Baby Steps: Rely on AP Automation Pilot Projects to Walk Before Your Run
November 23, 2017
In this multi-part Blog Series, we’ve looked at how companies can identify process pain points, communicate them to executives to secure buy-in and map their P2P processes to eliminate bottlenecks. In this blog, we’ll look at tips for successfully completing a pilot project to work out any kinks before going live.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead.
Your organization has been going about its AP automation project carefully and by the book. You’ve established clear objectives, made a compelling (and reasonable) business case, recruited an executive champion and chosen a technology partner to implement your dream AP automation system.
Now, things gets real. With the right goals, the right solution and the right partner, you’re now ready to put all of your plans into action. Hopefully, beginning with a few baby steps.
Get Ready for Take-Off
Project Pilots should be implemented with a project plan that includes interim checkpoints and milestones that tie to the final success criteria. That said, there are success factors that go beyond your AP automation KPIs.
Other factors to consider include:
IT lessons learned - because ongoing IT support is essential for continued adoption of any automation project, the sponsor and IT managers should closely monitor and document the need for IT support, from the beginning to the end of the trial. This will help to forecast the level of support required for the actual launch.
Unanticipated staff availability/bandwidth – the sponsor should work with primary business owners to monitor for the anticipated productivity gains expected from the project. If these expectations are met, you will want to have alternate (preferably higher value-add) activities planned for any otherwise ‘empty’ employee time caused by unexpectedly high productivity gains.
User Training – the sponsor should look for opportunities towards the end of the Trial to test the training approach for getting AP staff members familiar with the new systems and processes, and to get their feedback and comfort level with process changes.
Reporting: Pilot Trial reporting should cover two elements – results (tied to success criteria) and issues. It is highly recommended that the sponsor create a three person report committee (IT, Primary Business, Secondary Business) to review ongoing and final results, take any desired actions based on results, and resolve or escalate significant Pilot issues.
Sweat the Details
The key to success with any pilot process is to obsess over the details that will springboard the pilot into a full-blown project/solution. Ironing out minor issues now, even if they result in delays, will prevent bigger problems and bigger delays down the road.
Without sound details regarding risk and/or benefits, the pilot will be limited in its effectiveness to garner support by the wider organization. Project stakeholders tend to stay focused on the functional requirements of a pilot project, while non-functional requirements, such as benefit metrics, are the first thing to slide.
It is important to keep your eye on the larger goal and ensure that by the time the pilot has been implemented, you have a sound example of success.