Discovering AP Workflow

By James R. Clawson posted 02-07-2012 12:17


We are back now to the wonderful world of invoice management and workflow

 Just a quick recap on the why we do it:

  • Enforce best practices and procedures
  • Accelerate process cycle times by automating repetitive tasks
  • Change business rules and logic without requiring IT resources
  • Ensure accurate data entry or document creation
  • Manage and monitor personnel and operations performance

 I like to think of invoice management and workflow a bit like driving.  The rules of the road are well defined and everyone operates, the workflow that is, operates according to these rules.  Do you recall what it was like driving when the power goes off?  The street lights are out so, in general, it is much darker than normal.  The stop lights are also out, hopefully blinking red but not working as normal. You get to a big intersection with multiple turning lanes and it is just a bit confusing on whose turn it is.  Take this a bit further for those of you who have driven in a third world country and the confusion can go up ten-fold.  (Horns essentially replace brakes.  The biggest vehicle has the right of way.) 

 Without this established workflow, things don’t move as smoothly or as quickly.

 Ok, but will just any workflow do?  I say the answer is no.

 We have all seen or been conscripted to participate in those processes in invoice document management which just don’t make any sense.  They seem to take way too long, involve a plethora of paperwork and bureaucracy and at the end of the day may or may not even accomplish what it was that we needed done.  We walk away from our current invoice management activities thinking that there just has to be a better way.  (Remember the process and the paperwork associated with your mortgage?)

 Now would it make sense to automate a poor process into your new workflow?  Obviously not but all too often this is what occurs.  Taking a sub-par or bad process and implementing an automated workflow based on it will essentially just produce the same bad results and more of them.  You may ask why more bad results?  The reason is that by now enforcing the sub-par or bad process, the alternate paths that people had been using to actually get things done could now be closed forcing them back into the process they had been working around, resulting in more issues.    

 The point is to review any process that you are going to implement into your imaging and invoice workflow.   Eliminate the steps that were put in 10 years ago that make no sense today.  Review accounts payable workflow best practices to improve upon what you are currently doing.  Reject the idea “We’ve always done it that way” and embrace “If it ain’t broke, improve it.”  Make it ‘Better, Faster, Smarter’.

Something great happened a few months ago.  My garage flooded.  You may think I sound a bit crazy but it provided me the needed impetus to revisit my garage organization paradigm.  I took the opportunity to completely redo how everything was organized and I can honestly say I am much happier as a result.     

At the end of the day, we all have areas, such as invoice approval workflow, which need some process redesign and are currently causing us pain (i.e. my garage) and we know the benefits but we put it off.  Take the opportunity of setting up workflow to review and change things for the better.  At the end of the day we all want a solution which puts us more in control of our jobs, makes our lives easier and helps make our organization, our bosses and ourselves look good. 

This post was written by Robert Ripley who is Chief Operations Officer at iPayables with experience in IT Integration,  business process design and AP Automation with Fortune 500 companies at both Accenture and iPayables.  Learn more about iPayables at

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