A while ago I spoke with a journalist from TechWire Asia as part of a series they’re doing on “Automation advice from the experts”. This made me realise that, in fact, life is actually a lot like the business process improvement journey that one goes through when automating procure-to-pay (P2P) software.
So, as a result of this thinking, I thought it might be helpful to share these insights with our Basware blog readers, in case they can see their own parallels.
Spend your time doing the most valuable things you can do
From the moment that we wake up in the morning, until the moment we turn off the lights at night, we have a limited amount of time available to spend on life stuff. Sometimes work commands more of our time, sometimes family obligations or crises occupy a disproportionate amount of time. And sometimes we just get in our own way. As James Clear says in the book Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, “Self-control is difficult because it is not satisfying”. It’s not always easy to control our lives, our days or our habits.
In software, control is very important. That’s why most software solutions have control built in to the tool behind the scenes. Sometimes it works well – as when one of our customers said, “What we like best: The flexibility to set out the solution to fit the level of control decided within our company, and to support our defined finance and operational processes”.
At other times, humans feel like automating processes makes them lose control of the day-to-day activities they used to focus on.
Actually, software helps minimise disruptions and improve process efficiency. For example, one of our customers had to procure new items for her team from China during the height of the COVID crisis because of shortages in America. If she had been forced to do a day job of paper-pushing she wouldn’t have been able to take care of her people, on top of her day job.
In short, let systems, tools and machines focus on automating your financial processes, and give your team the bandwidth they need to focus on spend analysis and supplier relationships. The more ability we have to control our own lives, the more progress we personally feel we’ll be able to make.
Minimising disruptions makes life easier
In life it’s so easy to get distracted. It’s human nature to find ourselves doing something fun or easy, rather than the often harder or more challenging task we had originally set out to achieve. The same is true of software implementations. Users who prefer not to use the software they have been asked to use, for example, to automate their e-invoicing or procurement processes, tend to find ways of avoiding using it until they absolutely have to. That’s why having great project managers and implementing a thorough, well-considered change management process is an important part of any successful project implementation. It’s also why it’s critical to have user-friendly software in the first place.
We often hear from our customers that once Basware is in place, user satisfaction has improved. And this isn’t just anecdotal. In a recent customer survey by Gartner, which informed our placement in their Peer Insights report, one of our customers put it in their own words:
“The AP Pro tool, used by our users is robust and easy to use and their feedback has been very positive. Finally, the support we receive via our allocated Success Manager is outstanding and this has made a big difference for us in the last 6 months.”
We’re not the centre of the universe
While the vast majority of people are not self-centred, we might all have a tendency to think that we are the reason that something good or, conversely, something bad might have happened. For example – think of a time you thought to yourself, “If I hadn’t done that, it wouldn’t have happened!” It’s human nature. But when we put things into perspective, it’s important to realise that we’re not the centre of the universe.
This life lesson is important in software, too. Many technology vendors believe that their procure-to-pay software is the centre of the universe. They like to tie people in to their suites. As a result, this reduces their company’s future options.
At Basware, we believe in a best-of-breed ecosystem approach, though. In our opinion, this is simply the logical choice because there are so many best-of-breed technologies available and integration has become so easy these days. Basware is not a company that says, hey, we are the centre of the universe. Usually, there's a whole technology ecosystem that's already in play at the client organisation, and we need to fit we need to complement their solution, to enhance what they already have.
There is no situation where we would go in and say, “Hey, you need to rip out what you already have, and then put Basware in instead”. If there's a AP automation solution that they're trying to replace, that's a different conversation, but it’s about fitting into our customers’ broader technology ecosystem. Our customers agree, which is why one of them said this:
“[Basware] offers single-site multi-lease and cloud, local and hybrid deployment options, and integrates with more than 250 ERP platforms.”
When solving problems: start with what’s urgent, and go from that
During the time of COVID life has been hard. Regardless of where you are, what your personal circumstances are and whether you are more or less resilient, the chances are that you will have been less than your best self at some point during this challenging period. And when times are tough it’s often hard to see how to resolve issues. In life, as in software, one of the best ways to solve an issue – whether that’s feeling like you’re out of shape because you’ve been binge-watching Netflix and eating too much, or something far more serious – is to start somewhere and start simply.
At Basware we like to start with your most important need and begin by resolving that issue, first.
One of the ways we differ from our competition is a lot of our them push this idea that you need to automate the entire source-to-pay process with one vendor. They insist that they are that vendor. We prefer to take a different approach. Instead, we usually go in and say, “Hey, whatever is your most urgent need, let's start with that”.
Rather than saying you need to do a whole big implementation that's going to take three years, and then you don’t see your return on investment for the next five years, we go in and suggest more of a phased approach. We suggest that you start with your critical need first, whether that's e-invoicing, AP automation or electronic procurement, and then have a plan for the future so you’re thinking long term. That’s why we’re proud to share that our customers think this:
“Excellent account management, with a very proactive attitude to resolving issues or working on enhancement requests.”
Getting an eagle-eye view is important so you can make changes down in the weeds
The last life-lesson from a software platform is that it’s easier to put things into perspective when you see the bigger picture. I know that sometimes things might seem overwhelming but when we’re able to step away from that circumstance and take stock, we can usually find a way of resolving that issue.
That’s why it’s important to get true visibility – of your life, and of your company’s spend. We don’t just talk about100% automation and 100% visibility, our customers have actually shown that this is possible.
So where do you begin?
We tend to start by understanding 100% of spend by beginning with an invoice. That's the first point where we get most of the data. And then we pull data from the other systems that are integrated with Basware together.
For example, on the supplier management side we just introduced some criteria that show whether a certain supplier is a minority owned or women owned business, because that's becoming a really important criteria in North America.
This means that Basware becomes the hub that pulls information from your ERP, from your external systems, as well as third party sources, and then can provide that holistic visibility of your suppliers, and your span of transactions. It means it’s not just a snapshot of what's happening today, but can also evaluate trends over time. And because we do a lot of community benchmarking you can obviously track your KPIs over time, but you can also track your KPIs against other companies like you. We think our customer put it best when they said this:
“The product has helped to eliminate paper invoices, and gave us visibility over the invoice flow. [It has] also shortened invoice processing time.”
What lessons have you learned from automating P2P (or other) processes using automation? Please reach out to me on LinkedIn (Sushmitha Koka, Director of Global Product Marketing at Basware) to let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
If you’d like to read more about simplifying processes and finance operations – you can read the original TechWire Asia article here.