO – in partnership with Quadient – hosted a webinar about ‘defeating the dark side’ of manual processing and where automation can drive financial success.

The speakers discussed the benefits of automation, including increased accuracy and efficiency, and the reallocation of time and staff to high-value tasks. They also touched on the positive impact automation has on employee morale and retention.

However, speakers were keen to point out that processes should not be replicated in an automated fashion if broken.

“Be open to change, let’s not just try and replicate the same old process in an automated fashion. Let’s really think it through and see what’s the most efficient and best for your business,” one speaker noted.

Getting the automation buy-in

The panellists went on to share their experiences with streamlining AP/AR processes using automated tools, and the challenges they faced along the way. One significant challenge faced by numerous participants was getting buy-in from their leadership team for automating AP/AR.

One speaker noted they had started working at a company whose expense process was heavily reliant on paper receipts being submitted. One of their actions was to source a new expense software which would automate the process, and allow employees to submit expenses on the go, with an automated approval system.

Concerned expenses would be approved without oversight, this participant noted there was pushback from their senior leadership team. However, after presenting the benefits of the software, and walking them through the application, this participant noted there was a “lightbulb” moment among the senior team.

“There are always going to be naysayers,” they said. “It is about how you turn them around. You may not be able to sit down with everyone in your business but if you can convince those at the top and encourage a top-down adoption and support mechanism, you’re going to get less resistance to change.”

Impact on employee morale

Participants also discussed the evolving role of humans in the business cycle and the need for reskilling and developing new skill sets.

They noted the use of automation often freed up individuals time to focus on the high-priority, high-value tasks versus the mundane day-to-day being automated.

“Morale improvement often comes because you’ve changed a role from being focused on manual data entry into a true consultant-like role,” one speaker explained. “People are able to actually focus now on their customers – people who need the attention – which will ultimately add value to your business.

To find out where automation can pose benefits to your finance function, watch the full webinar here.

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