It seems that the Internet of Things is finally becoming a reality. What is even more exciting, as Tim O’Reilly suggested in his recent Forbes article, is that more powerful applications can be conceived when we expand our thinking to the Internet of Things and Humans, and not just Things.
So what does this have to do with the procure-to-pay world?
For Procure-to-Pay applications to keep pace with where “Things” are heading, we need to ask the same question O’Reilly poses: how do we make it possible to fundamentally change the entire experience and workflow of a job we do?
In referencing Aaron Levie’s Tweet about Uber in which Levie made the statement that “Uber is a $3.5 billion lesson in building for how the world *should* work instead of optimizing for how the world *does* work,” O’Reilly provides some direction that can be applied in the P2P world?
For example, the scanning and capture of paper invoices is an application built for how the world works today, as are the workflow applications that route invoices from one person to another for approval.
Conversely, and in line with Levie’s “Uber” view, automated, touch-less approval of electronic invoices is how the world should work.
This latter example speaks directly to the point that with the Internet of Things and Humans, we should preserve the genius of Humans to focus on where it’s really needed: strategic thinking, process design, and management by exception. The day-to-day is better left for “Things”: an invoice comes in, automatically validated against internal rules and external data sources (e.g. tax rates), reconciled to the ERP system of record, and approved for payment. When Humans do a good job designing the processes and system to support them, over 90% of the invoices can be handled by Things without any Human touch.
Yes, you may need to scan paper invoices to accelerate your transition to automated processing. And you may need a workflow application to deal with the few exceptions Things could not handle. But viewing scan and capture or workflow applications as an end-state solution is getting stuck in the past rather than moving to the new world, where smarter work processes are designed to take advantage of new technologies rather than succumb to the weight of legacy.