You’ve done the research and you know how much your company would benefit from automating the AP department.  Now it’s time to convince the executive team that this is a good strategic move.  So how do you begin building a business case for AP automation?  It’s all about doing your research and highlighting the potential benefits of automation for your company.

Doing Your Research

Good research is a key component in building your business case for AP automation.  The executive team may not realize that the status quo isn’t working anymore, so it’s up to you to convince them that AP automation is worth the time, money and effort that it will take to implement.  Here are a few areas for you to consider when you are putting your research together.

Know (and document) your company’s current AP process.  Be thorough and specific.  What’s working well and what’s not working well?  Be objective about the process and make notes about what could be done to improve the process.

Define the scope of the solution you’re proposing.  Take a step back and determine who would be involved in the project.  Would you start by automating just the AP department or would you automate the entire accounting department at the same time?  Do you need to involve outside consultants?  Does this have an impact on the way you work with vendors, clients or customers?

Define your project milestones, overall timeline and targeted live date.  Planning a project of this size and scope takes time and should involve staff at multiple levels in the company’s hierarchy (executives as well as AP managers who know the day-to-day tasks involved in the process) and your IT staff.  Establish milestones for phases of the project and make sure that your targeted goal dates for each phase and the final project end date are realistic.  If there’s any question that you’ll be rushing to meet a deadline, push the date back.

Calculate the cost of doing business now vs. the cost of automation. You’ll need to calculate hard costs, such as hardware, software and staff.  To calculate the cost of AP automation, you’ll need to calculate the upfront costs, implementation and training costs as well as any ongoing fees (if any).

Note potential obstacles and plan work-arounds.  Every project is going to have challenges and obstacles that need to be overcome.  Is training an issue?  Will it be a problem to get vendors to submit digital invoices? Once you’ve identified potential obstacles, be prepared to answer questions about how you will work-around those challenges.

Doing your research is only the first step in building your business case.  Once you have your research put together, it’s time to put your sales skills to work and highlight the potential benefits that your company will gain by automating the AP department.  In part two of our series on building a business case for AP automation, we’ll discuss what some of the potential benefits that will make your executive team give serious consideration to your concerns.

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