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Monday, August 25, 2014

Building the Right Approach to AP Automation - 5 Steps to Success

By Kristin Parshay, Brown Smith Wallace, and Christopher Gaia, DataServ

We have enjoyed working with the consultants at Brown Smith Wallace the past several months. One of the topics we have been discussing with them is the difficulty many companies have in launching successful accounts payable (AP) automation projects. We can all identify companies that talked about (and in several cases even started) automation projects many years ago but still have not launched one.

We think we can help, so today we are kicking off a series of blog posts, co-authored by DataServ and Brown Smith Wallace (BSW), with a simple goal in mind – to provide ideas and guidance for taking the best possible approach, based on our years of experience, which will help organizations overcome the obstacles and hesitancy to take full advantage of the benefits of automation.

The topics we will cover include:

  • Putting the right team together
  • Understanding your current situation
  • Identifying where you want to be
  • Evaluating various options and vendors
  • Picking the right approach
  • Tips for successful automation projects

Let’s start with “putting the right team together. Many organizations have experienced success by following a model that establishes an internal core team to provide leadership of the automation project and manage such activities as overall project direction, budget development, tracking and reporting, project reporting and control, and ROI or business case development, to name just a few. Core team representatives should include the following:

  • Individuals with insight and experience in current business operations and your technology environment (typically AP and IT staff)
  • Users that will be impacted by the process (approvers, auditors, supplier representatives)
  • Executive sponsor
  • Workflow/business process consultants (internal or external)

This group is then supplemented with an extended internal team that offers specialized talents that may not be required throughout the entire process. Examples include certain technical resources (data security) or business users that interact with the process. In addition to internal resources, many organizations may add outside resources or experts with insight into various solution alternatives and vendors. These resources include:

  • Third-party reviews from analyst firms - Some organizations have found that these reviews from firms like Gartner and Forrester help them understand the various alternative solutions available in the market in addition to providing vendor reviews. While useful, their advice will focus on high-level capabilities and may not provide sufficient insight into how the capabilities of individual vendors align with the needs of your organization. Additionally, these resources will not be able to assist you with broader project management or implementation support.
  • Consultants (if not originally included in your core team) - Business process and/or technology consulting firms can provide service to your team in a number of ways, including:
    • Structuring your project team process, roles, and responsibilities
    • Helping articulate a clear project scope, plan, and budget
    • Serving as an independent source of information
    • Providing more in-depth analysis and guidance regarding individual solutions and vendor capabilities based on your unique business culture and needs

  • Other helpful resources and information sources - There are several additional information sources that can be used by your team to provide background and information to assist you in your project. Three sources that are routinely used by organizations include:
    • Industry associations - Annual trade shows can be a great source of information and vendor capabilities. The most advantageous offer educational sessions that rely on heavy participation by representatives from companies that have completed or are in the midst of completing similar automation projects. Their perspectives on the challenges they faced and “lessons learned” can provide valuable insight into shaping your decision, and many are happy to discuss your situation and offer advice after the session.
    • Vendor representatives - It is difficult for any third party to stay current with all of the capabilities available from vendors. If you find client speakers at trade association meetings or attend a particularly well done educational session conducted by a vendor, it may be helpful to seek their advice and information about industry trends, client case studies, white papers or blog posts that can be used to help educate yourself and members of your team. The challenge with this source is to make sure the information presented is informational and not just promotional.
    • LinkedIn or professional groups - Referrals from other associates or professionals can prove to be very valuable as a source of “lessons learned” and knowledge. While we would not recommend this as the only source of input, their insight can prove beneficial when seeking an additional perspective.

Many companies have successfully integrated these resources into their core team and business case/business project. These various resources usually bring a depth of knowledge about the subject greater than what you will gain using only internal resources. These resources represent tradeoffs regarding cost, independence, and ability/willingness to build a solution tailored to your situation.

Guide to external resources for accounts payable automation

Scale: High, Medium, Low

Finding the right mix of talent for your team is important to not only help you make a good decision on what needs to be done, but also to assist in picking the right solution and ensuring a successful project. After you have assembled your team, set a time for a kickoff meeting to further discuss the:

  • Importance of the project
  • The goals you are hoping to achieve
  • The timeframe
  • The scope and charter of your team, with particular emphasis on what is “inside scope” for the project and what areas are “outside of scope”

Assembling the right team is an important first step towards a successful project. In the next part of this series, we will discuss ways for assessing your current business state and we will offer tips on how to translate those findings into more formal business and technical requirements.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Networking, Education Opportunities Abundant At PTDA 2014 Canadian Conference

More than 200 people gathered June 5-7, 2014, at the historic Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, in Québec City, Québec for PTDA’s 13th annual Canadian Conference. Networking between channel partners and peers was the top priority, and there were numerous opportunities to meet with fellow industry executives.
The Canadian Conference kicked off with the Industry Showcase and Welcome Reception, a combination of business (with tabletop displays by 28 PTDA manufacturer members) and informal conversations. A highlight of the event was a reception and dinner at the Parliament Building, home of the Assemblée nationale du Québec.

Canadian Conference Co-Chairs Gerry Prezeau of Rotator Products Limited and Bruno Mylchreest of Timken Canada LP alternated as the conference’s emcees, presenting PTDA President Ken Miko of BDI speaking on PTDA’s strategic plan and PTDA Foundation President Barbara Ross of Garlock Sealing Technologies addressing recent successes of the Industrial Careers Pathway® program.

Prezeau and Mylchreest, and an industry committee of volunteers, developed a program of keynotes and educational sessions including:
  • Lifting the Loonie with BNN’s Andrew Bell: Andrew Bell, reporter and news anchor on Business News Network, entertained and informed attendees.  Bell interspersed his rather bleak outlook for manufacturing in Canada with clips of bloopers from various news media outlets.
  • Take Back Manufacturing with Nigel Southway: Nigel Southway, president of Nexus Consulting and chair of the Toronto chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), informed attendees about the need for and the goals of SME’s “Take Back Manufacturing” initiative.  More information is available at
  • Market Briefing: Aerospace Industry with Dale Gordon: A briefing on the aerospace market was presented by Dale Gordon, director of supplier quality assurance for Aerojet Rocketdyne.  Speaking on behalf of the International Aerospace Quality Group (, Gordon discussed the organization’s efforts in product and supply chain improvements.
  • Panel Discussion:  How Technology is Affecting the Distributor/Manufacturer Relationship: In response to recommendations for industry-relevant content, the Canadian Conference called up a panel made up of a quartet of industry executives to discuss how technology is affecting distributor/manufacturer relationships.  Distributors Ali Moghadam of Canadian Bearings and Mitch Bouchard of General Bearing Service joined manufacturers Jean-Sebastien (JS) Lavigne of Baldor Electric Company and Dave Strutt of C&U Bearings to share their perceptions.  The panel discussion was facilitated by Peter Helston of Annex Business Media.
  • Striving for Excellence with Stephan Maighan: Canadian Conference attendees were entertained, motivated and engaged by Stephan Maighan’s closing keynote.  Interspersing his six lessons for achieving excellence with activities involving combination locks and dancing, Maighan used his own experience to demonstrate how a positive attitude can produce a positive result.
A conference recap and a link to photographs from the event are available at PTDA members also gain exclusive access to presentations from three of the speakers.

The Power Transmission Distributors Association (PTDA) is the leading global association for the industrial power transmission/motion control (PT/MC) distribution channel. Headquartered in Chicago, PTDA represents power transmission/motion control distribution firms that generate more than $16 billion in sales and span over 3,400 locations. PTDA members also include manufacturers that supply the PT/MC industry.PTDA is dedicated to providing exceptional networking, targeted education, relevant information and leading-edge business tools to help distributors and manufacturers meet marketplace demands competitively and profitably. For more information, visit or follow @PTDAorg.

Tour De Force CRM Positioned In Niche Quadrant Of Gartner 'Magic Quadrant'

Tour de Force CRM, a leading provider of customer relationship management, business intelligence, and sales force automation solutions, announced it has been positioned by Gartner, Inc. in the Niche quadrant of the “Magic Quadrant for Sales Force Automation.”

The report evaluated 15 different software vendors on 15 different criteria in the areas of Ability to Execute and Completeness of Vision, including Product or Service, Market Responsiveness/Record, Customer Experience, Offering (Product) Strategy, and Innovation.

In the report, Gartner states that “SFA deployments continue to focus on core functional capabilities for accounts, contacts, opportunities, selling processes and sales operations. SFA requirements are unique for each B2B sales organization, based on the maturity and culture of the organization in its use of technology, sophistication of sales practices and anticipated ROI.”

For more information on Tour de Force CRM, visit

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