February 5, 2013 Losing the Operator: How EIPP Solutions Change the Face of Payables
You know when you have an argument and it just sort of sits with you for a while? Like a berry seed stuck in between your teeth? I’m still stuck on these quasi-automation solutions I see in the Electronic Invoice Presentment and Payment marketplace. I was reviewing an Electronic Invoice Presentment and Payment (EIPP) application that had developed all these great tools for the AP clerk. It’s irritating. Why are we enabling an obsolete position?
Yes, everyone loved the elevator operator. And it was a pretty important position when elevators were operated by gears and levers, but does anyone really think that position is relevant today? Once the technology advanced to the point that anyone could operate it, the need for the elevator operator disappeared.
The fully automated EIPP solutions of today are like elevator buttons. Yes, you still need an administrator for the whole system the way you still need elevator technicians that make sure everything is working. However, there’s really no need to have an AP clerk looking at every invoice and clicking on the screen on behalf of the supplier and buyer who can click on the screen just as easily themselves. EIPP has gotten that simple.
Fully automated payables with EIPP enables the buyer and the supplier to complete the invoicing process without a payables clerk (assuming we’re excluding inferior solutions). With a fully automated EIPP solution, any of the processes you’ve taught your AP staff can be configured into your EIPP system. A fully automated EIPP solution knows your PO matching rules and tolerances, it knows your approval routing rules with exceptions and special processing, it knows how to re-route approvals based on vacation and proxy situations even better than your AP clerk knows.
And a fully automated EIPP solution doesn’t do anything on accident. It doesn’t mis-key an amount after everything’s approved. It doesn’t forget that the particular project code needed additional approvals. It doesn’t just bypass duplicate detection rules when it’s “pretty sure” it’s not a duplicate invoice. It can calculate dynamic discounts and offer them to qualified suppliers. It’s available 24/7 to give suppliers and buyers status of any invoice as well as a description of all matching activities and all approvals processed and pending.
Creating tools for the AP clerk is akin to manufacturing elevator chairs for the elevator operator to sit on. For the AP clerk, it’s really just insulting. If they’ve been around a while, chances are they can think of much more productive things to do than keying, stapling, and answering supplier inquiries. Automate the mundane tasks and let them work on contract audits. Move them to another department. Train them in asset management. Try them in other accounting positions.
Just make sure that if you’ve received mandates from your executive team to cut costs and eliminate waste, that they don’t show up and see an elevator operator sitting in a chair asking them “what floor?”
Tags: Accounts Payable Department, AP Clerk, AP Staff, Approval Routing, Dynamic Discount, e-invoicing, EIPP, Electronic invoice, Electronic Invoice Presentment and Payment, Electronic Invoicing, PO Matching