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What’s measured gets managed:
defining & measuring success for BPA projects is key

July 26, 2018

“What’s measured gets managed” Peter Drucker’s famous adage seems more relevant today than ever before. In a world drowning in data and key performance indicators, where technology and automation solutions have become more cost effective and easier to implement, the decision of WHAT to measure and how to best manage it is critical.

When it comes to business process improvement, the first two hurdles faced by most companies are achieving a clear definition of existing processes and defining clear goals that a business process automation initiative should achieve.

It’s easy enough to agree that a process should be faster, easier and cheaper. But how do you measure “faster?” And how cheap enough is “cheaper”? And who decides what is easier?

If your firm is entering budget planning season and you want to make the BEST case for process improvement within your department, here are a few thoughts based on input from our customers.

Start with What You Know

Often trying to envision and map out a process from scratch can be intimidating for process owners. At the same time, one of the biggest hurdles to initiating ANY business process automation project is understanding the existing process in clear enough detail that anyone outside of the process can grasp it.

  • Get input from ALL stakeholders: When mapping out existing processes, make sure to get input from ALL stakeholders in the process. Don’t assume that one person knows all of the nuances, even if it’s a minor step.
  • Identify any and all exceptions: When it comes to process automation, the devil is in the details and all those things that fall outside the lines. Automation should be flexible enough to follow the rules, but also identify and respond to any outliers.
  • Picture it: Whether you rely on sophisticated process mapping tools, basic flowchart tools like Visio or Post-it notes, document your process in a way that are easy to visualize and easy to modify. That last point is key. You want to use tools that are easy to change and adapt.

With a fundamental understanding of the process as it works today, the next step should be quantifying that process in a way that allows you to establish goals for improvement that can be measured and optimized.

Let’s take accounts payable as an example. When looking at your existing AP process and benchmark automation improvements, here are some metrics to consider:

  • Amount of time taken to receive and approve invoices
  • Amount of time required from AP and IT to manage the system and processes
  • Percentage of invoices ready to be paid on time
  • Number of suppliers on-boarded
  • Number of invoices received electronically
  • Amount of time required to resolve invoice disputes
  • Amount of time required for exception handling

Establish goals that are SMART

While Business Process Automation projects have become more cost effective and easy to implement, they still require an investment and a commitment of time, money and attention to execute successfully. Measuring return on investment and demonstrating measurable success can not only ensure an ongoing commitment to the initiative, but it can impact how ready the company might be to continue to optimize other processes through automation.

With that in mind, establish clear, measurable, agreed upon goals is key. Ideally you want goals that are SMART:

S - specific, significant, stretching
M - measurable, meaningful, motivational
A - agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented
R - realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
T - time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable

When looking at metrics, it’s also important to go BEYOND the process itself and make sure to examine its impact on the organization….including impacts to customers, partners and other stakeholders. So, while internal metrics for AP may focus on invoice payment cycle times or invoice processing costs, your executive stakeholders may want to know how your project impacts cash flow or visibility to accruals.

Mapping metrics to corporate goals or to the interest of each stakeholder makes it easier to get projects approved and helps to ensure buy-in throughout the process.

Goal Forth and Conquer

With clear goals in mind, your team can begin the process of mapping out the journey from the way things used to be to the way they should be, with confidence. Later in Q1, we’ll discuss how to analyze your business processes in detail, so you can go beyond simply automating a process as it exists to radically streamling and improving the steps along the way.

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