Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Great Expectations (And How to Manage Them)

Posted by Mark Brousseau

Getting the most out of an AP automation project has a lot to do with managing expectations. Jim Thumma (, vice president of sales and marketing for Optical Image Technology, Inc. (OIT), explains:

The greatest barriers to successful AP automation are the same as the obstacles to implementing any new technology solution: the failure to manage people and their expectations.

Rarely does an automation project fail because of inadequate technology. The software that is used for automation today, as well as the hardware that supports it, is mature. Although technology continues to improve, many solutions in the marketplace today are fundamentally strong, reliable, secure, and consistent.

Problems typically surface―and projects sometimes fail―because of people’s mindsets and management’s lack of preparedness to help them to change. Many workers resist changing from something familiar to something new, even if the solution offers better tools than the ones they currently use. After all, as the saying goes, the devil you know is better than the one that’s unseen. At least the old way of doing things is familiar.

If you want to move your people from resistance toward acceptance (and ultimately enthusiastic support) of AP automation or any other new technology initiative, you must give equip them with confidence. This means:

... Sharing your vision with staff early in the planning process;
... Getting their input and feedback as plans develop so they have ownership in the solution;
... Setting clear milestones and benchmarks for progress;
... Communicating transparently and encouraging regular feedback;
... Unearthing what additional training staff will need to succeed;
... Addressing each and every fear staff members have early in the process;
... Starting the training process early so fear of change can be dispelled;
... Making sure rigorous testing is in place so the project is successful when it “goes live”;
... Recognizing employee achievement as worker efforts result in success; and
... Encouraging ideas for continual process improvement.

Poor communication, lack of project transparency, neglecting to inform and prepare workers for new initiatives, and failing to give people the time they need to learn and grow can shake people’s confidence. Project managers must work diligently to keep lines of communication open and to address concerns proactively.

Choosing a technology solution that is user friendly also goes a long way toward managing people’s expectations. Intuitive software and hardware that offer extensive and user-friendly guidance make adoption quicker, easier, and far less costly to support, resulting in a quicker turnaround from project implementation to producing measurable ROI.

Those responsible for choosing an AP solution must carefully consider the needs of their IT staff and end users―before, during, and after implementation, if they expect to achieve their goals. If people are properly prepared for what’s coming, and careful thought, planning, and follow-through are matched with a technology solution that is tailored to business needs, there is no reason any AP automation project should fail.

What do you think?

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