Change can be such a dirty word in corporate America. I have found that when you really look at why a process is in place and when faced with changing that process, the people who are against the change are unable to give you a really good reason, other than “that’s the way we have always done it” to change. There are even corporate America defense mechanisms that you can use to defeat the change. My favorite is, “if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it“. I have heard that many times, but with Accounts Payable Automation it’s never the case of the process being broken, but more needed improvement. You know making something good – better.
What drives automation is the approval process or commonly known as workflow. Workflow is the engine that changes a once good process to a great process which is what AP Automation can do if done correctly. With the spirit of effective approval process change here are 11 practices to guide you.
Practice 1 – Do not compromise – It is important when picking a service provider that you don’t comprise on your needs. Words like “work-a-round” or “customization” when it comes to workflow is bad – bad words and it means your service provider is not equipped to handle your needs. You don’t want your service providers problems to become your problems.
Practice 2 – Only approvers – When building an electronic approval process make sure you only have approvers in each step. People who want to see the data can be accommodated by reporting. This ensures that your approval process is packed with the right people.
Practice 3 – Try, try and try again – When you move from paper to automated, the first iteration of your workflow will be your best guess, based on paper. After time (6, 9 or 12 months) you will have enough data to really implement a good approval process.
Practice 4 – No looping – Make sure that when creating workflow that everyone in the process does their job and no one person is repeated in the workflow for a second job. This is called looping, where the same person is doing two different approvals. Have that person do both sets where they both best fit or eliminate one of the steps.
Practice 5 – Don’t reinvent the wheel – Having different workflow for the same approval set for the same job title means that you have a big problem when it comes to someone leavening the company. Having role based approval steps mean that people can leave and be added to the approval process without having to change the workflow.
Practice 6 – Look for opportunities – Once the paper is gone in AP there will be opportunities to add and delete approval processes. Don’t be afraid to do either. Especially the delete. If you find that a process is just not getting invoices or getting a very low volume of invoices then make your change, say goodbye to the old and enjoy the new.
Practice 7 – Know your time – When designing and managing a workflow process, cycle time is an important benchmark. Cycle time is the time it take for your organization to receive, process and approve an invoice. Knowing this number before you automate will have you know if you have been successful, but watching this number over time by workflow will give you insight to how well you are maintaining.
Practice 8 – Get right or get left – Don’t leave any invoices behind. There is a common sales practice where the service provider says… “you will probably want to keep the paper with those invoices”. Now, I am all about making sure that a process is improved, but make sure that when you are given this advice it’s not because the service provider can’t deal with that type of invoice.
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