How important is change management in accounts payable? Are you disregarding this essential part of your transformation journey? Every day finance departments are required to adapt faster to the changing market, technologies, processes… When these changes occur, employees need to learn new ways to work effectively; and this is not always an easy task. It is the companies’ mission to help employees become accustomed to the change, and help them navigate dynamic times.
Did you know?
According to a study by Harvard Business Review, more than 70% of business transformation efforts fail. Targeted change management techniques can help businesses give themselves a better chance to succeed during transitions.
Introduction to change management in accounts payable
Change management should be present when an organization decides to transition to new goals, processes, and technology. A strong change management plan will help individual employees and teams prepare for the three main objectives: effective change, better control, and assisting people.
Change management in Accounts Payable is critical when companies decide to implement an AP automation software. We find AP teams are affected by the need to be more competitive and agile, which involves reducing costs, increasing productivity and efficiency, and getting more done. To make the change possible, companies need to implement advanced technologies. Keep in mind that not every implementation is a success; and change management is key to prevent unwanted outcomes and wasted money.
Effective change management increases the project’s success, and improves the company’s ability to adapt quickly.
Crucial elements of a change management plan: AP edition
Traditionally the Accounts Payable departments (AP) have been considered transactional, with limited or no possibility of adding value to the business. To rectify this, leading AP departments are veering in a different direction by becoming more strategic. Our goal is to ensure that the transition process (from the beginning) is given the deserved importance.
Below we have listed some critical components of a change management plan:
- Business case where you answer the question “Why are we implementing AP automation technologies?” Getting people onboard requires a detailed explanation of the problems to be solved (ensure payments on time, shorter invoice cycles, better control, increase in productivity…). In addition, they must understand the consequences of not acting today, the vision of the company, defining intended outcomes, expected challenges and how the company is going to solve them. Here you could mention the software solutions that you are assessing and the benefits. During a project update you could share the selected partner and what is expected from them.
- Change impact analysis: Consider all the departments beyond AP that might be affected by the implementation of a new AP software solution. Finance/Accounting, Operations, IT, Digital Transformation… By studying how the selected AP automation solution will impact the AP process and other procedures, you will get a more detailed list of actions to take. We recommend anticipating changes in the roles, skills, and tasks, and inform the team so they can prepare. For example, focusing on the AP department; team leaders and AP agents might want to know about the new process and how it will change their current tasks.
- Communication plan that starts early, measures effectiveness, and considers all the stakeholders. An effective communication plan must consider the needs of the different stakeholders, which messages are relevant to them, and which channels are the most effective (emails, internal group chats, group meetings, internal website, one-on-one sessions, etc.). Make sure your list includes internal and external stakeholders (members of the board of management, managers, employees, vendors, etc.).
- Early adopters, do you know your talent? Look inside the different teams and try to identify those who are eager to embrace and begin using the new process/technology. For example, it may be that some of your AP agents or team leaders are more digital savvy than others, and they can be agents of change, motivating and teaching others.
- Process (in alignment) with the project manager so the change management strategy is devised in complete alignment. There are two elements we would like to highlight in this section: Pilots and metrics. Running a pilot within a selected office or group will help you collect valuable information, correct certain aspects, and improve the plan. Performing an evaluation should be continuous in the process to ensure the plan goes as intended.
- Documentation: collecting documentation during the process is not the most enjoyable part of the project, but it will help in several ways: you will learn from the change management plan, draw conclusions, find ways to improve, transfer knowledge to others…
When working on change management in accounts payable, it is important to look beyond the AP department and consider all the people outside this department that will be affected by the technology.
At Cevinio, we accompany our clients in their accounts payable transformation. A journey where we bring more than an advanced invoice processing software solution but the experience of our team. Contact us and discover how we can help your AP processes, turning your challenges into opportunities.