Over the past 14 years, I’ve had the good fortune to be part of many business-process-improvement initiatives related to Spend Management. It’s been my experience that often, at first, the Accounts Payable managers are concerned about the impact on their department and can even be reluctant to pursue Accounts Payable automation altogether. I’m not sure if it’s the specter of the way robotics once replaced countless skilled workers in Detroit or the common notion that one day we will all be replaced by machines. It just seems like AP managers are often concerned about losing headcount and control over processes that they have owned for many years.

In seeing many Accounts Payable automation projects from inception to successful completion, I’ve consistently observed how these initiatives allow the Accounts Payable team to play an even more strategic role in the organization and not lose headcount. Let’s take a look at both expense report automation and AP invoice automation to see what I mean.

In a manual expense reporting environment, AP needs to audit 100% of all expenses at the line-item level to determine if they are compliant with company policy, and they need to manage a stack of paper receipts. At the end of the business process, someone in AP typically keys the expenses into the financial system for posting and payment. In the world of automated expense reporting, a business rules engine can monitor compliance and flag those expenses with compliance issues, so that AP only needs to review items that have known issues (rather than looking at every item). Receipts are viewed and stored as digital images—gone are the days of dealing with paper. After final approval, expenses can be exported to the financial system for consumption through an AP import routine. Bye-bye, keystrokes!

In a manual AP invoice process, the problems are even larger. Invoices typically come in as paper and are handled by the mail room and Accounts Payable. Invoices need to be opened, keyed in and manually routed for approval. Again, the same need exists to examine every line item manually for compliance, and there is paper shuffling throughout the organization. Now apply AP invoice management software: Invoices are scanned and data is captured as part of the automation service. Invoices are routed electronically for approval, and compliance is managed by the same rules engine used for expense reports. And, as in automated expense reporting, fully approved invoices can be exported to the financial system rather than keyed in. Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow, where I cover how all of this makes Accounts Payable more strategic.


Our choice of Chrome River EXPENSE was made in part due to the very user-friendly interface, easy configurability, and the clear commitment to impactful customer service – all aspects in which Chrome River was the clear winner. While Chrome River is not as large as some of the other vendors we considered, we found that to be a benefit and our due diligence showed that it could support us as well as any large players in the space, along with a personalized level of customer care. Sally Abella, Director of Corporate Travel Harman International
We are excited to be able to enforce much more stringent compliance to our expense guidelines and significantly enhance our expense reporting and analytics. By automating these processes, we will be able to free up AP time formerly spent on manual administrative tasks, and enhance the role by being much more strategic. Ben Zastrow Zelle