Last winter, I began down a fascinating path. Like many interesting things in life, we start along a pathway before we even realize we are on one. Has this happened to you? For me, this was the journey towards design thinking. I had been hearing about the concept for some time, but had never tried it myself.
I have worked in Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, and Treasury for many years. I am aware that, from the outside, Accounts Payable may not appear to be the most glamorous function. Each year as we plan the annual ASUG conference, I am always on the lookout for where Accounts Payable is going. Not pie in the sky fantasies, but what is really starting to move the needle. We are in an exciting time, where new technologies are steadily changing the game in many areas. We’ve been through evolutions from the first Optical Character Recognition technologies automating part of invoice entry through new Shared Services models. The only constant drumbeat is change, despite the perception from the outside.
With my point of contact from SAP, we created a session to address the volley of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Using design thinking methods, we facilitated a session called The Accounts Payable Department of the Future. In full disclosure, I am not a design thinking expert. I repeat I’m NOT an expert. My role in this endeavor is to be the Accounts Payable muscle, or AP Subject Matter Expert. If you are not familiar with design thinking, click here for some background.
We took the traditional conference presentation approach and turned it on its head. Instead of telling what was possible, we facilitated what we, as customers, think is happening (or should be). Essentially, we wanted to crowdsource the ideas and have the audience build upon one another’s suggestions. But it wasn’t about us, the session was about you – what do you need next and how do you think the world will change? The scenario we posed to the audience was “Imagine a day in the life of an Accounts Payable Accountant five years from now using Machine Learning and Digital Assistants.”
I held my breath hoping it would be of interest. We had over 50 people participate in our four breakout groups. We received incredible feedback during the session. I knew we hit the mark when someone found me at the conference a day later and added to the ideas she gave in that conference! One of the most fascinating things about the session was the amalgamation of different people, backgrounds, and understandings. Watching everyone’s experiences come to life was incredible. We captured all the information and presented to a user group from a major partner in the AP space.
What has happened since has astounded me. I guess we hit a nerve, because it has been well-received. Further, a second partner has asked it to be presented at their user conference. I could keep going, but you get the general idea.
It has been a delightfully interesting expedition. So, I ask you, what one step should you be taking that might lead you down a new path? What are you waiting for?