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Getting Your Sales Order Automation Project Off the Ground:

To get executive sponsorship, sweat the details, but tie it to the bigger picture

December 05, 2017

In this multi-part Blog Series, we’ll look at how companies can transform their sales order operations from a back office function to a strategic asset that can boost productivity, profitability and innovation beyond customer service, A/R and Finance. Our second blog in this series explores the responsibilities of an Order to Cash (O2C) automation project leader and how to get buy-in from an executive sponsor.

According to a recent survey conducted by Aite Group, nearly 60 percent of senior receivables and treasury managers were less than fully satisfied with the company’s receivables and cash application processes.

While the productivity gains that can be achieved from sales order automation are well documented, with relatively minimal risk, companies have not always been able to make a winning case for investing in innovation for O2C.

The problem, according to firms that fail to automate and innovate, is often one of competing priorities. But underlying that perspective is the REAL problem - stakeholders failed to make a compelling case for process improvement because they didn’t tie the need to company goals and priorities.

The Compelling Case for Sales Order Automation

Timely and accurate receivables processing is critical to the financial health of an organization. Companies require cash for many different aspects of operations - purchase of goods or raw materials, the manufacturing and distribution of finished products, sales and marketing activities, and business administration. Managing cash requires effective, efficient management of the revenues and expenses cycles. It ALSO requires timely access to accurate data so finance knows the exact status of the company’s financial position at all times.

While sales operations and accounts receivable managers often feel the pain of the costs, inefficiencies and cycle times associated with managing manual sales order processes, these inefficiencies may be tolerable to some organizations - unless they understand the deeper impact to their financial health.

It is this deeper argument that managers need to pose to executives to create urgency and recruit executive champions to their cause.

Communicating Problems, Solutions and Benefits

In the first part of our Blog series, we discussed the primary pains experienced by organizations that still rely on manual processes to manage sorting/filing orders, routing documents for approval and entering data into ERP systems. These symptoms included long days sales outstanding, high error rates, and a lack of timely, accurate and detailed data to better manage cash flow and predict buyer behavior.

The problem with conveying challenges that departments may experience with sales order processing, is that often, they do not tie them back to specific corporate key performance indicators (KPIs) and objectives.

To translate these department-level pains into company-level concerns, managers need to think further downstream to the financial impact to the organization as a whole and to the impact on specific strategic objectives.

Think about each of the departmental issues above as they relate to corporate goals:

  • Manual data entry leads to a lack of process visibility and a higher number of errors and exceptions that results in inaccurate data. This could lead to poor forecasting for cash flow and other KPIs that are critical to your CFO, COO and CEO.

  • Often, companies fail to capture line item detail from sales orders due to process inefficiency, meaning that are lacking valuable purchase behavior data and trends

These are just a few examples, but when looking at the departmental issues and risks, think about how to translate those pains into BOTH quantitative and qualitative impacts on the financial health of the company, potential compliance risks/issues and risks to the company’s reputation or relationships with key customers.

Target Your Executive Sponsor and Be SPECIFIC About Your Needs

If gathering all the right metrics and making perfect business case to a decision maker seems daunting, start by documenting and defining your departmental pains in as much detail as you can, then discuss them with a potential executive sponsor to discuss company priorities and the risks/benefits of automating your sales order processes with them.

You may discover that the information and performance data you’re looking for is already available - or that multiple stakeholders may hold different pieces of the puzzle when defining your problems and quantifying goals and potential benefits. Those same people may become key members of your planning and implementation team.

Once you’ve gathered the information you need to make a business case that aligns with executive priorities, make sure that you clearly define what investment in time, money and resources you need for the initiative and how spending those resources will lead to specific improvements in corporate-level results.

Initially, that may simply mean getting buy-in to explore an initiative, with approval to allocate specific staff time to put a proposal together. Or, it may mean getting buy-in on executing a proposal that has clearly laid out budgets, ROI and timelines.

In our NEXT Order to Cash Automation Blog, we’ll explore tips for gathering requirements for your process automation initiative and mapping out your new automated process in detail.

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