Accounts Payable Automation is a transformative solution that delivers significant operational and strategic benefits throughout organizations. It saves time and money in AP departments through the automation of repetitive manual invoice entry and verification tasks, enables financial visibility and control not possible with paper-based systems, fosters interdepartmental collaboration and streamlines invoice authorization processes.

Maximizing the potential benefits requires adjusting workflows in all departments involved with the receipt of goods and services and processing associated invoices, as well as ERP system integration to minimize manual processing.

But fear not – this is a well-trodden path with 35% of companies having already invested in AP Automation and a further 23% currently evaluating the technology, it is a well-understood process with a track record of producing high levels of ROI.

Expecting to parachute AP Automation into any organization and maximize the rewards it offers would generally be regarded as unrealistic - AP Automation priorities vary between organizations and implementation approaches should be adjusted to accommodate these. This document is an introduction to some of the due-diligence you should consider to ensure that AP Automation delivers the best possible outcome with the minimum resources and disruption.

Doing the groundwork

Preparation is vital for any successful project, and AP Automation is no different to any other project. Is AP Automation the right solution for your organization, are you likely to achieve your goals? Do you have the right team in place both from your suppliers and internally to drive through interdepartmental change? Is there an agreement on who will own this project – IT or finance?

Bottomline recommends a 5-step approach:

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1. Evaluate AP Automation viability for your organization

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2. Understand AP Automation and map to organization priorities

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3. Agree on a scope of work for the project

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4. Implement the AP Automation project

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5. Conduct trainings and promote system acceptance

1. Evaluate AP Automation viability for your organization

Because AP automation ambitions and circumstances vary between organizations, Bottomline has devised an introductory Customer Discovery Questionnaire. This helps carry out an initial review of any potential obstacles to you achieving your goals, share with you Bench Mark Data against your objectives, allow us to provide Budgetary Indicators and advise which Functional Managers should be involved in the AP Automation Project. We understand that AP Automation is not for every organization, so this initial step offers a useful determination of the likely success of your project – without you needing to commit a large number of resources.

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2. Understand AP Automation and map to organization priorities

It is our experience that both the supplier and the customer need to commit functional resources early in the project. This allows ratification that standard systems will meet all requirements, or to identify any customizations required to match customer business processes.

The next stage is to arrange a Show the Product to the assembled team – usually, this takes 2-3 hours depending on the level of interaction. The purpose of this is to show the customer team what the system will look like and explain how the system will match the priorities identified in the Customer Discovery Questionnaire.

It is important that experts and those impacted throughout the business are party to improvements and kept informed; this will ensure all angles have been taken into account and maintain buy-in. We will also take the opportunity to discuss how after meeting initial objectives companies have leveraged AP Automation for strategic benefits.

Afterward we would review the original Customer Discovery Questionnaire to confirm that business objectives and priorities remain as originally envisioned.

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3. Agree on a scope of work

After capturing the business objectives we need to carry out a review of the technical environment with our Invoice Connector Questionnaire. This is a detailed appraisal of the technical environment and workflow which allows the Customer and Supplier teams to build out a Document of Understanding and Statement of Work to clearly define the scope of the project. The Statement of Work identifies both standard implementation modules and any customizations or training required and will allow Bottomline to generate an accurate quote for the AP Automation system and implementation.

Implementation plans will involve resources from both Bottomline and the customer; Bottomline and the customer will create and agree on a Task and Timeline Plan.

Bottomline will also create a Final Quotation describing exactly what has been agreed, for customer agreement and order.

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4. Implement the AP Automation project

The implementation team will be passed the Statement of Work and the Task and Timeline Plan which have been agreed. A project manager will be assigned from Bottomline and the customer will also be asked to assign a project manager, each responsible for maintaining cadence on their assigned activities.

The assigned Bottomline project manager will host a kick-off meeting or conference call with the customer to review the Statement of Work, this will form the scope of the project and enable Bottomline’s experienced consultants to identify the best approach to tailoring Bottomline solutions to meet customer needs. They will also discuss the exemplar documents and test plans that the customer will need to get ready for the next stage of the project.

The Bottomline project manager will ensure that the implementation is carried out according to the agreed plan, proactively communicating with all stakeholders and addressing any issues that arise.

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5. Conduct trainings and test system acceptance 

The Statement of Work and the Task and Timeline Plan will include elements of system handover and sign-off requirements to define the system handover and terms for system acceptance.

The final stage of the project involves the customer using the prepared exemplar documents and test plans to carry out wide User Acceptance Tests on the implemented solution. Bottomline recommends that the customer maintains an Issue Register and communicates it regularly with Bottomline; this register is vital for focusing consultant effort on the areas that need it most.

When the system matches the scope in the Statement of Work, Bottomline will provide the agreed mentoring and training so that the benefits from AP Automation can be maximized.

At the end of the project, the Bottomline project manager will provide the customer with a Functional Specification and handover documentation, to facilitate the customer’s post-project support by Bottomline.

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And finally...

Bottomline has performed systems integrations for over 10,000 customers globally including 60 of the Fortune 100 companies, 85 of the FTSE 100 companies, 400 Commercial and Business banks including 15 of the global top 25, 13 of the top 25 global insurance companies, and over 1500 healthcare organizations. We have a unique position with financial solutions provision and run AP Automation in our service centers, dealing with an average of 30,000 documents a day.

Our experience tells us that following the above process minimizes the resources required to evaluate AP Automation suitability, leads to better and faster implementations, minimizes organizational disruption and ultimately results in delighted customers.



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