Transforming your AP from a manual process to an electronic one saves time, money and provides unprecedented visibility into cash flow. In fact, it’s been proven over and over that AP automation is worth the investment.If you’re one of the 23% of organizations thinking about taking your accounts payable process to the next level, take some time to put an AP automation project plan in place to ensure a successful outcome. This is a significant investment, so taking the time to do the groundwork prior to starting the project is essential to maximizing the rewards.

You can start by thinking about some key high-level questions –How will you achieve your goals for the project? Do you have the right team in place? Have you identified a project owner?Once you start putting a specific AP automation project plan in place you can begin plotting out the details. Here’s a guide to get you started:

5 key stages of an AP automation project plan:

  1.  Evaluating AP automation viability A project of this scope requires adjusting the workflows in all departments involved in the accounts receivable process-from the purchasers of goods and services to the processors of the invoice to the ERP system. The first step to AP automation begins with an initial review of what areas will be affected, any potential obstacles that might arise and evaluating budgetary needs.
  2. Mapping to organizational priorities Both you and the vendor you select to provide automation technology need to commit functional resources to this project. For your vendor, this would likely be a sales point person and an implementation advisor. For you, plan to involve a project sponsor, an AP manager and user, a cost center manager, an ERP tech and an IT resource aligned with AP. Once the teams are in place, it’s important to share the project outline and demonstrate the product’s capabilities. Proactively engaging key stakeholders is key to maintaining buy-in and ensuring all angles are taken into account
  3. Agreeing on the scope of workOnce business priorities and objectives have been identified, a review of the technical landscape should be conducted. This allows you and your vendor to build out a detailed Document of Understanding and a Statement of Work that will help clearly define the scope of the project and set expectations, including any customization to the standard implementation and training that might be needed.
  4. Implementation planAfter the Statement of Work is completed, the implementation plan can be developed and should include an outline of the tasks to be completed and the project timeline. This should be reviewed at a kick-off meeting to ensure a smooth implementation and proactively set expectations with the project stakeholders. Plus, creating a baseline of communication between the teams will allow for the efficient addressing of issues they arise.
  5. Training and system testingIdeally, the Statement of Work will provide direction for the transition, from the implementation phase to the live phase, including system handover and sign-off requirements. This final stage of the project involves testing on the implemented solution. When you’re satisfied that the working system matches the expectations set out in the Statement of Work, your vendor can start training the day-to-day users of the system. At this point the relationship between you and your vendor will transition to the post-implementation support that was agreed upon in the initial project plan.

Although the decision to migrate your manual AP process to an automated one can be daunting, following the process as outlined above can minimize the resources required to execute an AP automation transmission, lead to a more efficient and faster implementation, keep organizational disruption to a minimum and ultimately result in successfully achieving project goals.

To see how your AP department stacks up to the best-in-class AP organizations, check out Ardent Partners’ latest research report “The State of ePayables 2018: The Future of AP is Now

Posted by Germaine Lang

Germaine Lang is the Associate Editor of SmartPayments and a creative writer and customer advocate specialist. She works to engage customers and detail their experiences with vendor products and services, positioning them as innovative thought leaders.