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Addressing Change When Implementing Accounts Payable Workflow Software

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Change rarely brings about the best in people.  

In fact, in most people change tends to reveal their character (for better or worse), especially if the changes being wrought are acute or sustained.  Because people are creatures of habit and self-centered, anything that disrupts their experience of ‘normal’ is essentially viewed dubiously.  This is no different for those bringing about Accounts Payable process change...and with respect to that niche, which is one of our areas of core focus, nothing gets more prickly than deploying Accounts Payable workflow software.

The reason here is obvious in that outside of the AP department, the approval and coding process for most services (sic Non-PO) invoices has to go through the hands of numerous approvers.  In larger companies this process can be more complex, requiring multiple layers of approval for increasing levels of authority and fiscal accountability.  Thus, when presenting change, especially to outlying managers and officers of an organization, it’s critical to disseminate the message in a positive, informative, and supportive way.  Further, it’s necessary to plan out a strategic map of adoption as we’ve outlined here.

Here are three tidbits to help you when you plan to pull off your workflow tour de force:

    1. Over-communicate - This doesn’t mean be verbose, it just means communicate very clearly the plans you have for deploying the software and how the change is to be brought about.  It also means you have to communicate in sequences, especially with the groups (department heads / approvers) that you are phasing in chronologically.  Make sure your communications on this matter is clear and open ended, fostering dialogue and not draconian.  Nothing good comes from taking an authoritarian stance, when you are trying to get your organization rallied behind an initiative, and nothing kills momentum like the wailing and gnashing of teeth at the outset of a project.
    2. Clearly define deadlines - One would think that this would be so obvious as to not be included, but you’d be surprised by some of the scenarios we’ve encountered.  Just like the wise builder counted the cost in Biblical parables, so too must you.  That means going beyond just a fiscal reckoning, but also an accounting of time and resources that need to go into the project to pull it off.  Part of being a good project steward (manager) in the Accounts Payable workflow deployment genre, involves setting the boundaries for the testing, training, and ultimately conversion to electronic processes from manual ones.  In conjunction with the first point, these deadlines need to be realistic, so nothing that would make your peers’ skin crawl due to lack of notification.  Allow yourself a reasonable amount of time to address concerns, re-inforce the impetus for pursuing AP automation as it relates to electronic workflow and proceed.  
    3. Big rocks first- All we mean by this nugget is that you should prioritize the departments or personnel that will give you the biggest bang once automated.  This can be for logistical purposes or sheer invoice processing volume.  Another key thought here is that the inverse to the principle above is true.  While you don’t want buzzkills when getting out of the starting blocks on the AP workflow deployment race, you do want champions and cheerleaders.  That is not to say you want proletariat drones and ‘yes’ men who won’t give real feedback, it’s just that you don’t want to stake your success on the backs of critics.  Leave the folks that will be the most resistant to change for last.  Once you’ve got the others onboard and you’re making headway, you’ll have momentum with you and that’s a powerful thing.  If you don’t take the time to think through who the critical ‘big rock’ departments are for you, you just make the implementation effort harder in the long run.

While change is a constant, betterment is an option.

If you haven’t automated your accounts payable process yet, take a look at these resources and get on your journey to betterment!

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