One of the many sentiments weve heard time and time again from various Accounts Payable managers along with Shared Services Directors is that they need help in getting the right level of sponsorship to see their Accounts Payable automation initiative get wings and fly. However, this is not always an easy matter. Why? Studies have suggested that top level executives can only handle between 6-9 major initiatives/projects at a time and for a CFO to consider Accounts Payable automation the timing of the project along with the impetus for the project have to be in alignment.
Thats why its common for executives who are planning to improve their back office functions to look at the road map for improvement and to set mile-markers for continuous improvement. If there is a major system installation or ERP upgrade or any other disruption, say an acquisition/divestiture, or the like, chances are a non-core area project like Accounts Payable automation is going to be sidelined.
So what to do?
1. Be sensitive to the ebb and flow of Executive initiatives. Translation think about where the organizations head honchos are at with other projects and approach them with the AP automation streamlining with a well conceived idea as to when it would make the most sense to pursue it.
2. Develop an airtight Financial business case. Nothing is more appealing to CFOs than eliminating wasteful costs. If you can determine how effective your current state process is (or isnt), then youve got a baseline for determining what the fiscal benefits will be to a successful Accounts Payable automation project. Additionally, its really vital to take a look at both the hard and soft cost saving implications. To be sure, most Executives wont be dazzled by Soft costs, unless there is a staggering potential for an improved future, state, but if there are undeniable signs pointing to wasted money, as is the case for those using express couriers to route their invoices, then be sure to isolate where exactly savings will be coming from. The fate of your AP automation initiative may hang in the balance on this one!
3. Identify Intangibles. These are the little pains that folks in your organization may be dealing with as a result of a broken process. With respect to Accounts Payable automation and invoice processing, these are the social and emotional triggers that can support and in some cases overshadow the fiscal reasons for betterment. They can range from anything including the hassle of physical filing, of relying upon outsourced document storage services, to interoffice mail envelopes, or having to chase down approvers or department heads who are slow to get their invoices in. It could also begin with your suppliers who may be in the habit of reaching out to you frequently to check on invoice approval and payment statuses, or the issues that arise with closing out the books at month end and running accruals. Whatever the reason, the key thing here is to determine what all the intangible triggers are for the stakeholders in the process, at any level, and then to concisely summarize them prior to presenting to big wig decision makers. If you can get them to empathize with your (and everyone elses) gripes, in addition to providing a good business case, youll be much better off for the effort.
Finally, if this is unfamiliar territory for you, or you're not sure how to begin to compile an effective business case, wed like to make a suggestion. Begin by assessing your process against industry benchmarks and paint a performance picture for your leadership. With this in mind, and with the other items here, you can assemble a cogent, compelling argument, and if done right get your Accounts Payable automation project flying.