Originally published on Thrive, a Lexmark blog for finance professionals. 

In the opening keynote to SapphireNow 2015, SAP CEO Bill McDermott promised the company is going to show the “roadmap to simple” – how to make business processes and tasks simpler.

In the spirit of that statement, and as a SAP partner with certified integrations for SAP, we’ve put together a roadmap to simple financial processes – designed to help you take the steps to increasing efficiency in your SAP system by removing costs, time-delays and errors which plague financial processes in many companies.

Here are the steps you can take to move towards running simple with financial processes:

1. Understand the full purchase to pay (P2P) and order to cash (O2C) processes
Before you can improve what is happening within the financial processes in your business, you need to have a full understanding of all of the steps and all of the documents involved in these processes. We’ve written an earlier post describing the purchase to pay process which is worth a read. The below flow chart shows both processes in full, and how they interact.

sapphirenow

2. Identify the bottlenecks in your own processes
Once you understand these processes fully, then you can look at how they operate within your business, and where the bottlenecks and complexities lie. Where are problems or delays occurring? Are you spending too much to process your financial documents? Is it costing your business too much in terms of late payment penalties and costs for manual work that could be automated? The answers to some of these questions can be found in this 2014 AP Automation Study from the Institute of Financial Operations which will help you to benchmark where your company’s financial operations sit against your peers.

3. Choose the processes you want to improve in your SAP system
There are many processes within SAP which can be improved with automation, and the choice of which to automate and how, is yours. Higher volume processes and particularly slow or costly processes identified in step two are the best place to start. Here is an overview of the full range of processes that can be automated and the impact of each. This whitepaper ‘Automating P2P processes and beyond in SAP’ explores the issue in further detail.

4. Examine how to leverage cloud and mobile technologies to maximize the impact of changes
You need to consider if and how you will include cloud and mobile technologies as an aspect of your project. This whitepaper, survey analysis study by Gartner, ‘CFO Technology Needs’, which ultimately recommends cloud and mobile, is also a great resource to read through.

5. Do your research on the marketplace for solutions
There is plenty of information available from vendor websites, but it can be good to start with neutral sources too. This P2P for SAP report from PayStream Advisors is a great starting point on the solution options available and where they can fit into your processes.

5. Seek evidence, inspiration and advice from companies which have already made the transition, and from neutral industry experts
We have thousands of customers using SAP who have successfully automated their financial processes, and have achieved great gains in efficiency, cost reduction and greater insight as a result. See a range of the cases of SAP users for yourself here.
In addition, here is a rundown of what major industry analysts have to say about improving financial processes.

6. Make centralizing and close integration a focus
Our experience with our customers tells us that many of our most successful clients have managed to centralize previously decentralized and inefficient processes, and have adopted automation solutions that integrates closely with existing business systems. Keep this in mind as you plan the strategy for simpler processes.

7. Set firm plans and goals for your automation project including a target ROI
If this project is going to happen, and succeed, it will need solid goals and calculated return-on-investment targets. Contact one of our team in your location if you need to establish what your ROI amounts and timeframes would likely be – we have experience in doing this for thousands of SAP users, based on the real-world results of our customers.

8. Sell the project internally
Of course you will need to sell this internally with the decision-makers, key stakeholders and those involved and affected by the proposed project. This is where the work of setting goals, acquiring information and data from research and case studies, and calculating potential return-on-investment will help sell the idea. Showing the value this will deliver back to the business is the key.

9. Implement the project, and manage the change 
It may only be one point in this post, but implementing the project is a crucial task which requires many skillsets and depends on excellent communication from start to finish. Change management to guide staff through the changes to the processes and their roles will be vital. Here is a helpful post on ‘how to manage a successful AP automation project’ which includes lessons we’ve learned from some of our most successful customers.

10. Measure results, and continually improve
Once you’re up and running it’s time to continually measure, report and refine. By this stage you are well on the way to “simple” – simpler, faster, more accurate and more cost-effective financial processes, which offer you and the business greater insight into the health of the business. Well done!

We hope this roadmap helps you get started on your mission to simplify. If you want advice from one of our experienced experts, just get in touch!

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