Silence – Accounts Payable at Work
The first step most companies take in joining The Networked Economy is automating their procurement and finance processes and as we start the 2013 Formula 1 season I am drawn to something I saw many years ago that has great parallels to a recent visit to a company’s F&A shared service centre.
The memory in question was in the Formula 1 pits back in the late 90s where a car was having its front section replaced after a rather aggressive meeting with a tyre wall in Saturday qualifying. Back then this was a lengthy task which had the journalists all excited about the possibility of whether the car would be ready for the race and how the driver would be able to cope with starting from the back of the grid. It was clear the engineers would have to work late into the night and as I watched them work I noticed something which has stayed with me to this day; silence. Four professionals all collaborating on a very complex task with not a word spoken between them. The process they were undertaking was well documented, rehearsed and optimised to the point where anything that could have saved time was engineered into the car many moons ago.
The human element had been boiled down to its necessities – even if those necessities would take all night.
Fast forward a few years and I find myself on a tour of an F&A shared service centre, looking at a real-life incarnation of what was considered a world-class operation of the type we read about in analyst reports and industry publications.
As I was guided around, the room was buzzing with activity:
- Scanners whirring into life
- Phones ringing
- Keyboards tapping
- That familiar smell of overworked computers and scanning equipment hung in the air
Our guide, the Accounts Payable Manager, showed us each step in the process and with a very British half-joking, half-serious comment reminded us that it was month-end closing and many of the team had put in a few hours over the weekend – read: this tour was not her idea and she had better things to do with her time!
Shift forward to last year and I had the fortune to visit the same shared service centre where I was met with a wholly different experience. The Accounts Payable Manager, now P2P Process Director, was sitting in her office finishing up a meeting with the Head of Procurement.
- Gone were the scanners
- The phones were not ringing
- Typing was at an almost Zen-like rhythm
- Silence had descended on this once-frantic operation
I was instantly reminded of the F1 pits.
Just like the F1 team, engineers (this time software ones as opposed to mechanical ones) had looked at the process and, where software could assist, had streamlined it—the human element of accounts payable was at its leanest. The Networked Economy to this shared service centre represented real- time supply chain collaboration for the complete procure-to-pay process. It allowed them to maintain their world-class status while shifting both accounts payable and procurement to strategic, proactive operations.
So come join the Networked Economy; reduce your invoice exceptions, switch off the phones and silence the scanners.