How can AP can play an important part of an ERP rollout?
No executive wakes up in the morning and decides they need a different ERP. Rather, this decision has been mulled over for months, sometimes even years. It's a very complex and expensive decision that involves many executives, stakeholders, and even consultants.
Because of the very nature of an ERP—in its broad reach that connects all business units—many smaller departments, especially accounts payable, feel as though their wants and needs are having to take a backseat.
This couldn't be further from the truth.
The only way for a company to be successful post-ERP implementation is to make sure all departments contribute early on to shape what the new ERP will be. So just because you haven't been asked to contribute to the rollout of an ERP doesn't mean your feedback would go unheeded.
The lesson in this is simple: communicate openly with subordinates and higher-ups. You'll see this theme throughout this list.
Here are 6 things anyone in AP can do to contribute to an ERP rollout:
1) It's about working with you.
Technology is a tool and it's meant to help you get your job done easier. As such, any ERP solution should fit into your workflow—not the other way around.
This may not have been the case some 10 years ago, when departments were forced to rework their processes to fit into a new ERPs. Today's cloud-based platforms are highly modular. This means that the individual components comprising the ERP can be substituted for ones that better fit into your current workflow.
ERP implementations are like tailor-made suits. That's why it takes some time to set one up.
To assure a smooth future workflow, communicate your duties and responsibilities to the ERP consultant or your internal project manager.
Do this by writing down your daily activities. Imagine you're calling in sick and are taking a proxy through every one of your tasks. What do you tell that person? Pay special attention to the parts where you have to go “off script," a deviating from your department's guide.
The better the consultant or project manager understands the nuances of your organization's AP, the easier it is for them to build a seamless ERP-friendly workflow.
2) Don't put off doing tomorrow what can be done today.
Where's the future of AP headed? Where's your department heading? Anticipating where these two will intersect is key to unlocking opportunities of a new ERP.
What's more, vocalizing this early on is not only prescient on your behalf, but makes executives take notice of your knowledge—a boon if you're eager to get ahead.
So, what new service, solution, or practice is starting to get noticed and gaining traction in the AP landscape? What last product left you thinking, “Wow, we can really use something like that!"
Don't get dissuaded by thinking the window's closed for something like that. ERP implementations (usually) have generous timelines built into their implementation. This takes into account the need for additional consultants, creative work-arounds, third plugins, or any combination of these.
There may be overlap between a feature you're vying for and the solution to an obstacle on the path to ERP implementation—even indirectly.
Your “it-sure-would-be-neat-if" recommendation may be the final mark on the pros column in choosing one solution over the other.
3) Paperless office.
The paperless office was promised to the business world back in '70s. Many departments have made this vision a reality, but accounts payable, with its antiquated paper check writing ways, has been stuck in the days of disco balls and bell-bottom pants ever since.
The opportunity to push AP into the 21st century is now. A modern workflow may look like this:
- Vendors no longer call for payment status—they now go online to track the status themselves.
- No more manual remittance—it's done automatically.
- No more printing and mailing out paper checks.
If scanning and digitizing invoices for quick retrieval and searching was paperless AP 1.0, a workflow that enables multi-level authorization along with the actual payment of vendors is paperless AP 2.0.
A well thought out ERP workflow for AP can do all this and more. What's more, an ERP consultant can set this up with a few keystrokes and a script file.
There's no reason any department, especially accounts payable, needs to deal with physical paper after the rollout of a modern ERP system.
4) Training. Training. Training.
With new technology comes new procedures. This means AP needs to re-write a large portion of its procedures manual. How are things going to be done on this new platform? Where are the commonly used features now found on drop-down menus? These are things you'll need to document.
Equally important is a transition guide. This should be written along the lines of “instead of this, do this," or “be sure to do this, this, and this, on both systems." This is paramount in the early stages, since a rollout is a gradual process and parts of the ERP will come on and offline with different versions of entered data.
The silver lining may come in the form of playing architect.
How should an ideal workflow go in AP? Better yet, now's a great time to enforce tighter controls. For example, disallowing rush payments by check, rather sending those only through ACH.
What may start off as a training guide for the new ERP can easily transform AP's entire policy and procedure for the better.
5) Sage advice.
Aside from tutorials and training from your ERP vendors' site, you'd be remiss if you didn't scour video sites for AP practitioners who've contributed to rollouts of their own. They'll usually highlight the obstacles they had and how they resolved them.
Going further down the rabbit hole, you'll discover tons of eBooks documenting ERP rollouts—in much greater detail. These self-published authors are eager to share their experience through the lens of accounts payable. If you're fortunate enough, those accountants turned authors may have first-hand experience in both your legacy and newer ERP system. Their transition guides will be the most relevant to you.
Whichever content route you decide on—whether it's video or text—share your notes with everyone. This free-flow of information only aides in a trouble-free ERP implementation. Again, in such an important task, there's no such thing as too much communication.
And be sure to reach out to the content creator to let them know how grateful you are for their help. For all you know, they may be consultants of their own…
6) Straight from the horse's mouth.
So hire their services!
Those content creators have already demonstrated their knowledge—actions, do after all, speak louder than words. Consider purchasing a few consulting hours from them.
Whatever the cost, their highly specific knowledge can save both you and your organization countless time and frustration.
Contributing in any one of these ways can be a surefire way to get you noticed by executives and serves to accelerate your career. A new ERP can not only change how your organization operates, it's also like being dealt a new hand midway through the game. Are you ready to go all in?
What hand have you played in your organizations rollout of a new ERP? Let us know how you helped and what advice you have.