Accounts payable automation software and the elephant in the room

As technology continues to evolve and disrupt established business process models, the growing trend for enterprises adopting accounts payable automation software poses a question:

“What is the fate of the accounts payable (AP) team?”

Should AP team members be reassigned to take on new responsibilities? Or (and we have to talk about the elephant in the room here) are they let go and made redundant?

Some might think it’s a can of worms that’s easier to leave unopened than deal with head on. However, that’s not a long term option, as the business advantages of accounts payable automation software are compelling. It’s simply impossible to keep wishing it will go away as a ‘strategy’ for dealing with the issue.

Since the end of 2022, a growing awareness of ChatGPT and similar competing generative AI platforms has fuelled a much wider global conversation about the future value of human workers. The general consensus seems to be that AI will change the job market. To summarise it in a nutshell:

Many jobs are likely to change. Some existing jobs will disappear. Some new jobs will be created.

Although not as sophisticated as generative AI technologies, accounts payable automation software and the potential for a reduction in the number of people required to perform invoice matching certainly need to be part of that dialogue.

Once an enterprise AP department adopts accounts payable automation software, it frees up a significant amount of time and resources. It’s great, because hitherto unexperienced levels of efficiency transform performance, enabling the AP function to deliver a competitive advantage.

The dilemma for AP managers

One of the clearest pros of letting go of members of the AP team that are surplus to requirements is that it reduces fixed costs such as salaries and benefits.

There are, of course, also some clear cons to slimming down the AP team after the deployment of accounts payable automation software, including:

  • Morale problems – slimming down the AP team is likely to impact morale among remaining team members. They may feel overworked and stressed, and they may worry about their own job security.
  • Loss of institutional knowledge – when experienced AP staff members are laid off, the company loses valuable institutional knowledge. This can make it difficult for the AP department to function effectively in the future.
  • Increased workload – if the AP team is too small, it may not be able to keep up with the remaining workload. This might lead to a recurrence of some of the problems that the deployment of accounts payable automation software sought to address.

For many, the advantages of re-tasking at least some of the AP team is likely to seem a much more sensible option.

Re-tasking the AP team to deliver greater value to the enterprise

As well as avoiding the negative effects outlined above, AP team members could be re-tasked to perform value-added tasks such as:

  • Vendor management – AP team members are likely to have acquired knowledge about vendors, including their payment terms, history of on-time payments, and any potential risks. This knowledge can be invaluable to an enterprise in managing its vendor relationships and ensuring that it is getting the best possible terms from its suppliers.
  • Fraud prevention – AP team members are often the first line of defence against fraud. They are responsible for reviewing invoices for accuracy and suspicious activity. By re-tasking AP team members to focus on fraud prevention, an enterprise can improve its ability to protect itself from invoice fraud.
  • Compliance – AP team members must ensure that the company is in compliance with all applicable regulations. This can be a complex and time-consuming task. By redeploying AP team members to focus on optimising compliance, an enterprise helps ensure that it is meeting its legal obligations.
  • Data analysis – AP team members could be re-tasked to analyse data concerning the company’s spending habits. This data can be used to identify trends, make better financial decisions, and improve the company’s bottom line. By allowing AP team members to focus on data analysis, an enterprise is able to extract more value out of its data in this form of business intelligence.
  • Process improvement – AP team members have a unique perspective on an enterprise’s accounts payable process. They can identify areas where the process can be improved, such as reducing the number of steps involved or the further automation of manual tasks. By re-tasking AP team members to focus on process improvement, an enterprise can make its accounts payable process more efficient and cost-effective.

A realistic, grown up conversation about AP automation and its outcomes

Any AP manager who is considering adopting accounts payable automation software is very likely going to need to have realistic, grown up conversations about headcount and re-tasking with C-level finance leaders, peers and the AP team.

When faced with considering whether to slim down an AP team or to retain and re-task team members, all the factors need to be weighed carefully. While all stakeholder outcomes need to be taken into account, ultimately, the right decision is the one that fully takes into account the best interests of the enterprise.

To see how APMatching accounts payable automation software transforms invoice processing, take a personalised demo with one of our representatives, and we’ll show you how the software eliminates the tedious, time-consuming manual invoice matching and processing that is widely practised.

If you like what you see, we’ll give you full support so that you can more fully evaluate APMatching with a Proof of Concept (PoC), demonstrating how effective it is using your own data.