Will 2019 finally be the year in which the key stakeholders within your organization happily, or at least willingly, support Commercial Cards? For some, accounts payable (AP) is the biggest holdout, but, as we all know, their stance on card solutions can make or break a program. This is especially true for organizations wanting to implement or expand an electronic accounts payable (EAP) option like Virtual Cards, which AP typically manages. A common tactic by a stubborn AP manager is to say the ERP system cannot accommodate such payments. Then no one questions them because AP is viewed as the expert in this arena. To reopen the discussion and start making progress, following are insights from an AP veteran and a four-step approach to try in an effort to get through to AP.
AP’s Attitude Affects Everyone
Sometimes even senior management backs down from AP, but this can be the worst outcome for everyone. Accounts payable expert Mary Schaeffer, AP Now, shares, “When I hear someone say that they are going to wait until so-and-so retires before moving forward with a new project it saddens me. Usually it is because the person in question is either difficult to deal with or completely resistant to change. This is not a good situation either for them or for their organization. The reasons it’s not good for the organization are obvious. It gets left behind, less competitive, and doesn’t progress as much as its competitors.”
Mary continues, “The employee in question is also putting themselves in jeopardy. The business world, including the accounting and accounts payable space, is evolving rapidly. The contrary employee is serving as a roadblock to progress, usually coasting for a few years until they can retire. Plain and simple, they may not get those few years. Management may decide their position is no longer needed and they will definitely be at the top of the list for any headcount reduction initiatives. Personally, they’ve missed a great opportunity to try something new and enjoy their last few years of working.”
Organizations may also be experiencing a conflict between AP and the procurement department regarding card payments. In response to an AP Now industry survey, Internal Controls in AP, one AP manager for a large company commented, “P-cards pose problems with duplicate payments. Coming from an AP standpoint, they are disliked, however our Supply Chain seems to love them…” As disheartened as I was to read this (I’m the lead researcher for the survey project in progress), it represents an opportunity.
Getting Through to AP
Recognize AP as an important part of the card program and initiate a respectful—versus confrontational—discussion. To prevent AP from feeling ganged up on, consider a one-on-one meeting to open the door to better communication.
Recap the benefits of Commercial Cards and the organization’s related goals. Encourage questions to ensure AP has an understanding. Sometimes resistance to cards is rooted in a lack of knowledge.
Find common ground; for example, supporting internal goals, making AP’s job easier, etc.
Ask AP about their concerns and challenges. Step through the related processes together to identify the facts. Invite them to brainstorm with you on possible solutions. Everyone wants to feel valued and heard.
If they cite duplicate payments as a problem, determine the extent of the issue, the control gaps that allow it to happen, and how to resolve it.
If their challenge pertains to reconciliation, maybe they are making the process harder than it has to be. Inquire about the pain points and share ideas for process improvement that would still retain satisfactory controls.
If they view the ERP/accounting system as a roadblock to Virtual Cards, involve the system vendor. There might be functionality that AP is not aware of.
As with most problems, productively working together can lead to positive results. AP’s support of the card program can be a game changer—for them and the organization.
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About the Author
Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With 20 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more…