Having helped companies go from paper to an automation Accounts Payable process for the last 13 years I have learned that communicating with the vendor is extremely important.
I have said…
In the past, I have coached people the bigger the burden you put on the vendor to change, or the more hoops you have to make the vendor go through to use your automation platform the longer your implementation process. To put it as straight forward as possible; there is a correlation between vendor adoption and the speed of changing your Accounts Payable process.
To ensure a smooth transition I have come up with these six step to help you communicate with your vendors when going to and automated AP process.
- Planning – I write a lot about this in my book, The 8 Pitfalls. The entire book is 200 pages (can you believe that) and 100 of the pages is dedicated to planning and getting ready for automation. Planning is the step that most companies miss. When planning it is important to reach out to a handful of your key vendors to ask them their experience with automation. This will help you create a good plan to automate and can give you insight to service providers they like or dislike.
- Service Provider Selection with the Vendor in Mind – It is common practice to inform the vendor (when automating AP) that you are automating and if they want to be paid they will do what they are told. I recommend you resist this notion especially when it comes to selecting a service provider to help you automate. In resisting, it will enable the service provider not to get off so easily when it comes to vendor adoption. Selecting a service provider that has experience and best practices with vendors should be a big check in their favor.
- Implementation – In step three, when implementing your AP Automation solution include key vendors in your test procedures. You may use the same ones you talked with in the planning phases, but you might want to infuse some new life into this group to make sure you are not over using vendors and to get multiple perspectives. Also in this phase make sure you have a good grasp on what the vendor will need to do so you can put together the proper documents.
- Go Live – Once the flood gates are open I recommend that in this step you don’t do much… can you believe that? I recommend very little communication with the vendor to concentrate on your internal users and perfecting the approval process. This is opposite thinking to the traditional model where this is the step where all communication is done. My experience has been that if you are doing all of your communication in this step you haven’t done your homework.
- Then Change – This step is the most robust step in communicating to your vendors…. now stay with me on this. I recommend that you find a service provider that, in the beginning, will have very little change to vendors sending invoices. That means to find a service provider that will handle the mail and paper. The reason is, change is done best with data. If you are a pure paper driven AP system you will lack data because of the paper. Once automated you will have the data. Also, taking time will allow you to know which methods of entering invoices are better than others.
- Re-Evaluate – When I do steps, you will always find this one as the last one. Communication is never an event it is a process. I recommend you consistently ask yourself as an organization how you can get better, but as a step in the communication process make sure you have at least one, better two or three where the re-evaluation process is formal.
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