When you’re busy running a business and dashing between meetings, the thought of holding a workshop may not be enticing – but if you are intending to introduce a new business process, such as automated accounts payable, it can be the smart thing to do.

A workshop on successful accounts payable systems that brings your project team and key stakeholders together is an important part of project scoping and/or vendor selection. It will ensure business specific processes are discussed, documented and introduced into the project scope from the outset. It also helps instill confidence that the supplier understands any potential complexities of your AP processes and the session can be used to drill down into the expected ROIs.

Here are 5 key strategies for getting the most out of your workshops, both as a customer and supplier.

Invite the right people
To make your workshop as efficient and targeted as possible only invite the stakeholders required to discuss necessary topics and make decisions. Devise an agreed agenda and stick with it.

Avoid full day sessions
Few people can block out full days in their schedule to attend. Also, it is difficult to maintain the necessary level of focus for an entire day and not lose momentum. Workshops should at most run for half-day sessions with short breaks at least every two hours.

Nominate a facilitator
Whether you have one for every topic or the same person for the entire session, the facilitator’s role is to keep discussions on topic and ensure the workshop follows the agenda.

Make use of technology
There are a number of apps that make note taking and recording easier, such as Evernote, Google Keep and OneNote to name a few. I rely on Livescribe, which allows me to record my writing as well as the audio of the workshop so I can refer back to it later.

Leave with a plan of action
Review the discussions, outcomes and actions as you go. Before finishing up for the day, confirm that all required questions have been answered and agreed actions are stipulated. If the discussion has resulted in changes to process flows, get them updated and in draft form for further discussion if required.

Accounts payable is rarely an “off the shelf” process. While it can be tempting to jump straight into the execution phase and sort out any issues during testing and user training, there can be significant financial and scheduling costs if you skip the planning phases of such a project.

A structured approach helps ensure all stakeholders are in agreement, and understand key processes and how they will drive the successful accounts payable project being put into place.

More questions? Feel free to email Richard Bates