Picture this: senior management has agreed the company should implement an Accounts Payable (AP) Automation system. The key stakeholders have selected a project team and they are considering the solutions and providers available. Excitement is in the air for the management team and key stakeholders. Automating the processes will save the AP team a great deal of manual work, improve efficiency and reduce costs. What’s not to love?
While decision-makers recognize AP automation as the key to cost savings and improved efficiency, the reality is that end users are often less enthusiastic about the change. In fact, change management is often cited by managers as a top challenge of an AP automation project. That's why it's important to get out in front of the initiative with a solid plan to manage each phase of the change and get everyone on board.
What is change management?
Change management is simply defined as the process of determining how teams can be best prepared for organizational change. While successful businesses regularly undertake projects to improve performance, address operational problems, or to seize fresh opportunities, these vital initiatives can create new problems if staff are not adequately supported. This is where change management comes into play. It drives success and outcomes by making teams more flexible and receptive to shifting priorities, goals and processes. The structured approach is designed to support the individuals within your team and help them prepare for the future. AP Automation projects are ideal for application of change management techniques.
Perceived challenges of moving to AP Automation
When discussions begin about moving to an automated AP solution, you may encounter some initial push-back or hesitation, related to some of the perceived challenges below. You’ll want to address these concerns early and with complete transparency to the project team.
Cumbersome or outdated invoice-processing systems
High volume of manual data entry
Push back from key stakeholders
Fear of automation replacing traditional AP roles
5 Ideas for Your Change Management Plan
So how do you go about getting from where you are today to effectively streamlining your AP process and automating invoice processing? Communicate with your end users and devise a plan to get them excited about the change. Here’s some suggestions:
1. Consider their perspective: Think about human nature and the inherent resistance to change your employees may be experiencing. Think about the fear of the unknown; another new system to learn; how their roles will change; the tasks that will be removed and added; and, naturally the sensitivity to job loss. Interview users that will be most affected; document their responses and address your observations in future communications.
2. Communicate frequently: The key to change management is communication. Keep your employees informed as much as possible during the process – help debunk the reasons for fear and resistance. As soon as the solution vendor has been selected, make an announcement – get everyone excited. Demonstrate how the AP automation solution will benefit them in their roles, the company and business processes. Keep the project front of mind for everyone. Let people know the progress or the reasons for delays. Assure them that the team’s goal is to deliver a system that meets expectations.
3. Celebrate the rollout: When you have received word that the test system is ready, send a request to all department managers asking for the names of anyone who will need access to the AP system to code, approve or handle invoices – include anyone who may need to review or audit invoices for any reason. Then, invite those individuals to an internal celebration and unveiling of the new system. Some companies even hand out goodies branded with the new solution provider’s logo and raffle off prizes to create a buzz about the new system and the efficiency it will bring everyone.
4. Showcase the system: As you enter the final phase of implementation, hold live webinars with all potentials users. Show them the functionality and workflow; ask for their feedback; note their questions and concerns. Then, use this dialogue as a basis for training materials.
5. Hold internal contests: During the first months of system use, hold internal competitions encouraging users to submerse themselves in the system and complete various tasks. Reward those who eagerly participate.
Yes; it will take time to create a change management plan and relay communications, but it will save you time in the long run and keep frustration levels to a minimum if you get everyone on-board from the start. Resistance can translate to delayed implementations and rocky roll-outs, so try to get everyone excited about the project before that happens by making them a part of the change. As a AP automation provider, our goal is to facilitate a smooth implementation and employee training, so you can begin saving time and money as soon as possible.
Top reasons AP automation implementations go wrong:
1. Lack of training to the employees
2. Employees resisting this change
3. The transition was not timed well
4. Lack of clearly defined needs and wants
GKN Driveline’s Successful Change Management Strategy
Want to hear how others before you have undergone successful change management strategies? Check out this on-demand webinar with Basware customer GKN Driveline and IOFM:The Human Side of Automation.
This webinar focuses on how AP can prepare/educate/improve their skill sets for a future of increased automation and how finance executives can prepare to re-purpose talent they have in AP, offer appropriate training, rework job descriptions, etc. Industry expert Judy Bicking and Basware customer Heather Weis from GKN Driveline speak to their experience in this area on the webinar.