The Accounts Payable Association has over 41,000 members and offers six certification courses. Set up to spread the word on how Accounts Payable is vital to businesses, which can’t function without the efficient payment of bills on time, the Association has many common touchpoints with the interests of the global DM community. We sat down with its CEO and Founder, Jamie Radford, to find out more
thedmcollaborators So what is The Accounts Payable Association’s mission, Jamie?
Jamie Radford We’re a predominantly a UK-based organisation, with a couple of hundred members, and have grown organically over the last six years. We’ve now moved into a global arena, looking after all the interests of global accounts payable and procure-to-pay professionals. We offer a community where professionals can access industry information, certification, programmes, and industry events.
thedmcollaborators What would you say are the main challenges when it comes to managing invoices?
Jamie Radford We carry out extensive market research and tracking of member concerns and what our members tells us is that some of the greatest challenges are volume, complexity, and clarity – which is to say, the volume of invoices they receive, the complexity of their internal processes and the quality of the invoice coming in. What’s interesting is that it doesn’t matter if you’re you’re a UK, European, or global AP team, these three issues keep cropping up.
These issues are also being exacerbated by things like GDPR and changes in payment regulations, which adds to the complexity around invoice processing. The bottom line is that AP leaders have to keep adapting their processes and training, as well as communicate their changing requirements back to the supply chain.
thedmcollaborators What is the role of technology in this picture?
Jamie Radford Technology plays a big part as it principally allows individuals and organisations alike to handle more volume, and it also helps with the reduction or highlighting of errors. So it not only allows you to manage more transactions, but it can also help in preventative maintenance – looking at where errors might be avoided and potential fraudulent activity identified.
Technology is a huge asset but its effectiveness depends on how the software is set up, framed, and implemented. A technology platform cannot be expecting to solve all your issues. Firms need to plan carefully, and make sure their staff are properly trained, and that everybody is involved in any integration and rollout projects.
thedmcollaborators Would you say that Accounts Payable technology is just something for large corporates, or is it something that smaller organisations should be looking at investing in as well?
Jamie Radford It tended to be larger enterprises, because the return on investment for automation, or solution-based technologies, is fairly long. What we’re finding is that a lot of our members are smaller businesses, looking to improve their processes and stay in touch with cutting edge technologies. The drivers are not necessarily linked with reduction in head counts, but are more aimed at improvements in the efficiency of processes.
thedmcollaborators What sort of cutting-edge automation technology are your members investigating?
Jamie Radford There’s a lot of discussion around Artificial Intelligence and robotics. At our next annual member event in October there’s a lot of related discussion on the agenda and we are as a community discussing what’s going to happen and what does the future hold in terms of roles, responsibilities, for individuals and brands.
thedmcollaborators What may the Accounts Payable function will look like 5, 10 years out? This is the AI question again, perhaps?
Jamie Radford We genuinely feel there are some exciting times for the world of accounts payable and procure-to-pay, mainly focused on technology to assist in people’s roles generically and in upskilling. I can see purchase ledger clerk and AP clerk roles evolving into more AP analytical roles, with a lot more AP analysts. Areas such as reporting, preventative reporting, will become more important. Then there are areas such as new payment methodologies, blockchain, that are coming down the road.
As a result, I would advise AP professionals to learn about these new technologies now. We need to stay up with or even be ahead of the curve when it comes to technology.
thedmcollaborators How could vendors help?
Jamie Radford I think the days of selling one type of technology platform that does ‘everything’ are over. Vendors need to listen to what the audience requires – what our members’ issues are and what’s at the heart of those issues.
thedmcollaborators That sounds like a message well worth spreading! Thanks so much for your time today, Jamie.
thedmcollaborators was speaking with Jamie Radford, Founder and CEO of The Accounts Payable Association. A qualified Chartered Procurement specialist and Member of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply, Jamie Radford has over 25 years’ experience in corporate finance functions.
The Accounts Payable Association represents the global interests of professionals working in the AP industry and is committed to the professional advancement of individuals within the Accounts Payable discipline and closely related financial roles.
The issues discussed here are from an EASY whitepaper, ‘Streamlining Accounts Payable’, available here