When it comes to automating and improving accounts payable processes, the first two hurdles faced by most companies is clearly defining existing processes, and establishing measurable goals and expectations for the results to be achieved.
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?
More to the point: can you achieve faster, cheaper and easier by simply automating the steps in an existing process, or do you need to start from scratch when mapping out your process flows?
In this multi-part Blog Series, we’ve looked at how companies can identify process pain points and communicate them to executives in terms that reflect corporate goals to secure buy-in. Those first steps establish a foundation for translating process pains and potential automation benefits into a clearly-defined plan. In this blog, we’ll explore gathering requirements and mapping out processes to take you’re AP automation initiative to the next level.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.
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:
Going BEYOND what your team knows and understand about processes as they exist to re-defining processes may require several iterations. It’s possible that step one may be reproducing your process as it exists, with some automation, then continuing to refine that process, removing and re-engineering different steps.
It’s ALSO possible that by clearly mapping out the existing process, looking at it visually and in terms of performance, you can identify bottlenecks and redundancies that can be eliminated.
A great example of this when it comes to accounts payable, is purchase order invoice matching. Surprisingly, many firms choose to manually route matched PO invoices for approval, even after there has been an approval process for the quote and the order. Routing the matched invoice for approval is often just a safety net to try to mitigate flaws in a manual process.
With automatic data validation and automatic 2- or 3-way matching in place, many companies create a straight-through process for these invoices, so they flow through to the creation of an ERP transaction once all the documents have been mapped.Continue Your Journey
With clear goals in mind and a clear understanding of the process, your team can continue on a journey from the way things used to be to the way they should be, with confidence.
In our next Blog, we’ll discuss how to go from defining processes to documenting requirements and choosing vendors to support your initiative.