Planned and executed properly, automating accounts payable processes can improve the finance function, and save finance teams time and money.
But not every project is a success. Projects go over time and budget. The business is disrupted as individuals struggle to adapt to change. Teething problems become entrenched, leaving the business stuck – unable either to go back to the old model or to move forward and achieve the original vision.
In this blog, we look at the major hurdles associated with introducing automation and provide some tips and tricks to achieve best practice in accounts payable automation.
Employee Buy In
Setting expectations is one of the most fundamental aspects of any automation project – or indeed any project that will result in some form of business change. Employees need to understand why AP automation is a good thing – the benefits it will bring not just to finance but to their individual roles across the business.
Having sowed the positive seeds of change, it is then important to explain the level of disruption that will occur. Most employees will have experienced some form of IT change at work and many will have a well-founded fear of upheaval. How will they deal with customers and suppliers if systems are down? Will there be additional delays in purchase approvals or payments?
The good news is that AP automation should be almost seamless. Companies should be fully live within a single day, with staff up and running on the system immediately. Training is always important, but providing the application is simple to use and intuitive, most finance staff and users within the business will be able to make the transition with minimal training.
To achieve this seamless implementation requires good planning – and rigorous testing.
During the purchasing process it is essential that vendors offer the chance to test the system. Including finance team members in this activity will provide great insight as to how the system works in practice, as well as flagging any potential problems.
And don’t forget to include a handful of business managers. An effective, smooth purchase approval process is key to realising the value of effective procurement – and making sure the system can be easily adopted by business managers and budget holders will make a big difference to speed of adoption and improvements in procurement compliance.
It is also important to consider how AP processes will change as a result of automation – and to highlight any existing processes that are essential within a manual process, but become unnecessary and redundant through automation. With a strong foundation, firms can be confident not only of a seamless transition to an automated AP model but also in their ability to become more sophisticated in the future.
Of course, not all suppliers will be willing to offer test periods.
Many will insist on long contracts. But why should your business take all the risk without any commitment from the other side? A vendor should be prepared to invest time in your business; to work with you on AP automation testing; to support process change and create AP automation best practice. A vendor confident in both the quality of the AP process automation solution and its service and support will be more than willing to embark upon a testing process.
How flexible is the finance model? What is the cancellation process – and period? And what other services, such as procurement expertise, are available? The right vendor should combine a great product, with a depth of service and flexible contractual arrangements.
With the right up front attitudes and approach, the process of implementation should be smooth. Employees engaged. Processes honed. System tested. With accounts payable best practices defined, it is time to pull the trigger, go live and start to gain significant time and cost saving benefits.