In offices across the globe, people are working from home, companies have instituted hiring freezes, and for Procurement and Accounts Payable teams, the workloads have been lessened as fewer things need to be ordered or invoiced at the moment. If you are seeing a bit of a lull in the workload, this is the perfect time to review your policies and processes to review and fix your organization's pain points.
When was the last time your policies were reviewed beyond needing to add requirements coming from other departments, such as internal audit? Odds are, there are policies that haven’t been touched in years or decades but have been made obsolete. If AP is printing out every invoice to meet a policy requirement, look at updating that if the invoice is being saved in a robust, cloud-based P2P (Procure-to-Pay) program.
If you are spending less time putting out fires due to reduced Purchase Order & Invoice levels, use the time to brainstorm with your team about manual tasks and pain points. Are there better ways to do it? Does the policy that process is done for still exist? Is it even necessary?
Last year, I worked with a manufacturer that required staff attach a screenshot of the inventory level in every order they placed in their MRP (Material Resource Planner) for the internal audit team to verify in spot checks. It was something they’ve done for years and needed to be done for thousands of orders per year. After some process review, it turns out that a couple years ago they had an auditable report of their inventory levels saved daily and the screenshot was no longer needed but time was still spent attaching it to every single order.
There are other areas to look at as well: Does the process align with your policies? What pain points could you invest time in reducing if you weren’t spending all day putting out fires? This is the time to look at those. Design the changes now, and when people arrive back to the office, transition to new processes before they settle into their previous bad habits.
The best way to know if changes to the process and policies are working is reporting. Employee feedback is important, but a robust reporting structure would let you know exactly how certain items have changed, such as productivity, cycle times, etc. Understand what your executive team cares about and make sure you have solid reporting around those metrics. It also leads into the final part of the puzzle...
Cost reductions will be happening at companies big and small over the next year as revenue projections are adjusted and we better understand the scope of the coronavirus impact. If Procurement or AP at your organization isn’t doing a good job at demonstrating value, now is the time to show it. If there is room to add value for the business, use this time to make changes: Automate your manual processes, attack pain points in the organization, and ensure you have solid reporting + KPIs to back up the value you’ll need to show senior leadership in the company. Changes now will help demonstrate your organization’s essential value once we all get back in the office.