I believe that all great learning comes from real life personal pain. My wife and I were once on a “reality show” TV kick. I am not proud of this fact, and in my defense, it was years ago with the original episode of Survivor. After this brief and entertaining reality show phase, my wife explained our fascination by saying that, “real people are so much more interesting than the people who Hollywood creates”. I think the same goes with learning and growing in business.
To that point, recently I was invited to visit a large organization that has an interest in Automating their AP process… well, to be clear, it was more than an interest – it was a flat-out need! They were encouraged to talk with me because of the 8 Pitfalls… and through a brief phone conversation I found they were the perfect candidate. When I wrote the book, I had in mind the same struggles the company I am working with is experiencing…
This is where the learning happens. I can sum it up in one brief sentence… Know your company’s culture.
In this situation the company has a very heavy IT culture. Everything has to be blessed and approved by IT… The conception of this project began, innocently enough, when the leaders in accounting realized they needed to do something to “modernize” their accounting practices. They also knew they were paying a lot for their manual processes. Through a very sharp and critical (not in a negative way) look at their department they came to the conclusion that they needed to do something. They then tasked an internal accounting resource (very motivated and talented, might I add) to head up the project. This person did the research (web, networking, trade show… then me) to come up with a possible solution that fit the company’s needs… which were: It needed to be easy to implement, it needed to be easy to administer, it had to be very cost-effective, with a Return of Investment (ROI) and it had to free employees’ time up from manual processes (New Time).
Next they let IT in on what they were doing…. (enter screeching breaks sound here). Accounting’s goals of fast, easy, and efficient where completely opposite of IT’s which were to control – control and control… I can’t say that I blame IT, because, to some degree, they may be asked to support and help implement an AP automation solution….
I felt really bad for the accounting people who desperately need and want to improve, however it doesn’t pay to secretly do due diligence on a new process knowing that some aspect of the business is not going to approve. In the 8 Pitfalls I write about knowing your change factors. One aspect of knowing your change factors is to research your company’s history of similar projects so you will not repeat the same problems or roadblocks. I have a colleague that, when initially engaging a potential customer, will ask if they (personally) have ever gotten anything like AP Automation approved in the past…. maybe a work order, accounting system, expense, or time management. She will even ask how long they have been with the company. Both of these questions are to gauge how much internal knowledge and research the person has done.
Bottom line – life is short (and long too) and time is precious…. lay the ground work before you launch.
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