How can you define invoice automation success when your are just starting to explore your options?
Start with a list. Try this one.
- Document your as-is.
- Document your to-be.
- Engage stakeholders.
- Communicate clearly and regularly.
- Measure regularly.
- Fail fast.
It may come as no surprise… to define invoice automation success, you need to decide what success looks like.
And written down!
What may come as a surprise… this is something overlooked by many organisations exploring AP automation.
Especially where the people involved in the project have little or no previous experience of project management.
Most organisations, or individuals, will have evaluated at least some of their pain points.
Why else would the project have kicked off?
But not everyone takes the next logical step.
When starting your project to automate AP there are a number of things we would recommend any organisation does.
What are your organisations goals?
We have mentioned before the importance of actually understanding wider business drivers.
This means that you should be able to effectively define what a successful project will deliver.
Have you taken the time to meet with departmental managers that could be impacted?
Did you ask them what automation success would look like from their view?
Purchasing managers will have a very different set of goals than Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, IT etc.
Don’t forget, at different levels in the management chain there will also be different needs.
Of course, your pain points do not have to be the only metrics by which you define invoice automation success.
As a business, are you anticipating or planning for growth in the coming few years?
Is one of your drivers to ensure that you stay ahead of the technology curve?
Perhaps staying ahead of your competitors?
Defining these at the very start of your project (or as early as you can) will be instrumental.
It will determine how your projects success is viewed in the wider business.
Don’t forget the normal measures of success.
Clearly defining success based on your business challenges, pain points etc is easy to understand.
It is important that you do not exclude or ignore the more standard measurements.
It is still important for you to define invoice automation success according to;
- Budget, was the project delivered within the budget initially agreed?
- Time, was the project completed on time?
- Impact, what was the impact of the project on the business?
- Implementation, was implementation of the solution completed according to plan?
- Uptake, has the technology been accepted and used in the business?
- Quality, does the chosen product deliver as needed by the business?
These measurements are a standard because they are important.
They should be included when defining your business goals.
These standard measurements are also more likely to be of interest to your budget holders.
Document everything, from start to end.
Another key step that we would recommend, is to commit to deadlines and milestones.
Importantly this means actually documenting them.
You would be shocked if you knew how often this is not done…
Too often projects are considered a failure because success was not clearly defined, documented and audited.
Why leave this open to chance?
Document it; define what success would look like.
Apply key metrics.
Arrange audits at each key milestone…
Once documented you will have removed uncertainty from the project.
Your key stakeholders and influencers can buy into the project.
This document should then become an integral part of the project plan.
It should be clearly written and accessible, and regularly referred to as you progress.
Just as importantly, it should be accessible to stakeholders, budget holders and the wider business.
Measure as you go.
Defining what success looks like at the start of your project is brilliant.
Not actually measuring success until the end is not.
It may surprise you but a lot of organisations don’t measure the success of their project until the end.
Sometimes this is pushed out even further to coincide with “break even” on the cost of the software.
In the case of traditional on premise automation software this could easily be more than 18 months after going live.
And this can be anything up to 12 months after purchasing the software.
Thankfully cloud applications have drastically reduced this.
Now we are talking weeks rather than months.
Perhaps one of the key criteria for success is delivery date.
This is something that even the most experienced project managers can struggle to achieve!
And yet you have no idea if you are on schedule…
How can you achieve success with the project if you don’t know where you are?
A very simple way for a business to measure success is to schedule, and hold, regular audits.
These can start as early as you see fit, the first of these could be to ensure research is on schedule.
One recommendation would be to schedule these audits on a recurring date.
Rather than arranging them around key milestones.
Well, if one of your milestones is for vendor selection, but this is delayed, this would subsequently result in a delay to your audit.
This reduces visibility and could then impact the project.
Success includes lessons learned.
Everyone that has been involved in a project of a serious size knows that there are always lessons learned.
Human nature says that when we review what has been done, we will find areas we wish we had done differently.
With likely different results.
This applies across virtually all aspects of our lives.
When carrying out your final reviews of the project, and defining success or failure, take the time to actually document the lessons learned.
These may be hindsight’s.
They may be specific points in the project which didn’t go according to plan.
Added delays, cost more than anticipated etc. and were overcome by the team etc.
As well as highlighting and documenting these points, document what you would do differently.
Your project may have been to automate the accounts payable process.
But the way in which you manage the project can be carried into any other business function.
In order to define invoice automation success:
- Engage the business.
- Document the targets.
- Audit your progress.
- Review your results.
There is no one size fits all answer to the question of “how to define invoice automation success”.
Much like many things.
But there are steps that you can take to ensure that the work you carry out is successful
And the benefits you realise, are understood by your stakeholders and budget holders.