Involve your IT team.
Yes, even if your corporate direction is to move to cloud based technologies, your internal IT team will still be vital in this project.
It is almost certain that, during your research, you will come across technology that simply doesn’t make sense to you. Now, if you have involved IT in the project this issue can be avoided by having someone with a good technical understanding on hand to support the process.
As already mentioned, multi-disciplined teams are hugely beneficial to these projects. However, there is a very high probability that similar projects will have been run previously and without input from the Finance / AP functions.
What this could mean is that the tools and solutions you are committing time to exploring could already have been procured, and could simply be extended to your departments.
Equally, your organisation may already have an agreement with a technology provider (your ERP vendor) that includes additional functionality that was simply never implemented.
This information will be available to a colleague in IT, they may be able to very quickly offer some solutions to some of your problem areas.
As with all things, this comes with a warning. Do not be put off exploring and educating yourself, and do not be afraid to challenge the information supplied internally.
Historically, exploring technology solutions has been the domain of IT, and for a lot of organisations they simply do not want to lose this control and input. If they tell you that they already have solutions, ask to see them, what do they offer? Treat IT (in this instance) as a vendor. Benchmark them against other platforms.
This is especially true if IT tell you that they can build you a solution in house. Most technology vendors in the automation space have been around for a long time, this is what they do, this is their area of expertise. You certainly wouldn’t buy a car from someone that has never built one before. Why risk your business processes in this way?
As technology progresses it is also highly unlikely that any system built internally, without 3rd party expertise, will be making the best use of the latest advances. Automation should be seen as a way to future proof yourselves as well, ignoring technology such as AI, RPA or Machine Learning in order to keep IT happy is simply foolish.
What are the possible impacts elsewhere in the business?
Again, in order to do this efficiently, it will be vital to involve key people from other departments. One of your highlighted problem areas could be non PO invoices, and the time it takes to process these to payment.
As such, you have now decided that every invoice must be received with an associated PO. Brilliant.
Now is time for you to understand what this will mean to the wider business. Are all of your PO’s raised by a dedicated procurement team? If so, what additional time will it take to create these in a new system. Better yet, what time will be saved?
Do all PO’s need to be signed off (we have discussed this already!) If so, why, who else could do this?
Within the company do you need everyone to have access and training on the new PO system or would super users in each department do a better job? Again, what are the impacts on peoples time in order to ensure uptake of your new policy?
This is just one example of a process change made by Finance or AP that would impact on the wider business, there are a multitude of others, and these will all vary depending on your “As-Is” and “To-Be” models.
Remember, document all of this as you progress, ensure that the information is available to everyone involved, and welcome their additional feedback. Too often something that seems insignificant to one person could be incredibly vital to another.
In accepting colleagues reviews of your notes, and their feedback you are not only ensuring that you have the clearest possible understanding of these changes, but you are significantly increasing the likelihood that they will support the project when it comes to implementation and business use.