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Why Some Accounts Payable Specialists Are Hesitant Towards Automation

By Sarah Dell’Aringa

We’ve examined the many ways that accounts payable departments are evolving in the modern technological workplace. Throughout all of the changes that are shaping our companies, finance professionals are still adamant and resistant to some of these new approaches. While we previously covered the many positive effects of automation, this time we will analyze what specifically may make financial professionals hesitant to move forward, as well as how to take steps towards overcoming these worries and reassuring AP employees everywhere.

Recognizing Change is Required in the Workplace

First and foremost, it is important to recognize that changes in the workplace – especially ones that pertain to your personal position and your typical nine to five – can obviously be alarming at first. While there is no immediate or actual cause for concern, when faced with uncertainty it is only common to experience anxiety still hoping that our work and our jobs are deemed valuable and necessary, no matter what tasks we are performing. Beginning with those tasks, a large concern from apprehensive AP and finance employees alike is that if things are functioning well the way they’ve always been operated, then why change? While rejecting the concept of deviating from old habits can be an understandable excuse, we must recognize that change is inevitable – especially within the workplace and finance departments – so this question is a bit senseless. Information is always going to be delivered and processed using different and alternating methods, so while some employees are taking the financial aspect of automation well, an effort to accept all of the other areas of automation must also be made. It is also important to question that while day-to-day functions may be successful in the office, are workers still as successful operating from home? Automation can alleviate much of the stress finance employees may have while being forced into this new remote reality, and as functions continue to progress and evolve. 

Frequent Oppositions Finance Workers Make Towards Automation

Let’s break down two more main aspects of automation that cause apprehension from staff. A common concern with many seasoned employees in varying different positions is that many wonder if we can truly trust the technology. It can feel very secure manually putting in data yourself, and some feel that they can only trust what they can control with their own two hands; yet when considering this more in-depth, nothing about that seems more trustworthy than flawless technology. There is a hint of truth in saying that software can sometimes still contain errors, but those errors are so much rarer than the amount made daily by staff manually handling a massive amount of data; a simple slip of the hand or the eye could lead to a critical mistake. Simply put, it is easier to understand and accept the very scarce mistakes made by automation than the much larger amount made by manual processes. Computers and software are made to handle data and information so much better than we are, so while we continue to do our jobs, we should let them do theirs as well. 

Another concern is one we covered previously regarding the false notion that automation will cut jobs within AP. During the COVID-19 crisis, there are many employees fumbling to keep their jobs in any way they can, even if that means fighting off helpful, new approaches. Though once again, automation does not get rid of accounts payable positions, but rather helps current workers increase their productivity immensely and focus more on internal projects that can propel their companies forward. Still, it is important to recognize this fear and be able to address it knowledgeably if you discover workers within your department experiencing uneasiness and unrest over this inaccurate statement. While we may have access to the information ourselves, it is important to share with others that their jobs are safe and can truly be altered for the better once they accept the changes that are imminent. Automation was never introduced to eliminate jobs, but to improve them for years to come.

Benefits From Automation are What Financial Professionals Should be Focusing On

Most likely, when it comes to automation, reiterating how the pros vastly outweigh the cons could be all that finance professionals need to understand that their fears are not backed up by facts or evidence. Automation opens mailed invoices, conducts detailed searches for matching receipts, routinely locates the correct coding for said invoices, and has been proven to minimize common errors such as fraudulent payments, misplaced or duplicated invoices, and incorrect data entry. Your information is stored safely in a cloud-based system and is done so quickly, correctly, and efficiently – taking the time to consider how much you can achieve without having to perform these repetitive tasks will eradicate any worries about change. Once again, anxious thoughts surrounding uncertainty are completely understandable. Yet changes do not mean that your job is about to be completely taken over by a computer; automation simply will provide you with a streamlined invoice process, new financial opportunities, and greatly reduce compliance risks for your company. As finance workers, your biggest concern should be the success of your company, as well as your department, and being resistant to new opportunities is extremely counterproductive. It is vital to remain open-minded when taking into account the best interest for your company.

Moving Forward Alongside Automation by Encouraging Employees

Overall, reassuring your staff that automation is an ally and a tool that will propel their careers forward – not something to resist – is the main component to overcoming reluctance aimed at technological advancements. Giving AP and finance workers the general picture of how things will change for them, as well as laying out the specifics regarding budget, invoice processes, and daily tasks is of the utmost importance. Communication between higher-ups and their staff is essential when running any business, but even more so when progress and high-tech development is swiftly on the way. Hopefully this blog has been informative, and either way, do not hesitate to reach out to an oAppsNET Partners consultant for all of your questions and concerns regarding automation and the future of accounts payable. 

September 9, 2020