Major league baseball is in full swing following six weeks of spring training. The slow methodical process of working through spring training is designed to acquaint new players with their new team, new coaches with their new players, practice fundamentals and ultimately get the kicks out of the system for the beginning of the marathon 162 game season. In the document management industry, we have our own spring training. It is when we deploy a process workflow such as an accounts payable approval solution.
AP approval workflows are by far the most popular and demanding solutions we deploy. With all of the varying rules, exceptions, and back-end systems that organizations have, no two are alike. Add to that the requirement to integrate and share data between multiple systems, associate vendors to specific GL codes and approvers and to manage timelines such as early pay discounts and due dates, and there is typically a lot to account for. My experience has also shown that no matter how much preliminary planning is completed, there are certain exceptions that the AP staff does not think about until the system is deployed.
Thus, spring training for system deployments. The time to introduce employees to their new software and processes. A break-in period where documents are processed into the system and the “plumbing” that routes the documents is checked and rechecked for accuracy. Just like infielders who take hundreds of ground balls to hone their skills, AP personnel and workflow approvers need to process hundreds of vendor invoices to validate that the system is working properly. Assessments need to be completed on data extraction from invoices, rules that route documents to approvers, automated system processes that provide necessary information to approvers is working correctly and testing that approved invoices have their data passed onto the ERP solution so that final payment can be made.
I cannot underestimate the importance of this stage of deployment. This is where everything is tested, tweaked and retested until items process freely through the system. It is here that mistakes and misunderstandings are discovered and addressed. It is also within this step that staff gain valuable exposure to the new system and processes before going live. That they gain confidence heading into the changes that will shortly have an impact on what they do each day.
Even veteran ballplayers who have experience spring training many times will attest to the importance that the process brings. Don’t underestimate this within your own company. Take the time to do it right and conduct your personal spring training. In the end you will be happy you did and ultimately your deployment will be much more successful.
Jack Arnston is a Principal at The Priton Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.