About two years ago, we shared an eloquent infographic from International Data Corporation comparing the costs of in-house versus cloud-based automation solutions. Their data was focused primarily on the direct costs – monthly fees for SaaS solutions compared to initial fees and upgrade and maintenance costs for in-house software. Even through this limited lens, their data shows a 111% cost differential after 24 months and a whopping 174% cost differential after 36 months with SaaS being by far the most cost-effective of the two.
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That is compelling enough, but it leaves out several factors that also favor the benefits of Software as a Service rather than software you buy, own, and maintain. We’ve written about many of those benefits. And DataServ co-founder and CFO, Kathi Haller, blogged about five other departments that benefit from AP Automation. But what is often overlooked is training which is an aspect of selecting an AP Automation solution that deserves a lot more attention.
Any change requires training. So, when you consider AP Automation you may cringe just thinking of what goes into training your people on a new system. But let’s step back and look at how automation can impact training during set up and on an ongoing basis.
Most AP Departments function on the magic that we call tribal knowledge. An invoice comes in and you have one or more people in your department who “just know” which approver it goes to and whether or not the vendor offers an early pay discount. Someone “just knows” that invoices from this vendor are supposed to have POs and invoices authorized by that approver are direct spends. And even if you implement an in-house P2P Automation solution it will be up to your staff to transfer the magic of what people “just know” into the system.
Typically in-house solutions, as well as many SaaS solutions, include some training for how to set up the system. But we believe that training and documentation is actually the foundation for the success of our solution. During initialization, our team works closely with you to not only train your team, but also to record all of the tribal knowledge into your system and into comprehensive training documentation. Whether you want us to train your trainers or your entire team, training is included in every phase of your project.
One of the reasons we make that commitment is because any automation project is really a Change Management project. And confidence is a key factor in successful change management. The more confident you and your team are in their ability to master the system, the more smoothly your entire project will go for you and for us.
That confidence is dependent on initial set up and training. But long-term success is also dependent on access to ongoing training as the need arises. Changes in staff due to retirements, promotions, turnover, or unexpected emergency absences, put a strain on your resources. Your staff already has to cover for the absence or replacement of another team member. If they also have to take on training the new replacement there are likely to be essential tasks that will fall through the cracks or errors that will occur due to an overtaxed team member. That’s why many trainers resort to the “follow me around until you learn what I do” training method – the resources just aren’t there to do anything else.
We tell our clients that when they are facing changes in their AP staff, their first call actually should be to their Client Success Account Manager here at DataServ. Whether it’s an anticipated change or, as has unfortunately happened with one of our clients, a team member lost to sudden illness, part of our commitment to you is to provide the training resources to fill in the gap as quickly as possible.
Automation is usually evaluated for how it improves efficiency, visibility, and risk management. We believe your automation solution partner should be evaluated just as carefully for how they train and support your team and how they assist with Change Management during initialization and beyond.
Better training and documentation during the initialization phase of your project means a better process from the beginning and greater confidence on the part of your team. Access to ongoing training means less downtime and errors during staff changes. Which means that when you take training and support into consideration during your solution selection process, you have the opportunity to create significant savings both of direct costs and opportunity costs.