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We’ve Always Done It This Way, but the Time to Change
Can Be Now!

This way rotateWe commonly hear “we’ve always done it this way” when someone proposes a change. As a general rule, neither progress nor improvement can be achieved with this mindset.  There’s no denying that routine can feel comfortable and change can be tough, but we have to be open to change, especially when change means improvement.  Organizations know change is inevitable – they improve their products, their services, their facilities, to name a few – all the time to be more efficient and progressive. However, some of these same companies leave their back-office operations (accounts payable, for example) in the Dark Ages.

If your back-office processes are basically the same as they were when you first started your company, you likely cannot support the growth and improvements you’re striving to make.  When your back office is manual and paper-based, it is built on a house of cards. One that has likely been patched and bandaged throughout the years – a house that could crumble at any moment.  Where does that leave you? Potentially with a number of issues – missing invoices, duplicate payments, suppliers being paid late, to name just a few.

So why are companies reluctant to bringing their back-office operations into the 21st century? There could be a number of reasons – “those functions don’t directly impact our customers” or “they are not critical to growing the company,” or even “if it isn’t broken, why spend money to fix it?” But in a lot of cases it really comes down to change, or rather, resistance to change. Besides, who said, “It isn’t broken”? Look closely – if you can’t pay your invoices on time; if you have late fees and suppliers cutting you off (not because you don’t have the cash flow, but because invoices are sitting on people’s desks or in route somewhere); if you can’t find invoices you need to close an audit; if AP spends more than a quarter of its time researching and answering vendor inquiries about invoices and payments when it could be doing something that would bring the company value, then yes, the process is most likely broken.

Consider for a moment that you are a manufacturing company that has been in business for 40 years. If you have thrived through the years, it is unlikely that you offer the same exact product you did 40 years ago or make it in the same way or offer it at the same price. Over the years, you have enhanced your product offerings. You’ve probably updated the facilities where they are produced – maybe they are now equipped with state-of-the-art technology – and your customers continue to buy from you because you’ve “kept up” with evolving customer requirements. We all know examples of companies that didn’t.  Where would your company be today if you did things the exact same way you did 40 years ago – never changing your product, production process, your systems and your plants? In many cases, your company would be out of business.

But your back-office systems look like something from the 1970s because they are.  They work the same as when you first opened your doors. It’s no longer good enough to say, “This is the way we have always done it.”  If you are honest, you will realize that status quo is not necessarily working any longer. These departments are critical to running your business, and there are excellent tools that will help them run more efficiently.

Additionally, many companies have sustainability and environmental initiatives – ones that are very important to their company and their customers, and yet they are still producing and processing unnecessary paper because they’ve “always done it that way.”

Although your AP may still be an old-fashioned department stuck in the 70s, it doesn’t have to be. You can make it state of the art, just like the other parts of your business. Perhaps you start by automating your vendor payments, then automating your accounts payable process with electronic invoicing and workflow that is integrated with your ERP, and allowing suppliers to be part of a portal that will answer all their invoice and payment questions. Now you have a state-of-the-art back office – a real audit trail and impactful efficiencies.  And in the process you will likely improve your supplier relationships, be able to take greater advantage of early-pay discounts, help ensure pricing compliance, help improve your payables visibility and more accurately forecast.  In the end, it will likely cost you considerably less to run AP, process invoices and pay your vendors!

When change means improvement, it shouldn’t be feared, it should be embraced!  Once you’ve automated these departments you will likely never go back – in fact, you’ll probably have a hard time imagining how you ever managed all that paper! Your AP employees will likely be more engaged as well – they’ll spend little to virtually no time manual entering in data, going through file cabinets searching for old invoices, or researching vendor inquiries. Instead, they’ll be part of the evolution so your back office is as up to date as the rest of your business!  You’ll wonder, why did we do it that way for so long?!

Just remember that change is inevitable, and when you get out in front of it, you’ll likely never look back.




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