An Overview of AP Automation Objectives Among Project Stakeholders
When the time comes to establish your AP Automation project team, it’s important to engage with your various stakeholders to ensure that you satisfy your organization’s requirements at all levels. Getting organized, establishing goals, and keeping all stakeholders accountable will not only help you achieve your AP Automation objectives but also help your vendor deliver your solution faster and more efficiently while minimizing backtracking.
Generally, there is some variance among who is involved depending on the structure of your organization; however, AP Automation project teams are commonly composed of the following stakeholders:
- AP Manager
- Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
- Chief Product Officer (CPO)
- IT Leader
Below, we explore why these stakeholders are critical to your partnership with an AP Automation vendor and how to utilize their individual objectives to reach your desired outcomes on a holistic level.
AP Manager Objectives
Accounts Payable (AP) Managers are responsible for managing and supervising the Accounts Payable department and staff in your organization. They run point on an assortment of tasks, such as ensuring company policy is adhered to, maintaining the general ledger, verifying payments are distributed in a timely manner, and executing strategies to help eliminate inefficiencies throughout the purchase-to-pay cycle.
Your AP Managers are like infantrymen, putting boots on the ground to solve problems where they arise. This gives them a unique perspective on the inner workings of your AP process and allows them to identify quirks and weaknesses that might otherwise go unnoticed. As a result, AP Managers typically experience the benefits of AP Automation more directly than other stakeholders.
AP Managers and the processors they oversee will be in the trenches utilizing AP Automation to process and reconcile invoices faster and more efficiently. Their AP Automation objectives include:
- Convert from paper-based invoices to electronic invoices
- Reduce document processing and storage costs
- Streamline management of invoices from multiple sources
- Reduce cost per invoice processed and increase the volume of invoices processed per FTE
- Eliminate duplicate payments and late payments
- Mitigate human error from manual invoice data entry and processing
- Manage AP processes when short-staffed
- Incorporate remote workers
- Standardize processes to improve consistency and reduce dependence on tribal knowledge
- Increase visibility into AP and improve reporting
Chief Financial Officer Objectives
Your Chief Financial Officer CFO) is responsible for managing financial matters at your company, such as tracking cash flow, financial planning, analyzing financial strengths and weaknesses, and proposing corrective actions to ensure that your organization is generating net positive gains.
CFOs are commonly the driver of AP Automation projects because they survey the business at a fifty-thousand-foot view and can see how these improvements work together to deliver results. CFO objectives include:
- Real-time visibility into working capital
- Superior control over AP spend
- Robust analytics to support strategic decision-making
- Capture more early pay discount opportunities
- Transform AP into a profit center
Another critical stakeholder to include in your AP Automation project is your controller. Controllers manage accounting records and produce financial reports. They play a pivotal role in both private and public companies. For public companies that trade on stock exchanges, GAAP-compliant reports generated by controllers are required by law for shareholders’ review.
Controllers are also responsible for overseeing how and where accounting records are stored, which is one of the chief reasons they should be included on your AP Automation project team. Other Controller objectives include:
- Improve visibility into AP data
- Obtain high-quality tools for analyzing and managing cash flow
- Streamline transaction processes
- Support simpler compliance, reporting, and audit procedures
- Faster financial close
Chief Product Officer Objectives
If you decide to include your Chief Product Officer (CPO) on your AP Automation project team, they will provide a unique, product-focused perspective. Depending on your industry, their insight can be critical to your AP Automation project.
While most CPOs are responsible for driving product vision, innovation, design, development, and marketing, they also play a role in distribution, manufacturing, and procurement as it relates to your organization’s product(s). After all, you can’t build great products without procuring the necessary ingredients to produce them, which means your CPO needs a clear view of Accounts Payable. Therefore, CPOs emphasize stability when included on your AP Automation project team. Their objectives include:
- Fewer “maverick” and out-of-budget purchases
- Enhance supplier experience through a dedicated portal
- Reduce or eliminate late payments to key suppliers
- Increase visibility into AP spend
- Better contract compliance
IT Leader Objectives
IT Leaders are often viewed as the gatekeepers preventing major projects, such as AP Automation, from coming to fruition. Skepticism amongst IT professionals is certainly warranted when it comes to projects of this magnitude because IT Leaders are focused on maintaining the status quo and keeping your organization’s information secure. That said, your IT Leader shouldn’t be focused on finding reasons to prevent a potentially beneficial project from moving forward; rather, their focus should be trained on keeping security intact as you progress with your AP Automation project.
For this reason, they are an essential stakeholder on your AP Automation project team. They can also help you vet your chosen vendor to ensure that they are experienced and trustworthy. When you choose the right vendor, your IT Leader is less likely to shoot down your project and more likely to embrace it with arms wide open. Getting them on board is worth the effort. Plus, they can benefit in some rather significant ways, including:
- Lessen the burden of supporting AP
- Extend the value of ERP investments
- Reduce the total cost of ownership for ERP
- Streamline security and compliance
- Forge strategic partnership for growing technological demands
Now That Your Project Team’s AP Automation Objectives Are Clear, What’s Next?
You’ve put together a team and you’re ready to implement AP Automation for your company. Congratulations! Now, it’s time to discuss next steps.
First, you need to determine which features and functionalities are necessary to meet your project requirements. Remember, AP Automation software comes in all shapes and sizes, running the gamut from point solutions for small businesses to enterprise-class platforms for industry leaders. Depending on the size of your company and the volume of invoices you process, the best solution for your needs will differ drastically from those that have been implemented by other businesses.
For starters, think about some of the high-level features that your organization will utilize, such as:
- ERP Integration
- Invoice receipt
- Data capture
- Approval workflow
- PO matching
- Exception handling
Then, you will need to decide what level of automation is suitable to meet your goals and requirements. The more you automate, the higher your ROI over time, but it will come at a higher upfront cost. Are you looking for short-term savings or long-term, systemic changes that will help you dominate the competition? Whatever you decide, AP Automation can help.