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Ray Emirzian, docSTAR

Don’t Go Down with the Ship: Prevent AP Automation Disaster with the Right Strategy & Planning


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    The day the Titanic sank, there was a lifeboat drill scheduled. Unfortunately, it was cancelled.

    Designed to carry 32 lifeboats, the number was limited to 20 because it was felt that the deck might be “too cluttered.” Due to advancements in modern ship building it was deemed unnecessary to carry more lifeboats – after all, the new ships were stronger than ever, watertight and the sea routes so well -traveled there seemed almost zero likelihood of danger.  We know how that ended.

    Businesses can run aground as well – without the proper strategy, testing and planning, technology integrations have the potential to grind operations to a halt.

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    Clearly, there are many benefits to AP Automation, particularly when these systems are integrated with your ERP. When done correctly, your organization can unlock new ways to reduce costs, operate efficiently and stay ahead of the curve.

    But getting there may not always be easy. To ensure a successful launch, there needs to be a good deal of communication, planning and testing. With your financial data on the line, the risks are enormous – you could overpay, underpay, or not pay at all.

    Without proper setup, your financial records could take months to sort out – resulting in managing two systems in parallel – creating more work and stress for employees.

    So what can you do to stay on the right course?

    Communicate

    Navigating through the software selection process can be daunting. Beware the vendor who claims the process of fully automating your AP will be easy. In all honesty, it will take anywhere from a few months to a year to get your AP Process fully automated.

    You will need to map out a detailed implementation plan – from manually processing invoices, to processing your manual and software system in parallel, to the required steps necessary for your “go live” environment.

    From the onset, bring in key managers and users. The CFO will have a very different take on processes and software than the AP manager – both will have valid requirements, and both should be present when at a product demo.

    All employees who will be required to use the system need to be heard – the benefit is tremendous. By laying out all workflows, responsibilities and requirements upfront, you can ensure buy in from all parties and avoid disgruntled staff in the future.


    Collaborate

    Any successful relationship relies on open communication. Collaboration with your software vendor is critical. Your implementation should have the ultimate goal of helping optimize your business processes, streamline workflow and improve financial management for a solid ROI.

    Business process management means correcting internal processes first and establishing best practices before implementing a new system –so you are not simply repeating old habits with new technology.

    An effective vendor will work with you to identify your current operational inefficiencies and help you get on the right path with industry best practices.

    Look for vendors who proactively find solutions or workarounds to your issues and who can provide real people for you to talk to for solid references. Mapping out a realistic, manageable timeline with milestones and responsible parties is another important step to ensure accountability on all sides.


    Calculate

    What may seem like a good deal in terms of cost may in reality only be the tip of the iceberg. For example, if you are ultimately planning to integrate your AP Automation software with your ERP – say Microsoft Dynamics, make sure you review the fees associated with a seamless integration.

    Some software products don’t offer data integration between systems, and those who do sometimes charge a fee.  Find the hidden costs wherever you can.

    Also, make sure your investment will benefit your business in the long term. To ensure success, verify that your integration partner has the ability to handle different technology platforms and delivery methods as your needs and the needs of your employees and customers change. Ask to see a “Product Roadmap” of recent updates and future enhancements.

    You can be sure your vendor will move you forward - if they are moving their own product in a positive direction.  Find out when product upgrades are scheduled, how they are delivered and if you will incur additional costs or require new hardware.


    Correct Course

    If only we could all avoid the pitfalls of life. Compliance, computers, catastrophe and yes, even collisions are all a part of life. But in your business, working with the right partner can help you avoid many of these problems. Make sure your vendor provides ongoing training and support.

    Whether it’s educating your team on a new product upgrade, illustrating a helpful workaround or sharing an industry best practice – look for vendors who continually engage their customers.

    Find out if a potential vendor can help you comply with the particular rules and regulations in your industry, and what the disaster recovery plan is (think “lifeboats”).  Can they show you a solid plan for data security and business continuity should your systems go down?

    Don’t underestimate the value and necessity of the lifeboat drill. No matter what your industry, you know data privacy, protection and compliance need to be an integral part of your business. With your financial data at stake, talking to your vendor about protecting that information and ensuring data integrity is critical.

    Due to advancements in modern technology, it is sometimes deemed unnecessary to carry more lifeboats – after all, our new technologies are stronger than ever, watertight and the routes so well -travelled there seems almost zero possibility of danger. Good businesses know better.

    Take your business to the next level and benefit from the cost savings and efficiencies of automating your AP Processes. The right way.

    Want to learn more about the benefits of Automated AP Processing? Download Aberdeen’s free whitepaper – Invoicing and Workflow: Integrating Process Automation to Enhance Operational Performance.

    by docSTAR

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