PredictAP Blog

Tribal Knowledge Management in AP: How to Dismantle Silos

Every organization, every team develops tribal knowledge—deep institutional expertise specific to their daily work. It helps things get done faster, and more efficiently, and is extremely valuable despite not being transferable. For real estate businesses today, tribal knowledge management remains a key ingredient for operational efficiency.

Tribal knowledge grows over time, particularly in a field like real estate accounts payable and property management, where team members become experts on how distinct properties, tenants, and vendor relationships translate to coding invoices and paying bills.

You can probably picture a veteran member of your AP team who knows exactly how to code every invoice, remembers which vendors submit when, and has the niche answer to every question raised by junior staff or upper management.  

Now imagine this employee is out sick for several weeks, or even worse, leaves your organization for a new position. Would vendors be paid on time? Would tenant issues be resolved in a timely manner? What happens to your AP department’s efficiency when the deep, organization-specific knowledge your AP all-star holds walks out the door with them?

What's the true cost of tribal knowledge silos?

Consider the productivity and efficiency costs when a new hire must spend 2-3 times longer coding an invoice than your AP all-star. If your AP pro can code an invoice in, on average, three minutes, it might take a new hire without deep tribal knowledge 6-9 minutes to complete the same task. Over time, a day's work for your AP pro could easily take a new hire an entire week to complete. Wasted resources mount when you imagine a higher salary worker picking up the slack for an AP pro who has moved on to another position. 

Hiring challenges brought on by Great Resignation labor shortages mean that AP turnover is a costly risk for real estate professionals today. In fact, new research suggests that at least 36% of AP pros are actively searching for a new job. 

With so many AP pros on the job hunt, real estate leaders need to recognize the cost of losing the tribal knowledge held in tight silos. Following senior AP staff turnover, too often businesses are left with two bad choices to compensate for lost tribal knowledge:

AP tasks are either sent up the finance chain of command to higher salary accounting team members to compensate for lost tribal knowledge, or new AP hires muddle through weeks reduced AP efficiency as mistakes are returned to tenants and vendors.

As long as information silos remain, they will limit the scalability and flexibility essential for healthy business growth. Use these strategies to begin to dismantle AP tribal knowledge silos 

How to tear down your AP tribal knowledge silos 

Stop rewarding siloed expertise 

Investing in your AP team can help your business build a culture and processes that don’t reward silos. When not given opportunities for advancement outside of invoice capture and coding, AP staff can be incentivized to deepen informational silos to protect their job security (by getting good at something that no one else at the organization knows how to do). 

Rather than inadvertently reinforcing motivation to deepen tribal knowledge silos, AP leaders can retain top AP talent and reduce knowledge silos by giving their AP team the tools to be more efficient.

Savvy real estate businesses are increasingly turning to  automation and digitization to reduce the burden of manual work on their AP teams, allowing them to focus on more meaningful work and open doors to up-skilling and career advancement. 

Capture and codify tribal knowledge to enable automation

Of course no tech can replace your team’s years of specialized expertise. However, savvy real estate leaders are increasingly turning to technology to codify tribal knowledge and reduce harm in turnover risk. 

The right tool can help your organization capture, codify, and centralize knowledge. Some businesses build these into their implementation of their purchasing platform, AP automation, or ERP, or rely on templates or decision flows that make it easier for anyone to make the right coding decisions. 

Other organizations are increasingly adopting solutions that use artificial intelligence to learn coding by identifying patterns in the historical invoice record—just like a new hire would.

Leveraging an AI-powered invoice capture solution that can recognize patterns based on historical data can augment the processing power of your AP all-star, all without being explicitly programmed or relying on templates or pre-programmed robotic process automation (RPA) solutions..

A machine learning-based AI approach offers superior flexibility for your team, as well as faster ramp up time with adequate starting data and computing power.