Does the thought of automating your real estate firm’s accounts payable processes give you the chills?  If so, you are not alone.  Fear of change is one of the biggest barriers to accounts payable automation, studies show. But a little planning can take the fright out of automating accounts payable.

1. Make sure everyone is on the same page before implementation begins.
Nothing good ever comes of characters splitting up in a horror movie.  The same is true when automating accounts payable.  Getting stakeholders to stick together on system requirements enables the project to be scoped, planned and implemented more effectively.  The system requirements should reflect the project objectives and the needs of the stakeholders (e.g. frontline users, procurement, treasury and senior management) and their goals (e.g. improved reporting). 

2. Establish a project implementation team.
There’s safety in numbers!  An implementation team manages your investment in automation by monitoring the progress of the project and making decisions regarding process, workflow and system architecture changes.  The implementation team also develops the business rules that are used to configure the system.  

3. Set a realistic timeline.
Just as you need to know when you can feed a Gremlin, you must be mindful of the limits of your frontline staff. Take your staff’s current workload into account when setting the project timeline and deliverables.  Develop a realistic project implementation plan that includes distinct project milestones, as well as the tasks and personnel required to complete each milestone, and dependencies between work streams.  And make staff training flexible: Busy staff can only absorb so much information at a time.  

4. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Making wholesale changes to your accounts payable systems and processes may overwhelm staff, increase the risk of system failures, and create issues that negatively impact suppliers and other stakeholders – ultimately, making any business case look ghoulish.  A phased approach to system implementation mitigates potential implementation risks and provides recovery checkpoints if problems should occur.  

5. Make frontline staff raving fans of the new accounts payable system.
Winning over frontline staff will help ensure a smooth system deployment and lay the foundation for enthusiastic staff adoption.  Start by spelling out early on how the system works and how it will positively impact their jobs. Engage influential frontline staff by involving them in the planning of the system deployment, coordination of specific deliverables, and training of peers.  Identify staff with a positive attitude who can advocate for the system while training their peers.  

Don’t let the fear of change keep you chained to manual or semi-automated accounts payable processes.  A little planning will help ensure you sleep easy as result of automation.