Reap the benefits of P2P automation in SAP and create opportunities for your workforce
The news is full of stories about automation solutions taking jobs away from humans. The topic I rarely see, unfortunately, is if automation is good for anything besides saving a buck.
The truth is, it can be a bit challenging to visualize exactly where and how automation solutions can help streamline the procure-to-pay (P2P) process. This gifographic does a good job of illustrating the prime intersection points for automation and manual work across P2P. Three key areas stand out where automation has the potential to net the most sizeable efficiency gains:
- Matching and processing orders accurately in real time
- Catching and solving discrepancies
- Receiving invoices in any format
Procure-to-pay departments that have no automation associated with the three areas above rely on workers to do the manual sorting, routing and data entry. Just imagine the costly workforce required to maintain such inherently inefficient and error-prone tasks.
The bottom line isn’t the big picture
So it’s easy to see how automating P2P processes might become solely about the bottom line. Streamlined operations results in lower costs, which results in a more profitable business, right?
The problem is this assumption is lacking in a couple of areas:
People power the growth of a business
A recent article from CFO.com discusses a Hackett Group report on the plans of CFOs to reduce spend in 2017. The article quotes the Hackett report: “Cost cuts alone will not help finance deliver on enterprise goals,” Hackett cautions. “Nor will they foster innovation, attract new customers, or help deliver fresh insights.”
This quote cuts to the heart of the problem. Software can help to streamline business processes and create opportunities to work more efficiently. But it can’t replace the value of human dedication and brainpower. Enterprises need people to fuel strategies and fresh ideas that power business growth.
Efficiency has many forms (other than just cost-savings)
Not all automation results in tangible cost savings. Efficiency can present itself in the form of strategic decision-making and control. Let me give you an example: if you could automate 90% of data entry processes, sure you could benefit from immediate efficiency gains in your front-end process. But what about if you automate 20% of an approval flow? Automation has introduced a critical component to more strategic processing: time. How can you steer your team to harness that new efficiency gain? When you start automating processes, consider your vision for your existing employees and how it aligns with organizational goals. If you’re going to be freeing up their time, have you started conversations with them about their career goals? Have you engaged other business areas in discussions about their workforce needs? Are there promotions planned in other departments that are going to leave roles to fill? Or will they use their free time to pursue a key innovation goal for the department? Automation solutions will give you back the time, but it is up to you to come up with a plan on how to use it.
Understanding Automation Technology Is Key to Understanding Workforce Needs and Evaluating Skills
We recently produced an e-book that focuses on providing a high-level understanding of the more technical aspects of P2P automation in SAP. It covers capture technology, workflow and, a particularly hot topic for financial automation that generated a lot of buzz at the recent SAP Financials conference, robotic process automation.
It also explains the key opportunities for P2P automation in SAP in more detail than the gifographic shared here . And it’s important to point out that some of the benefits of P2P automation are directed at making user experience more intuitive for workers and providing better analytics that give staff members and stakeholders business-critical insights. This is the bleeding edge of automation – where it empowers knowledge workers in decision making, rather than replicating simple tasks so they can take on more strategic roles within your finance organization.
As the conversation in the media around automation continues, my hope is that more people will begin to discuss how software and robotics will work to enhance knowledge worker roles. Like any tool, automation works to enhance the capabilities of human workers, and we’ve consistently seen how these tools can benefit all workers, transforming more than just standard, data entry type jobs. Make sure any automation strategy you pursue includes a plan to capitalize on the most valuable assets you’re saving – your employee’s time and attention.