In our recent Roundtable Discussion, our CEO Rob Albright discussed the ins-and-outs of Accounts Payable automation with three of our AP Customer Champions: Michele, Keli, and Thy! You can view a replay of the recording here – but for now, read on to discover 5 key aha’s, gotchas, and tips to consider for your AP automation journey.
Rob: “Start your project with a success statement – ‘This project is successful if I get my turnaround process time under 90 seconds’, for example. Everybody on the team is rowing the same boat, going the same direction, and that is the measurable and most important key metric for your team.”
Ensuring your team is on board for what’s planned and how it’ll benefit the entire organization will help define your success, and provide a clear target for all to aim for. Find a key metric to prioritize and align your project team and any stakeholders involved to strive for it. It may be related to invoice processing time, employee hours saved, SLAs, or another metric that will demonstrate an improved AP process. Knowing what success looks like and when it’s achieved will make all the difference!
Keli: “It won’t be perfect on day one. Be patient, be transparent that this is going to take a while, and that it will require the end-users to be part of the process. And, I think that’s the biggest thing overall, not with just AP alone.”
Accounts Payable is a core function for most every organization, and introducing change to any core business process can take some time. Educating department managers and end-users and soliciting their feedback, input, and involvement will help ease the transition and ensure they’re invested in the project’s success. Identify key stakeholders at your organization and develop an internal project team to provide input and advocate for your improved AP process!
And as Thy also says (borrowing from tip #4 below), remember that it’s a living solution. More on that below…
Michele: “Provide more samples that you think you need! [laughs]. Honestly double it, and I wouldn’t be shy about it. When we got to UAT, we found things that we didn’t provide. Don’t be afraid to provide samples of every scenario and every type of vendor that you might see with exceptions, because it can be accounted for and it can become part of the process. Do it on the sample side, not on the UAT side, if you can.”
It's much easier to account for each scenario up front! While automation technology is able to provide tangible benefits right away, it can and should be configured for your specific needs and use cases in order to maximize your investment. Knowing what those specific situations, oddities, or preferences are up front will ensure they are accounted for in the streamlined AP process. These can always be included later on, of course, but it’s always best to plan up front wherever possible.
Thy: “UAT is very important. And partnership – for department managers, partner with the IT contact. And also remember it’s a living solution – new invoices come in, funny situations come up, and the solution is constantly monitored so it’s constantly improving.”
It’s important to remember that an automated Accounts Payable process, like with any business process, should be reviewed and fine-tuned in line with your business objectives. Our organizations are constantly changing, and new vendors, employees, best practices, and strange situations are constantly emerging that may impact your AP process. Working with department managers to understand the business needs regularly will help ensure teams are aligned, and that your AP automation is doing its best job for you.
Rob: “This is only the tip of the iceberg with AP automation. Every organization has an AP department, and you can apply these solutions and ideals to Accounts Payable and start expanding it through the rest of your organization. Anything that’s paper heavy, you can utilize the same concepts in other departments.”
In our roundtable, we took a deep dive in discussing OCR, image recognition, and data extraction, and shared some great tips on what to expect and how to best upkeep an OCR solution. As Rob mentions, that’s but one piece to a larger automated Accounts Payable process – and many of these principles, technologies, and methodologies can be applied to other areas of your organization, further integrating and enabling your employees and data. Read on to discover more about AP automation!
A big thank you to Michele, Keli, and Thy for joining us and providing some great insight!
For more, view a full replay of the recording here, and download our Advancing Digital Transformation in Accounts Payable eBook.