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4 Tips to De-risk your AP Automation Project

Accounts Payable Automation is the process of re-engineering the accounts payable process to create and improve efficiencies. More often than not it involves digitisation and centralisation of a process that is currently manual and paper-centric. When done correctly an AP Automation project is not just automation of the current process, it is a complete re-imagining of the process.

Organisations are drawn towards AP automation projects because they offer a very large set of potential benefits. These benefits include cost reductions, accuracy improvements, resource reallocation, improved cash management, access to early payment discounts, avoidance of late payment penalties, improved vendor relationships and increased staff satisfaction just to name a few.

Unfortunately for most organisations they need to run a change project before they can access those benefits. This can be challenging as history tells us that approximately 50% of change projects lead to frustrated delivery (failure to deliver on time, to budget and / or the full scope) or completely failed delivery.

We have put together our top tips to avoid being in the 50%. Here they are; 

1. People Leadership.

It should come as no surprise that people leadership sits at number 1 in our list. Despite the significant advances in labour management since the Industrial Age we are still seriously deficient in the way we lead our most valuable resource through these change projects.

If you want to improve your people outcomes on a project then you need to start the communication about the project (what it is, why it is needed, how it will impact the individuals etc.) with the team early on and where possible engage them in some of the decision making. It is important that organisations also let the team know what the non-negotiables for the project are. Allowing team members to think they can change an outcome that is a non-communicated non-negotiable is just a waste of energy that will become a massive de-motivator for the individual when they eventually work out that it is non-negotiable. For this I will use the Bus analogy. The team need to know that the bus they are on is going to a new destination. They need to know that the destination is not open for debate, however, what is open for debate is some of the semantics relating to the journey. e.g. which seat they will take, will there be stops on the way etc. Having the courage to engage the team early will lead to superior project outcomes.

Your project team will need good levels of Executive Support. The key people on the project need to know they have the backing of the executives. They need decisions made in a timely manner and required resources made available to ensure success. They also need executives to step in where needed and remove roadblocks.

Engage your IT department early. In our experience the IT department will be a great ally on a project like this if they are engaged early and are able to make sure their input is heard. The modern IT department is usually very concerned with delivering business value and they will want input. On the contrary, bringing the IT department in late will lead to your frustration as you have to wait while they go about their normal checks and balances.

The final people leadership tip we have is to look after your Subject Matter Expert (SME). Most organisations have a person that is central to the successful operation of the current AP process. This person will be in high demand as you set about planning an automation project. They need to provide significant input into the project. The problem is that these key resources are generally already over-utilised in their normal working week. Having them contribute a significant effort to your project will leave a big hole in the current process that will cause many issues. What normally happens is the day-to-day operational issues take priority on the project and the project slips well out into the future. Good leadership here plans for this resource issue by back training other resources into some of the key components of the SME’s current role. That allows them to be freed up to participate in the new automaton project without significant negative impacts to the organisation.

2. Consider Cloud Deployment.

Research* has shown that cloud delivered AP solutions are 100% more likely to deliver real time visibility into an organisations cash position. This is just one of the benefits that organisations can enjoy when they choose a cloud deployment model.

A cloud deployment model will provide stakeholders access to information when they want it from anywhere in the world. Any modern cloud based solution will offer mobile access to information as well as allowing staff to process their workflow tasks on their mobile device as well.

A less known but hugely compelling reason to choose cloud deployed solutions for AP processing is based around the skills required to maintain that type of solution. Corporate IT Departments have many IT skills but few of them are specialists in document capture, document management, workflow and data integration. When these technologies are deployed in the cloud your cloud hosting partner will have these skills. That way when there is an issue you can rest assured that the right resources with the right skills will get it resolved quickly.

3. Choose an Integration Capable Solution.

Even if your first project stage does not require integration with your ERP, it will likely be a future need. AP automation solutions that provide maximum ROI need to access vendor, PO, receipting and other critical information from the ERP so that they can make informed approval routing decisions. They will also need to be able to pass electronic invoice data back into the ERP so that human labour is not needed to do it. None of this can happen if your solution does not have a strong integration capability.   This capability will also be essential if you plan to use the implemented platform to automate other key business processes. e.g. HR Automation, Contract Management, Customer Service Processes. In the information Age companies that are able to effectively connect their technology have a significant advantage over those that cannot.

4. Partner with a Trusted Advisor.

Generally an organisation will only run one AP Automation project and it is impossible for it to be a core skill of the organisation. There are a number of companies, like ours, that do plenty of these projects. Probably the biggest influence on your potential success will be the quality of the partner you choose to do the project with. Engaging a company like ours will enable you to tap into decades of process re-engineer and technology deployment experience.  When deployed for your benefit this experience will underwrite the risk associated with running such a large change program.

Hopefully these tips help you deliver a successful AP Automation project. If you would like to meet with us to discuss your specific project please email us at sales@upflowsolutions.co.nz.

*Ref. Aderdeen Group 2015, Bring Invoice Processing Costs Back to Earth with AP Automation in the Cloud.

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SEK, Educational Assessment Firm

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) require that all students participate in state abilities assessments. SEK, the service that provides these assessments, is headquartered in Parsons, Kansas, from where it deploys psychologists who travel the region performing student evaluations, recording data and submitting their findings to headquarters where they are accessed by the federal government.

SEK streamlined its processing system and securely stored documents within FileBound. Assessments are now easily accessible to employees.

The Problem

The vast majority of SEK employees are deployed in the field where they conduct student assessments. Once an assessment is completed, it is important for the assessor to quickly return findings to headquarters for processing. However, over the years it has proved increasingly difficult for assessing psychologists to manage all the paperwork and get it back to headquarters in a timely manner. This, in turn, has slowed government payments to SEK.

Assessments administered by SEK are often tracked for up to 20 years. As the years passed, it became apparent that the company needed a better, more organized and efficient way of storing the assessments so that they would be easily accessible when needed for comparison by government agencies.

The Solution

FileBound Document Management System provided a highly efficient solution to all of SEK’s challenges. Now, once a psychologist completes an assessment in the field, he or she simply scans it into FileBound and it is immediately uploaded to FileBound On Demand for quick processing and billing to the federal government. Every assessment stored in the FileBound Document Management System is instantly available to governmental agencies through the FileBound Clipboard, so getting the copies they need is easier than ever before.

FileBound Results

Processing of assessments that once took days or even weeks can now be completed in minutes from the field. By streamlining processing, SEK has also been able to speed up receipt of payment from the government. Furthermore, any assessment stored within the FileBound system is quickly retrieved whenever needed, eliminating hours of searching through records that over the years could get lost or misplaced.

White Paper: Clear Cost Model Allows Easy ROI Calculations

By Rex Lamb

FileBound provides high value for a low price.

Return on Investment (ROI) is at the heart of every significant business decision. In the simplest of terms it is a measure of what you get for what you give. Research by Ohio State University found that 4 out of 5 buyers seek “value” before price. In other words, most people will give more to get more.

“Value” includes Quality, Flexibility of the offering and Availability all as a function of Price. “Quality” means the product delivers what is required (or wanted) and does what is promised. Economists call this the “Law of Marginal Utility.” For the rest of us, it means what blows your hair back won’t necessarily interest the next guy. When we talk about ROI, we have to keep it in the context of what is important to the buyer.

What are businesses requiring today? First, they want more customers and more sales. That is pretty well true no matter what the economic conditions are. Beyond that, however, is that business today is desperately seeking ways to engineer cost out of the business. Most of the improved earnings reports are the result of cost reductions. And while cost reduction began as a way to respond to the recession, evidence suggests that it is quickly becoming a permanent part of business culture.

With a paper-based invoice processing system the company incurs a significant “cost” in handling paper, but it is difficult to quantify the short-run cash savings. Creating a long-run “saving” by installing imaging, for example, doesn’t add value if I still have the floor space, the employees and all my other out-of-pocket expenses. The value may be intrinsic, but few businesses are investing today based upon intangible value. The CFO will say “Show me the money!”

FileBound offers a rare opportunity to eliminate work at a value-based price. A major task in the AP department is entering data from paper invoices into the Accounting System. Typical information entered is a vendor name, purchase order number, invoice number, payment due date and general ledger account code (s) and total due. Because this information is normally put into the accounting
system after all processing and approvals, other logging and data entry of the invoice typically takes place before the invoice is ready for entry to the accounting system.

With FileBound all of this changes. Invoices are scanned immediately upon arrival. The needed information is electronically picked up off the invoice and captured eliminating data entry and other manual tasks to a fraction of the time normally required. Routing and review of invoices is all handled electronically, eliminating hand routing and handling of the invoices. Finally, the scanned information is automatically imported into the general ledger accounting system and invoices can be paid without further data entry.

Best of all, not only is the work more efficient, much of the original work (key entering data) is gone forever. This provides the opportunity to either repurpose staff to cash-producing work (such as AR collections and sales proposal follow-ups) or eliminate head count. Either way, the business gets cash returns for the investment.

Added benefits include improved accuracy and reduced mailing expense. Errors in data entry create extra work and cost. With FileBound, that problem is gone forever because the information is picked up electronically from the invoice. Invoices received at field offices are now scanned, eliminating mailing or courier expense.

High value for a low price with FileBound – an easy ROI!

Ply Gem Drives Accounts Payable Efficiencies

Ply Gem provides residential builders, remodelers and architects with a comprehensive range of building products including windows, doors, siding, stone veneer, fencing and railing. Serving stores located throughout much of the United States as well as Western Canada, Ply Gem has for more than 50 years been a dependable resource for those involved in new construction, remodeling and repairs.

Ply Gem, a residential building products provider, saved on labor expenses and streamlined its accounts payable processes with FileBound Document Management.

The Problem

In 2008, Ply Gem moved its accounts payable process from its individual locations to its Cary, North Carolina, headquarters, resulting in Cary’s staff each month being overwhelmed by more than 13,000 invoices, all of which were handled manually. Understandably,
labor expenses soared as the staff struggled under the load. Before long, payments were being made late to vendors, some vendors received double payments and other suppliers had to receive wired funds or manual checks in order to smooth ruffled feathers.

Other departments, such as legal, marketing and human resources, were struggling with the paperbased systems as well. Finding documents was becoming a serious issue, and on top of that storing the vast reams of paper processed each month was becoming an issue as space badly needed for cubicles was devoted to boxes overflowing with records. It was clear something had to be done.

The Solution

Ply Gem implemented a complete FileBound system that included scanning, document management and workflow solutions. FileBound’s flexible licensing model allowed Ply Gem to not only automate the severely challenged AP process, but also provide document management and workflow solutions for the other departments as well. Best of all, the cost was well below that of competitive systems that would only have solved the AP problem.

By using an application integration module and making the complete FileBound Object Module available, integration with Ply Gem’s JD Edwards ERP application was achieved easily and at much less cost than would otherwise have been possible. Since Ply Gem makes the MS Office application available on every desktop, having the integration built into FileBound was a huge advantage.

Ply Gem’s Director of IT was especially enthusiastic about FileBound’s architecture. He felt his team could easily support the platform and create any required integration or customization that the business units would need to streamline their work.

FileBound Results

Ply Gem’s system has only recently been implemented, but already the solution has been able to save the company on labor expense. Accounts Payable employees are now equipped to handle exceptions at their desks while on the phone with a vendor or customer, greatly streamlining the process. Vendor relations are much improved because payments are made on time and with fewer manual checks
being issued.