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Building a Business Case: Change Management Can Help Organizations Implement AP Automation Solutions

December 13, 2017
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As an AP professional, you’ve probably already heard a lot about AP and payment automation. You’ve read news articles and whitepapers – attended a few webinars – and done some research on your own. You might even know of a competitor or colleague in the industry who has already embraced automation. Still, no matter how much of a no-brainer AP automation is for you, its myriad benefits are all for naught if you are unable to communicate them to your boss, who will likely be giving the final say as to whether your company will automate its accounts payable department.

What is Change Management?

Organizations are continually evolving and changing, and it’s essential for teams of all sizes to be agile when adapting to new circumstances. While successful businesses regularly undertake projects to improve performance, address operational problems, or to seize fresh opportunities, these vital initiatives can create new problems if staff are not adequately supported. This is where change management comes into play.

Change management is simply defined as the process of determining how teams can be best prepared for change. It drives organizational success and outcomes by making teams more flexible and receptive to shifting priorities, goals, and processes. This structured approach is designed to support the individuals within your team and help them prepare for the future.

The discipline of change management dates back to the 1960s, and its roots lay in the study of grief. Pioneers of the discipline drew inspiration from the Kübler-Ross model, more commonly known as the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Academics wanted to understand how applying this model to the loss of employment could help organizations better manage employee off-boarding.

Everett Rogers, the sociologist who originally coined the term “early adopter,” identified four questions that can be used to determine how successful organizations are at adapting to change:

  1. What is the innovation?
  2. How is it communicated?
  3. How quickly is it implemented?
  4. Who is ultimately responsible for making the decision?

The world of business has been radically transformed since Rogers first outlined his understanding of change management, especially with the rise of the Internet and the plethora of digital technologies. Today, there are several different models for change management and each has its own merits. Determining which model is most suitable for your organization will depend on the type of change you are implementing and the circumstances that prompted the change in the first place.

Solid leadership provides the fundamental building blocks of organizational success. When instigating change, it’s crucial that the entire team accepts and supports the new direction that has been chosen. Whether you’re aiming for a minor process amendment or a complete organizational overhaul, the process will be a lot easier if the individuals involved have been adequately briefed and feel comfortable with what the transition will require of them.

Change often means that individuals will be required to alter their behavior, adopt new mindsets, or learn skills and practices that were previously unfamiliar. This can pose a significant challenge for organizations large and small, particularly if teams are already stretched thin. Leaders should, therefore, take care to identify all stakeholders that will be affected by changes and ensure the benefits of the proposed changes are communicated to them.

Technological advancement is a frequent driver of change. The rate of innovation is continually accelerating, and the disruptive impact of digital tools is felt more and more deeply by businesses that struggle to modernize. As companies become increasingly dependent upon the latest innovations to maintain their competitive advantage, change management will become an ever-more important organizational skill for business leaders everywhere.

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