We know that people can make or break an organization’s purchase-to-pay strategies. I previously wrote two related posts about the influence of executives and staff members (see below). However, even when the right people are on board, a technology project might not turn out as expected. Following are three reasons why, tips, and specific advice for an AP automation pursuit.
The trouble can begin early on when an organization thinks technology will solve all their issues, but they fail to identify the root causes of problems. As an example, AP Now’s 2016 State of Invoice Processing Survey (www.ap-now.com) reveals slow internal invoice approval is the most common ongoing invoice issue experienced by organizations. Technology is not the magic answer for this. While technology can make approvals easier to do, the slow people will probably continue to be slow unless they are held accountable to a defined timeline.
Determine your biggest pain points and explore why they occur. Do you need a change in policies and/or procedures? Do employees need more training? To what extent will technology help resolve the problem?
Rushing to select and implement a technology solution often means that an organization fails at multiple levels during a project. You might overlook elements needed by stakeholders or the complete picture of how a process works (and where new technology is most critical). If you skip doing thorough system testing, manageable hiccups can turn into emergencies when the system goes live.
- Assign the project manager role to someone who is equipped with project management knowledge and skills.
- Document existing processes, stakeholder requirements, goals, etc.
- Address how you will resolve any conflicting requirements between stakeholders. What will take precedence?
- Develop and follow test scripts to ensure the technology works as expected before fully implementing.
Lack of Communication
No list of pitfalls is complete without the proverbial lack of communication. This could mean forgetting to revise relevant policies and procedures, a lack of training to system users, failing to communicate with affected suppliers, and more.
The obvious action is to turn this around by communicating effectively throughout the organization and with suppliers.
- Note who will be impacted by the technology and, therefore, need training.
- Offer a clear place to go if people have questions.
- Explain the purpose of the new technology.
- Monitor how users are handling the technology and the common errors.
AP Automation Advice
When it comes to AP automation, respondents to AP Now’s 2016 State of Invoice Processing Survey recommend:
- Ensure you will have dedicated IT support throughout the project.
- Try out/demo different solutions before committing to one.
- Verify that all your applicable systems will be compatible with each other.
- Anticipate that AP will receive a spike in questions until users are comfortable; plan staffing accordingly.
- Be assertive with suppliers regarding rules for invoice submission.
- Do a longer pilot period before rolling out to everyone.
About the Author
Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With more than 15 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more…
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