Senior management has agreed the company should implement an Accounts Payable Automation/Workflow system. The key stakeholders have selected a project team and they are considering the products and providers available. Excitement is in the air. Automating the processes will save the Accounts Payable team a great deal of effort, will improve compliance to company business rules, and reduce costs.
What about the rest of the employees working in different functional areas, especially if they need to code, approve and/or validated invoices ordered by their department?
Consider human nature and our natural resistance to change.
- Fear of the unknown
- “Oh, no. Another new system I will need to learn!”
- “Will this mean more work for me?”
- “Will I lose my job?”
- Poor timing
- “We can’t implement a new system at the end of the fiscal year!”
- “Training can’t be held then. Too many people are on vacation.”
- Is there ever a good time?
Resistance can result in a delayed implementation or worse yet, a rocky rollout or long stabilization period.
The key to Change Management is communication. Debunk the reasons for resistance.
- Establish a Change Management Team.
- Identify the audience and start spreading the news early. Get potential users excited.
- Determine who or which group should endorse each communication that is sent out. Perhaps the members of the steering committee?
- Schedule the sending of updates and include in the Project Plan.
- Keep the updates short and to the point.
- Share successes and disappointments.
- Encourage members of the audience to supply their feedback; questions, concerns, or suggestions.
- Don’t exaggerate
- Be transparent
As soon as the system and provider have been selected, make an announcement!
Supply a high-level diagram of how the AP Workflow tool will benefit the company.
Don’t miss a scheduled communication. Keep the project in the minds of the employees. At the very least, let people know the progress or the reasons for delays. Assure them that the team’s goal is to deliver a system that meets all expectations.
When you have received word that the test system is ready, send a request to all department managers asking for the names of anyone who will need access to the AP Workflow system to code, approve or handle PO exception invoices. Include anyone who may need to review or audit invoices for any reason.
Once the company has access to the test system and the user profiles have been set up, email those who could be instrumental in testing the system and ask for volunteers. Consider those who have shown their engagement by supplying feedback or that have worked closely with Accounts Payable in the past. By including different types of users in the testing process, issues may highlight that were not considered by the project team.
Still experiencing some resistance as you enter the final phase of implementation? Once you have access to the test system, consider holding live webinars. Invite all potential users. Start showing them the system. Make a note of their questions. Use these to create strong training materials. Publish a FAQ document. If one person is asking a question, it is likely others will raise the same question.
Speaking of training, consider creating materials that are specific to the company and to each user type or group. For example, the coders do not need to learn how to approve invoices. If a coder is also an approver, then they would need to refer to the different training documents.
Also, consider the training methodology of train the trainer. Work with department managers to identify one person in each department or location who should become a subject matter expert on the new system. This way, anyone who needs to learn the system, or has questions, can work with someone they already know which should reduce anxiety some may feel when learning something new.
Yes, it will take time to create a change management plan and related communications but I can tell you from previous experience, it will save you time in the long run and keep frustration levels to a minimum. A plan will also help ensure a successful and a timely implementation.
Want to learn more? Contact New England Document Systems or CS Process Flows. They have the experience, and the resources to assist you; from answering your questions about available solutions to helping you to implement the right tool. Contact us to discuss just how much improvement you want to see in your Accounts Payable Operation.
This article is part of New England Document Systems’ partnership with industry experts. This contribution was written by Anne Wheeler of CS Process Flows, LLC. Anne is a Consultant and Project Manager specializing in Accounts Payable processes and systems.