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What to expect: AP automation project timeline

As part of a recent webinar hosted by Medius, we outlined the timeline for a successful AP automation project that delivers value and a fast ROI. Thousands of businesses have decided to automate their accounts payable processes to streamline operations, remove manual tasks, and gain greater control and visibility over key data within the AP department. The guidelines described below help organizations set up for a successful AP automation project that delivers value and a positive ROI.  

Getting approval for AP automation  

It is crucial to build a concrete framework for quantifying the benefits of AP automation to earn buy-in from stakeholders. Supplier spend is the main cost for the retail/manufacturing/distribution space. Five major problems must be identified and evaluated to select a robust AP automation system that addresses the needs of the business and begin the AP automation timeline for a successful project. 

  • Identify current needs and areas to improve. Prioritize based on 2020 business goals and set the scope for the AP project.  
  • Eliminate late payments, lost invoice, errors, and duplicate payments to avoid lost financial data, administrative time, and early payment discounts that occur due to manual processing. An automated invoice management system eliminates errors that frequently occur during processes such as matching, saving time and money. System users can follow the trail of every invoice from receipt to payment. 
  • Failure to pay invoices is a common problem that costs companies money, reputation, vendor relationships, and time. Damaged vendor relationships can impact negotiating leverage and cause delays in production. AP automation puts key financial data at the AP team’s fingertips in real-time. 
  • Address a lack of accounting resources for high-value projects, which delays the adoption of AP automation. Sluggish accounting practices can lead to a delay in deliverables, negatively impacting a company’s production, profits, and brand. The implementation AP automation can pay for itself by streamlining processes. 
  • Consider the cost of hiring additional AP staff as the company grows. AP automation reduces the labor required to process invoices. Current AP staff can focus on thoughtful projects, such as requesting early payment discounts. In many instances, hiring more team members will be unnecessary. Companies save on the cost of hiring and paying new employees.  

Setting the scope 

Setting the scope of an automation project is based on the company’s current needs and areas where improvements can be made, such as maintaining the integrity of confidential data. Define the why of the project based on a well-researched business case citing the potential ROI for implementing AP automation. Then select a knowledgeable, trustworthy partner that can provide the highest level of touchless invoice processing. Request demos based on the company’s specific needs rather than a vendor’s agenda. Use this information to create an ROI analysis and prove the qualitative value of adopting AP automation, such as greater financial clarity by gaining access to pertinent data as it happens. Presenting a solid business case to the C-suite proves the fiscal value of investing in AP automation solutions. 

Establishing timelines 

Once the team is ready to consider adopting advanced technology, an AP automation timeline should be established to clearly define the expectations for the buying process. There are five steps to the project kickoff: 

  • Align with stakeholders on the business’ primary goals and directives for 2020 
  • Run PIC analysis with trustworthy vendors 
  • Run through the ROI analysis to ensure there is a valid financial case 
  • Run demos with three or four vendors to get the lay of the land 
  • Present an executive summary to the stakeholders of all findings. 

Once the AP automation solution is approved, the system will need to be setup and training provided to the staff. A dedicated vendor will provide an AP automation timeless for implementation based on the company’s unique needs. 

Scoring expert tips 

A good vendor is also a trusted partner during implementation, and you should be able to rely on them for expert tips to help ensure the success of any AP automation project, especially when it comes to change management. Some expert tips that were shared during the webinar hinged on the idea that companies should define their vision and what success means to them, as well as their expected benefits and outcomes. Success factors include: 

  • Having a Project Champion with a vision to keep the team on track 
  • A project team with super users who help influence the change and adopt best practices 
  • Business management and IT work together for a common goal 
  • A small project team to interface with vendors  

Change management is also an integral part of the process. Explain why the change is necessary and its benefits to the stakeholders. Provide training sessions and recordings to everyone informed of the progress. Periodically issue announcements and create a FAQ area where users can find instant answers.  

There are undeniable advantages of establishing a definitive AP automation timeline today for greater efficiency and profits tomorrow. To watch the full webinar recording of “Set the Stage for AP Automation in 2020,” click here.  

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