Editor’s Note: Today’s article is a sneak peek into the findings from Ardent Partners’ latest AP research report, “ePayables 2016: Eyes on Prize,” available for download here. Throughout June and July, CPO Rising will feature several articles highlighting key discussion points from the new report.

The business world is changing. New technologies and dynamic challenges have forced enterprise leaders to develop new solutions and apply enhanced skillsets to critical new issues. As a result, it is incumbent on every internal department to consider if they possess the right mix of skills to succeed in this fresh paradigm.

For traditional back-office functions like accounts payable (“AP”), this transformative shift can result in significant concerns about future viability and overall effectiveness. Many AP teams have remained content, since the early 2000s, to emphasize tactical excellence and drive value through mere process efficiencies. That particular pathway is fast disappearing in the modern marketplace and, in fact, 76% of enterprises surveyed in Ardent Partners’ new ePayables 2016: Eyes on the Prize study (click here to download) stated that they expect the skills required for AP to change within the next two-to-three years.

Ardent Partners has developed the AP Competency Matrix, a collection of skills, outlined in the ePayables 2016 report (click here to download), which the AP function will need to remain successful in the decade ahead, as well as increase its true strategic value to the enterprise through deeper involvement in cash management strategies and becoming a “hub” of financial and operational intelligence. These skills include “hard” technical skills alongside “soft” interpersonal skills—both categories of which will be vital for the decade ahead. The hard skills, which can be gained through technical training, will be important to allowing AP to derive intelligence from its financial and operational data, while soft skills will ensure the AP team can communicate and collaborate with internal and external stakeholders.

Although AP teams will not require all of the skills outlined in the ePayables 2016 study (click here to download) to succeed in the shifting business environment, it is incumbent on accounts payable leaders to determine the function’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as how closely their skillset aligns to greater enterprise objectives. AP leaders must then develop a plan to improve the team’s command of skills deemed vital to higher-level goals.

This skills-development plan can include a variety of pathways, such as in-person seminars held at conferences or courses at local universities, as well as on-demand digital training offered through professional organizations. AP teams that lack technical skills would do well to consider on-demand recorded training as a cost-effective option, or even continuing education courses—which are often significantly less expensive than pursuing a formal degree. The same can be said for soft interpersonal skills, which can also be acquired through on-site seminars and training courses that are available for online purchase. Not every AP team member will require training in all skills, and AP leaders should consider the strengths and weaknesses of their staff as well as what skills the department needs for the future.

The modern business environment is a confluence of factors that make it ill-advised for AP teams to emphasize tactical excellence and remain relevant to the wider enterprise. Examining the AP Competency Matrix in Ardent Partners’ ePayables 2016 report (click here to download) and using that framework to determine department strengths and weaknesses can offer AP leaders the chance to build a long-term plan to ensure that their department can remain successful in the future. It is only through working to ensure that the AP team possesses all the skills required for the decade ahead that the function will be valuable both now and in the future.


Upcoming Webinar: ePayables 2016: Eyes on the Prize

ePayables 2016: AP’s Perception Problem

The Accounts Payable Team Needs to Keep Its “Eyes on the Prize” (New Report)

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