My first time at the Attaining Touchless Purchase-to-Pay conference in London this week - now in its fifth year.
Great hands-on (touchless - geddit?) presentations from Vodafone, BG, Diageo, Pearson and others. But the star of the show for me was Ericsson. After almost a decade of relentless transformation, it has migrated from 100+ national P2P processes into a global P2P process delivered off a single instance of SAP. Along the way, it has shed one third of its FTEs, reduced F&A costs to 0.2% of opex - and is approaching 'touchless' in many areas.
As ever, it was the shared learning that was most valuable. The Ericsson presentation highlighted four lessons that recurred in other presentations across the two days:
1. Automation has to follow after process standardization and optimization [encouraging that process standardization was a top priority in the pre-conference delegate survey]
2. Never under-estimate the value of collaboration and investment in change management; never make the mistake of thinking 'this is an IT project'
3. There has to be one process - integrated across the enterprise and down to the task level - and a shared understanding by all the stakeholders
4. Governance is breakfast, lunch and dinner - especially with respective to policing process variants. [Ericsson's ongoing program on 'deviation reduction' must frighten the life out of those who would dare argue for special treatment]
Ericsson is also among the leaders in fusing AP and Procurement, having just moved its global Supply Chain into Finance. Vodafone too has a single integrated global operating model across Finance, Supply Chain and HR.
But most organizations are yet to make real progress here. It was a major theme of the conference. As Susie West, CEO of SharedServicesLink, put it in her keynote: "Automation alone won't achieve much without standard processes and alignment. If there's one take-away from this event, it's this: how are you going to get alignment? "
Collaboration, standardization, alignment, variant management, compliance... I would love to say that Ericsson leveraged Nimbus Control as a process management platform to deliver its success. But, alas, I have to report that they built an in-house toolset (which looked uncannily familiar!).
For those who admire Ericsson's pioneering spirit but would prefer to adopt a proven platform for process management and performance improvement: please come and check us out at Inspiring Performance 2011 in London in September.
PS haha - just heard that an Ericsson speaker won a prize in the end-of-conference raffle, donated by one of the conference sponsors: Nimbus! Dear Reader, are you going to believe me when I claim that this is not a stitch up?