Automation in Finance – Preparing for the Future of Back Office Functions: Part 5

Read Part 4

Ensure communication to the wider business.

So at this stage you will have your team of experts in place, IT will have been involved. You should have completed your research and have an idea of what you can and cannot achieve using technology.

Supporting this you will likely have started building your business case, project plans, time frames etc. Now, if you haven’t already, is a prime time for you to present this information to the wider business still.

Similarly to each previous step, this will allow for insights, feedback and thoughts that you and your team of experts may have missed. It will also allow you to ensure that the information you have collected from heads of departments also rings true with users on the ground.

Without doubt, the biggest benefit of doing this is to allow your colleagues to ask questions, either in an open forum or directly. People will almost certainly have concerns about the impacts of technology on jobs, these are fears that you can address quickly, and remember not everyone will have the courage to speak up about these so broadcasting your answers can be vital.

Do not think that this should be a one off exercise. Now is the time for you to build a serious communication plan for the project. This could mean that you will create regular updates for the organisation, sometimes specific ones for departments or the level of seniority receiving the information.

Your communication plan should work alongside your project road map, ideally it will ensure that at each critical step employees are kept informed of changes, and feel that they are able to ask questions.

Be prepared, some of the questions that you could be asked could be very hard to answer, but we would still recommend that you do so. Questions relating to employment, productivity, cost etc. may well need to be answered by direct line managers, but regardless you need to ensure that there is as much clarity and visibility of these as possible.

Handling too much behind closed doors will inevitably lead to distrust and concern from colleagues, this is something that should be avoided wherever possible. Not only could it hamper the project but it could significantly impact on go live and the overall success of your project.

This is especially important when considering employees within departments that are likely to be directly impacted by the technology, or by employees that will be expected to make use of the platforms.

Design a phased approach to automation.

Automation may well be the answer to any number of issues an organisation faces, however it is important not to take on more than you and your teams can handle in any one go.

The larger the project is, the more risk that is associated. Not only in costs and budget implications, but also to how these changes are taken by the wider business to how long it takes to actually implement the solutions.

Remember, most business cases will be built on the success of a project over a certain period of time post the go live of the technology. If this period of time is centred on a smaller process change it drastically increases your chances of achieving your desired goals.

Equally, as you will be investing in new technology, if something doesn’t go as you had planned the repercussions will not be so significant. The phrase, fail fast, is applicable in these scenarios.

If you find that you are not able to make the cost savings, or time savings, that are needed, if the project impacts only on a smaller part of the business process it is far easier to re-evaluate and make the necessary changes.

As one project comes to completion, a period of stability is recommended. Ensure that you have succeeded in your goals before you kick start the next step. For some processes this could well mean going back to the first steps and repeating this process. Whilst this may seem like a significant cost in time, this is generally preferred to a loss in budget, operational efficiency or business profit.

A failed project that tried to change too many areas of a business could very easily have repercussions that are completely unseen, this is the absolute worst case scenario.

Read Part 6

Recommended Reading:

White Paper – 5 reasons to digitalise your Procure-to-Pay Process


Post by John Stovold,
Marketing Manager ITESOFT

John Stovold has worked at ITESOFT since 2012. Driven by a desire to learn and educate John has used this to set himself up as a true thought leader in digital transformation of Accounts Payable and Finance. John really isn't that keen on writing in the 3rd person... But will when he has to.

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