Bureaucracy is dead. Long live bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy is synonym to administrative burden, and yet, a long time ago bureaucracy was proposed as the perfect organizational structure. What happened and, more importantly, what does the future have in hold for bureaucracy?

10 mars 2017 | Blog

t hasn’t always been a vile word. It once was the perfect organizational structure, save from discrimination and hyper efficient. Despite its former glory, bureaucracy now leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths. They say society has gone too far. And yet, modern bureaucracy will usher in a new Golden Age.

Digital progress is still gathering momentum

Regardless the digital progress our society has made, much of the digital communication is still printed – among them invoices. Its commonplace in organizations that process thousands of invoices annually by hand to sometimes lose some of these invoice – even though they enter the organization by email.

The lost cases end up under a pile of paper and only resurface when a payment reminder hits the inbox. Or the invoice lies on the wrong desk, of someone who doesn’t know what to do with it and takes no action.

We blame bureaucracy that these procedures are interfering with our more important tasks. And yet we introduce more rules that ought to make sure that the procedures do work. But more control is not always the right answer of a procedure comes to a sudden halt.

Automated bureaucracy relieves, but only if it is utilized right

Enough reasons to stop invoicing by hand. The EU and European Commission agreed, when it published e-Invoicing Directive 2014/55/EU in 2014. A growing number of EU-members has now transposed this into national laws, effectively forcing all organizations to abide the new invoicing norm.

The key to a resounding success is robotics. Because the more us humans are relieved, the more we can focus on the tasks that are not obvious enough for robots.

There is no singular reason for this step forward. Yes, it saves the world’s trees from being cut down, but it also helps to make the entire invoice process faster, more efficient and insightful. A report published on the EC’s website predicts the benefits to top “€40 billion across Europe in the business field alone.”

It does depend on how the e-invoicing is utilized. The key to a resounding success is robotics. Because the more us humans are relieved, the more we can focus on the tasks that are not obvious enough for robots – like bringing in new customers and delivering bespoke service.

Once bureaucracy is moved to operate from behind the curtains, we, the people, will not feel as harassed anymore. Perhaps someday, the feeling we get when the word comes up in conversation will shift back to its former glory.

Right. So how to utilize it properly?

Processes are inherently repetitive. Naturally, every invoice is unique – other signees, workflows, and never the same PO number – but the principle of the invoice process stays the same: Anything that’s bought needs to get paid at one point.

By mapping all the different internal processes and, bound by rules, implement them in software, the process can be automated. Every invoice status is then archived, making it possible to find any invoice with a single click.

Albeit based on rules and regulations, but the level of complexity isn’t a challenge for the robot.

A first step towards efficient bureaucracy is to make computers do our work, or robots, that recognize text and independently initiate the right workflow. Albeit based on rules and regulations, but the level of complexity isn’t a challenge for the robot.

There are still plenty of questions unanswered

  • Who should give the approval?
  • Has the invoice already been paid?
  • How much budget is left after payment?

Paper is no comparison for digital when it comes to its informative nature. CTRL+F is not a function that exists in the analogue world. With the digital archive any question can be answered through a simple search, or a predefined dashboard that gives answers to the questions that haven’t even been asked yet.

Reports can instantly show how much budget is left this quarter. It takes into account the invoices that are yet to be paid, based on the approved purchase invoice. It is an example of the endless grab bag of handy information.

The end of administrative hassle is in sight

The fourth industrial revolution is coming. The age of internet connects us to an unprecedented era of automation and robotics. So, more bureaucracy – carried out by robots from behind the scenes – makes life easier and ensures that the focus of the company is back to selling products and services.

Never losing an invoice again and more bureaucracy – performed by robots so that we can keep ourselves busy with valuable things. That is the next Golden Age.

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