In my last blog post, I stressed that AP document management technology is only as strong as the procure-to-pay (P2P) processes and best practices that underpin it. I also stated that getting value out of your AP technology investment meant taking a hard look at whether your organization's P2P process is an enabler or detractor of efficiency.
While the P2P process is a critical driver of AP technology value, it's also important to ask tough questions of your AP technology provider. After all, aside from enterprise resource planning (ERP) technology, AP document management technology is one of the largest and most pervasive investments organizations make. AP technology is also an impactful investment that will touch every one of your organization's internal and external P2P stakeholders.
Beyond evaluating specific AP document management technology solutions, you want to know the vendor you select can do more than simply extract the paper from the P2P process. The vendor needs to seamlessly adapt its solution to your unique operating environment and supplier ecosystem. It's also important to take a broad and independent view of the provider's level of commitment to service after the sale and willingness to grow your P2P technology as your organization grows.
Having implemented AP document management and workflow technology for more than 20 years, I've seen far too many organizations choose AP technology "flash" over substance and miss opportunities to ask the "big picture" questions - like how well their product integrates with the organization's ERP solution - that lead to true organizational value and return on investment.
Here are five simple yet critical questions you should ask your prospective AP technology provider:
1) PROCESS: How in depth will your evaluation of my organization's P2P process be before implementation of AP document management technology?
The processes and expenditures that underpin your P2P process must be evaluated to uncover and address process issues before technology is implemented. The outcome of the evaluation process should help ensure your organization is equipped to extract maximum value from your AP technology investment.
2) CUSTOMIZATION: How will your solution adapt to my organization's unique operating environment and supplier ecosystem?
For example, "intelligent" technology is available that can be customized to the format and manner in which individual suppliers prefer to receive and act upon P2P information. A technology provider's ability to customize its solution not only supports lasting efficiency, but also keeps suppliers happy and willing to engage in an automated AP environment.
3) WORKFLOW CAPABILITIES: How will your solution move my organization beyond only eliminating paper to also addressing the workflow behind it?
Eliminating paper is only one component of AP document management technology's value. Your AP technology partner should offer solutions that address the workflow behind the paper, and offer insight into how efficient your AP operation really is.
4) ERP INTEGRATION: How will your technology integrate with my ERP solution to boost my organization's return on investment?
The technology partner you select should be equipped to make the AP department an ERP champion in the eyes of the C-suite. For example, technology can enable full-text search and sharing of AP information throughout both the AP and ERP solution. That means information is keyed in only once, yielding true savings. Is the provider you're considering up to the challenge?
5) SERVICE AND SUPPORT: How will you ensure your solution continues to deliver value long after the sale?
Your technology provider's answer to this question will determine whether you'll receive a solution that addresses a "moment in time" in your organization's evolution, or one that is equipped to grow as your organization grows.
AP document management technology investment is no small matter. All organizations in all industries owe it to themselves and their suppliers to ask these and other tough questions to make sure their choice reflects an overarching commitment to true automation across the P2P spectrum to ensure lasting organizational growth and value.
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