Our team has over a decade of experience in helping customers transform their procurement and accounts payable (AP) functions and we have had the honour to work with some of the most iconic Australian businesses.
The following are our top 10 tips for AP automation:
1. Understand your processes and goals by asking yourself, “What do we want to accomplish?”
Too often we start on a project without first really asking ourselves and our stakeholders the questions, "What do we want to accomplish?" and "What will be the business outcomes?".
Dust off your old business processes and create up-to-date versions. Document and validate your business requirements and define key outcomes. This step will help you get your project off to a great start.
2. Engage your key stakeholders early in the project
From your sponsor to your stakeholders from the AP, finance, and procurement teams—engage them all early on.
Establish a regular working group and focus on developing a joint vision. This step will help you maintain effective engagement with stakeholders, who will support you throughout the AP automation journey and create internal change 'champions'!
3. Partner with the right technology vendor who can help you achieve your business outcomes.
We have used the word 'partner' deliberately. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of noise out there with so many vendors drumming up their products. How do you navigate through the maze?
The answer lies in carefully reviewing the vendors’ offerings—not just the products, but the overall offering. Break it down like this:
Does the product meet all of your business requirements and provide seamless integration to my systems?
Is the vendor team available locally where your business and stakeholders are?
Is the vendor a 'cultural' fit for your organisation?
How will the vendor support your business when you've gone live?
Is the vendor committed to helping you achieve your business outcomes or only selling you software?
Where will your organisation’s data be stored and does the vendor have necessary security controls?
4. Determine whether a phased or full-scope deployment approach is best for your organisation
Will you take a big bang, parallel-run, or a phased deployment approach? How do you minimise disruption to your business when introducing new technology?
The answer lies in carefully reviewing and segmenting your supplier base and then mapping each segment to your preferred invoicing channel. Work through your strategic, operational, tactical, and ad-hoc suppliers and define the preferred invoicing channel. You could then assess the change impacts which will inform the right deployment approach.
Develop an approach that considers change impact on your internal stakeholders as well as your suppliers.
5. Invest in change management
We cannot stress this point enough—invest in your change management resources.
This step will ensure good adoption by your end users as well as suppliers and reduce resistance against change and lead to improved user satisfaction.
6. Integrate your AP automation solution with your financial systems
No one likes double-handling data. It’s 2022, come on! Integrate your new AP automation solution so that it works seamlessly with your systems.
7. Ensure that the solution you choose is flexible enough to adapt to your changing needs.
AP automation is not a do-once-forget-forever exercise. Your business will continue to evolve so make sure the solution you choose will keep up with your business. You may upgrade your ERP or move to a new procurement platform. Will the solution be compatible with your new systems?
8. Continually assess and prioritise solution features against business value
Focus on implementing solution features that bring you the most value. Get runs on the board quickly by tackling your high-volume scenarios first and then work your way to more complex ones.
Do not fall into the pitfall of trying to do it all at once!
9. Measure your ROI and publish metrics with your stakeholders
Be brave and publish your metrics with an honest assessment of your key measures. This step will build credibility and help you focus on the right areas once you have gone live!
10. Continually evaluate your program to see what’s working and what isn't, then adjust as needed to continue driving efficiencies across the board.
While you could possibly implement your new AP automation solution in three months, technology projects are typically a one to three-year journey. Make sure you have the resources in place to continually evaluate and improve the solution so that you can really harness your business benefits!