Enhance your business with accounts payable automation solutions.

In business, you know that profitability comes from improving business processes to save time. Saving time and money are two of any business’s key goals; however, you also know that it’s essential not to sacrifice accuracy.

When you can reduce pressure on your organisation’s resources by helping streamline and automate labour-intensive processes, such as accounts payable, human resources and document management, this enables and facilitates growth.

So, let’s take a closer look at accounts payable automation and how it can benefit your business.

What is Accounts Payable automation?

Accounts payable (AP) automation software facilitates your business growth by allowing you to design your payable process to create touchless invoice processing and reduce manual invoice processing time.

Paper invoices will be a thing of the past, and your accounts payable teams will notice the reduction in the number of manual tasks. Everything about AP automation software is designed to deliver significant cost savings whilst simplifying and automating your accounting systems and invoice approval process.

What are the benefits of AP automation software?

It’s clear that saving time and money are top of the list when talking about the benefits of AP automation software. However, you’ll probably notice that your accounts payable department is also happier. You’ll undoubtedly have fewer erroneous payments and errors to chase up, and you’ll get money into the pockets of your suppliers and staff by ensuring a fast invoice approval process.

Compliance is built into the AP automation software, so you’ll know you’re meeting requirements. Add to that being able to access document management files from anywhere worldwide, and your business is truly going global.

How does AP automation software save time and money?

Using data capture software to extract data from invoices electronically delivers a significant reduction in data entry needed to process your invoice stream. This time saved can then be used for completing much higher value tasks than data entry.

AP automation software saves time and money

Imagine all of the time lost invoices can use up. By relying on paper invoices, you run the risk of missing payment deadlines, which can affect supplier relationships. Or you might miss early payment discounts.

Invoice management is critical in ensuring a project stays on time and on schedule. By managing and tracking invoices and working to a strict invoice approval process, you can save time and money and ensure the project stays on schedule.

Increase accuracy and improve efficiency

Manual tasks such as invoice data entry can equal errors. Errors delay your payment reconciliation and can result in duplicate payments and incorrectly processing supplier invoices.

However, invoice scanning when processing invoices ensures that the invoices received are the invoices paid. AP automation software allows you to monitor what’s happening in your accounts payable processes easily and become more efficient with approval times.

Invoice automation is key to better efficiency and lower processing costs, and it also means your financial systems and payment process are reliable and accurate.

Reduce approval time

With AP automation software, you can easily design and build custom workflows to streamline and automatically route invoices and other documents directly to your staff approvers for action.

This eliminates manual tasks associated with your invoice approval process and means your accounts payable process becomes more efficient. This positively impacts your staff and suppliers, who can rely on timely payment of invoices.

You can automatically route through your defined invoice approval process while seamlessly integrating with your existing accounting software to reduce invoice processing time.


Managing your projects to include electronic invoicing means you can streamline processes and design them to keep every project on track. With all critical invoice data in one place, it’s easy to keep everyone updated with progress and communicate important updates.

AP automation software also ensures that no task is ever forgotten and no electronic invoice remains unpaid. You’re in control of creating the business rules that fuel the AP automation, route electronic invoices for approval, and prompt mandatory testing and certification at critical stages throughout the project, enhancing overall compliance.

From the smallest to the largest projects, accounts payable automation delivers a collaborative system that ensures you, your contractors and your suppliers stay on schedule and are compliant in all areas, helping to assure the success of every project.

Access documents from anywhere

With cloud-based accounts payable automation, you can access your documents from anywhere, and it’s vital to ensure the software you choose features advanced security and document controls to protect your data.

Whether working from home, off-site, travelling interstate or travelling overseas, you can instantly access critical information wherever you are from any internet-enabled device, such as your smartphone, tablet, or laptop.

Accounts payable automation software allows you to control security rights around the functionality available in the system, including printing, emailing, or editing documents, to protect your records and maintain maximum security.

How does AP automation software work?

It’s fast.

Eliminate manual processing by digitally scanning all invoices and documents that come into your business via email.

Choose an accounts payable automation system that pre-populates and validates data as invoices and documents are received, which will reduce your invoice processing time, and you can be assured that your data is reliable.

You maintain control

Ensure the accounts payable automation software you choose has an exception processing function, allowing you to identify any errors early on before progressing further along the AP process.

You can apply security policies to Accounts Payable files or specific documents to control access to sensitive information and assign roles to ensure invoices are only actioned by approved staff.

Customise and automate document routing

Meet agreed on payment timeframes and reduce the chance of human error with document routing and automated workflow features.

Built-in checkpoints allow staff to verify details and ensure all required documentation is in place before moving to the next approval point to maintain compliance.

In summary

For mid-sized organisations, AP automation software solutions deliver benefits that will ensure your business success by giving you the power to control your accounts payable processes.

AP automation saves your business time and money by ensuring your AP processes are fast, reliable and compliant and also allows your business to grow by facilitating secure access from anywhere in the world.

Document visibility

Digitising paper documents ensures easier handling, connects separate systems to deliver a single view and helps you locate documents quickly, using any connected device.

Efficient processes

Simple functionality creates automated workflows to eliminate manual handling, speed up administrative processes, and save valuable time.

Unlock staff potential

Streamlining capabilities eliminates manual data entry and other low-value tasks, giving your staff the chance to tackle high-value work and unlock their full potential.

At FileBound Solutions, we help businesses facilitate growth and unlock their true potential.

Our digital solutions have been designed to improve your business efficiency and reduce pressure on your organisation’s accounting system by helping streamline and automate traditionally labour-intensive processes, including accounts payable, human resources and document management.

Let’s talk solutions! Get in touch to discover how FileBound can transform your accounts payable process to drive success.

Engaged Humans

happy dudesI have been watching the rise in research around Employee Engagement with fascination. The initial research was about the employee that is engaged versus the employee that is disengaged.

The Engaged Employee is enthusiastic and gives liberally of their time, efforts and ideas. They are invested in the company vision and mission and feel fulfilled doing their work.

Unfortunately research points to less than one third of employees being engaged at work. That is troubling but at least it is understood and there are many ways of improving this situation that are easy to understand and implement (I will cover in a future blog).

The next steps in our collective understanding of engagement then led to Engaged Managers and then Engaged Followers. I have described both of those below lending a fair portion of the Gallup organisation content.

Engaged Managers

A managers engagement or otherwise directly impacts (up to 70% impact) employee engagement. An employee’s Manager Experience is proving to be absolutely vital to organisational success. Here are some recent Gallup research findings;

Millennials say that “quality of manager” is a top factor they consider when looking for a new job.

When managers play an active role in onboarding, employees are 2.5 times more likely to strongly agree their onboarding was exceptional.

Managers account for an astounding 70% of the variance in their team’s engagement.

Only two in 10 employees strongly agree that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work.

Fifty-two percent of exiting employees say that their manager could have done something to prevent them from leaving their job. Nevertheless, only 51% of employees who left their job had a conversation about their engagement, development or future during the three months leading up to their departure.

The mind boggles at the social and financial cost of the disengaged manager.

So what happens when you have an Engaged Manager with an Engaged Employee? You get Engaged Followership.

Engaged Followership

Engaged followers are employees that share responsibility for their engagement with their leadership.

These engaged employees are 10 times more likely to take creative risks than disengaged employees.

If that is not enough of a reason to try and create engaged followers then prepare for worse news.

Based on Gallup’s most recent bestseller, It’s the Manager, “a competitor needs to pay an employee over 20% more to get them to switch jobs if that employee is engaged. If an employee is disengaged, they will leave for almost any increase in salary.” Also of concern is that the disengaged employee will keep their head down and feign engagement before they leave. This gives you the minimum notice and no ability to properly plan for the transition.

All of these insights got me thinking about the best employee / employer relationships I have had in my experience. In reflecting on the best ones, I could not help but draw a parallel with our best customer relationships. That led me to think about the differences between Engaged Customers and Disengaged Customers.

Engaged Customers

For people close to me it is nearly impossible that you have not heard me espousing the benefits of having a mature Customer Success Program. We are into the second year of ours and we can clearly see that by altering our approach to focus on our value to our customers, we are creating a significant increase in customer engagement. We found out very quickly that the more engaged a customer is the better the outcomes we both get.

So what is an Engaged Customer? An Engaged Customer is willing to expend effort helping us as they understand the more they help us the better the results we can give them. They often see us as a valuable extension of their organisation. They start to care for our team members as we do theirs. We have also had multiple instances of the customers helping us create new products and services. They are also very keen to assist in our success by acting as a referee and recommending us to their peer group. Having Engaged Customers is one of the greatest experiences I have had in my business life.

So it seems “Engagement” at all these levels creates enormous value. It is exciting that the value is financial and social. Engaged humans genuinely enjoy their time in and out of work significantly more than a disengaged human. I can’t help but think that if we can improve human engagement at work we may be able to stem the rising levels of anxiety and depression in our society.

So I guess the key question is how do we collectively lift the engagement of humans?

“You Suck”​ – How Customer Success transformed our organisation for the better.

In May 2018 we implemented a Customer Success Program (CSP) into our organisation. We did this for a few key reasons;

  • We had some key trusted advisors telling us how it had helped transform their businesses.
  • We had a growing sense that we were disconnected from our customers and
  • An opportunity emerged to employ a key resource that we believed would be highly suitable to leading the program.

It felt to us that the time was right however we were still a little nervous about proceeding. We understood that it would require investment of significant financial, human and other resources without any guarantee of a return. In short it required us to have faith.

Fortunately for me I am a man of faith when it comes to trusting people and process. Bill George summed it up succinctly in one of my favourite books “Authentic Leadership, Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value” when he said “the purpose of any company boils down to one thing; serving its customers”.

So what is a customer success program?

Well it is an organisational culture shift that transitions the organisation to a customer-led state. It involves customer centric attitudes, processes, policies and systems that are developed and maintained to maximise the value that the organisations customers get from their products and services.

It can include program components such as executive outreach, strategic account reviews, user conferences and structured feedback mechanisms. In our case, the program, has a goal of delivering “Mutually Beneficial Customer Relationships” and the centrepiece to our program is the timed / structured contact plans. We effectively mandate intelligent, highly-structured contact for all customers every three months. In the case of our strategic accounts this is preferably done face-to-face.

Looking back on our first year of Customer Success I am able to clearly identify distinct phases of the journey. The diagram below shows the movement through each stage.

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The first stop on our journey was Stabilise Relationship, and for some of the customers this ran concurrently with Stabilise Solution. We did not anticipate needing this step as we assumed since our customers weren’t calling to log support tickets that they were happy. Well the first round of meetings sure woke us up to the fact that they were not all happy. One customer even went as far as starting meeting one with a very succinct statement – “You Suck”.

That was hard feedback to hear and we had to really analyse our situation to understand what was happening. We take our customer feedback very seriously and in each instance of negative feedback we set about understanding where that customer was at and why. Without exception we rolled our sleeves up and set about changing the way our customer saw us.

In some instances the negativity was able to be resolved simply and on the spot. For one of our customers it was a simple as changing a viewer setting. For others it was more of a training issue and for some it required technical changes to be made. I am happy to say though that we quickly got them all on track and were able to then move onto expanding the solution.

The Expand Solution phase is exciting because it allowed us to elevate the value the customers took from our solution. We are able to return the implemented solution to maximum value. In a lot of cases this involved adding some new workflow routes to accommodate for changes in the organisations operation or structure. These changes were simple for us to do and added a lot of value quickly. In most cases our customers had a managed service and the changes were able to be done as part of that service. i.e. no net new cost to them.

As a side note, I wrote a blog last year on the merits of managed services for both customers and suppliers. If you are interested you can read that here. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/maximising-solution-roi-lee-bourke/

The next phase came along after we had maximised the value of the customers current solution. This phase was the Expand Platform phase and it essentially allows us to help the customer to deliver innovation using the tools they have already invested in for the initial solutions. This might be adding a Human Resources solution to a customer that current does AP processing or adding Contract Management to a customer that currently has their Manufacturing Process automated on the platform. This phase allows you to give the customer a fantastic new outcome at an incremental cost. The ROI on these projects can be staggering as the customer already has the majority of the platform to deliver the outcome. Often it is just a bit of Professional Services that is needed to deliver the value.

The final phase we have seen so far on our journey is that of Cross-Sell. This is essentially the process of acting as a trusted advisor, helping our customers solve new problems that we have expertise in. For example, this might be us selling a Robotic Process Automation platform to a customer who currently uses us for Capture. It is yet another way we can help our customer maximise the value delivered by having a relationship with us.

Will there be additional phases in the future? I think there could well be. I am sure as our levels of trust within our customer base continues to grow, we will then be referred into the networks of our customers, essentially allowing us to sell our products and services to new name customers. I can also envisage an outcome where we bring multiple of our clients together to achieve collective project outcomes. This is just two more ways I think we could help our customers get value from the relationship.

What are the Benefits?

So far in this blog I have identified the many way we are now able to deliver value to our clients. Whilst this is an amazing outcome, we are a for-profit company and the program also has to benefit us. After all our program goal is “Mutually Beneficial Customer Relationships”.  Here is a list of the benefits you should realise after implementing a Customer Success Program;

  1.  Retention – The customer success program will maximise your customer retentions by reducing most risks that would lead to a customer departure. Of course there are risks that cannot be controlled by you or your organisation (i.e. Your customer goes into liquidation) but this is the best way we know of to ensure you have long standing customer relationships.
  2. Increased Revenue – The program will deliver new revenues in the form of change orders to current solutions, solution upgrades to handle increased volume, orders for brand new solutions and / or orders for new products and services.
  3. Increased Margin – Companies that deliver value to their customers find themselves under less competition at contract renewal time. You will also be delivering ROI based outcomes as opposed to cost plus product sales. These factors combined will ensure you maintain healthy margins.
  4. Stronger Business Development – In our experience potential new customers are looking for service differentiators. Showing a potential customer the program that you will be placing around them to help them maximise value will set you apart from your competitors. It is still early days for Customer Experience and it is unlikely your competitors will have a quality Customer Success Program to market.
  5. Recruit the best talent – We have found that potential new recruits are more attracted to us when they understand how we care for our customers. This makes sense when you think about it, after all do you want to work for a company that does not look after its customers well?

So hopefully this blog has given you the courage to investigate Customer Success. It has enabled us to transform our organisation for the better and it can do the same for yours.

4 Tips to De-risk your AP Automation Project

Accounts Payable Automation is the process of re-engineering the accounts payable process to create and improve efficiencies. More often than not it involves digitisation and centralisation of a process that is currently manual and paper-centric. When done correctly an AP Automation project is not just automation of the current process, it is a complete re-imagining of the process.

Organisations are drawn towards AP automation projects because they offer a very large set of potential benefits. These benefits include cost reductions, accuracy improvements, resource reallocation, improved cash management, access to early payment discounts, avoidance of late payment penalties, improved vendor relationships and increased staff satisfaction just to name a few.

Unfortunately for most organisations they need to run a change project before they can access those benefits. This can be challenging as history tells us that approximately 50% of change projects lead to frustrated delivery (failure to deliver on time, to budget and / or the full scope) or completely failed delivery.

We have put together our top tips to avoid being in the 50%. Here they are; 

1. People Leadership.

It should come as no surprise that people leadership sits at number 1 in our list. Despite the significant advances in labour management since the Industrial Age we are still seriously deficient in the way we lead our most valuable resource through these change projects.

If you want to improve your people outcomes on a project then you need to start the communication about the project (what it is, why it is needed, how it will impact the individuals etc.) with the team early on and where possible engage them in some of the decision making. It is important that organisations also let the team know what the non-negotiables for the project are. Allowing team members to think they can change an outcome that is a non-communicated non-negotiable is just a waste of energy that will become a massive de-motivator for the individual when they eventually work out that it is non-negotiable. For this I will use the Bus analogy. The team need to know that the bus they are on is going to a new destination. They need to know that the destination is not open for debate, however, what is open for debate is some of the semantics relating to the journey. e.g. which seat they will take, will there be stops on the way etc. Having the courage to engage the team early will lead to superior project outcomes.

Your project team will need good levels of Executive Support. The key people on the project need to know they have the backing of the executives. They need decisions made in a timely manner and required resources made available to ensure success. They also need executives to step in where needed and remove roadblocks.

Engage your IT department early. In our experience the IT department will be a great ally on a project like this if they are engaged early and are able to make sure their input is heard. The modern IT department is usually very concerned with delivering business value and they will want input. On the contrary, bringing the IT department in late will lead to your frustration as you have to wait while they go about their normal checks and balances.

The final people leadership tip we have is to look after your Subject Matter Expert (SME). Most organisations have a person that is central to the successful operation of the current AP process. This person will be in high demand as you set about planning an automation project. They need to provide significant input into the project. The problem is that these key resources are generally already over-utilised in their normal working week. Having them contribute a significant effort to your project will leave a big hole in the current process that will cause many issues. What normally happens is the day-to-day operational issues take priority on the project and the project slips well out into the future. Good leadership here plans for this resource issue by back training other resources into some of the key components of the SME’s current role. That allows them to be freed up to participate in the new automaton project without significant negative impacts to the organisation.

2. Consider Cloud Deployment.

Research* has shown that cloud delivered AP solutions are 100% more likely to deliver real time visibility into an organisations cash position. This is just one of the benefits that organisations can enjoy when they choose a cloud deployment model.

A cloud deployment model will provide stakeholders access to information when they want it from anywhere in the world. Any modern cloud based solution will offer mobile access to information as well as allowing staff to process their workflow tasks on their mobile device as well.

A less known but hugely compelling reason to choose cloud deployed solutions for AP processing is based around the skills required to maintain that type of solution. Corporate IT Departments have many IT skills but few of them are specialists in document capture, document management, workflow and data integration. When these technologies are deployed in the cloud your cloud hosting partner will have these skills. That way when there is an issue you can rest assured that the right resources with the right skills will get it resolved quickly.

3. Choose an Integration Capable Solution.

Even if your first project stage does not require integration with your ERP, it will likely be a future need. AP automation solutions that provide maximum ROI need to access vendor, PO, receipting and other critical information from the ERP so that they can make informed approval routing decisions. They will also need to be able to pass electronic invoice data back into the ERP so that human labour is not needed to do it. None of this can happen if your solution does not have a strong integration capability.   This capability will also be essential if you plan to use the implemented platform to automate other key business processes. e.g. HR Automation, Contract Management, Customer Service Processes. In the information Age companies that are able to effectively connect their technology have a significant advantage over those that cannot.

4. Partner with a Trusted Advisor.

Generally an organisation will only run one AP Automation project and it is impossible for it to be a core skill of the organisation. There are a number of companies, like ours, that do plenty of these projects. Probably the biggest influence on your potential success will be the quality of the partner you choose to do the project with. Engaging a company like ours will enable you to tap into decades of process re-engineer and technology deployment experience.  When deployed for your benefit this experience will underwrite the risk associated with running such a large change program.

Hopefully these tips help you deliver a successful AP Automation project. If you would like to meet with us to discuss your specific project please email us at sales@upflowsolutions.co.nz.

*Ref. Aderdeen Group 2015, Bring Invoice Processing Costs Back to Earth with AP Automation in the Cloud.

Maximising Solution ROI…



So, you are going digital. You have started or completed a project/s to implement digital solutions. You and your technology partner have analysed your requirements and worked hard to test and turn on a digital platform. But what then….

One item often overlooked when implementing digital solutions is the changing environment within which they will work moving into the future. You see from day one of your new systems’ use it will start to have a decreasing ROI. This is due to the unstoppable changes in the environment in which this solution now operates. This environment includes the organisation, it’s people, it’s other processes and the external environment which can include things such as the legislative environment.

So, we have implemented a solution and we know that everything around that solution will continue to change causing a decreasing ROI. How do we mitigate this organisational risk?

We would strongly recommend that you have your technology partner provide a “Managed Service” for the solution / solutions.

For the purposes of this article a managed service is a contracted set of services that are provided by a solutions provider to a solution using customer. Typically, they are paid for monthly, operate as a use-it-or-lose-it facility and are used as needed to achieve specific solution outcomes.

As an Example;

A company, ABC flights, has a 6 hour per month Managed Service with their technology partner for their AP automation solution. They pay a monthly fee for this and request work against it via a web portal. Typically, ABC use this service to update invoice templates to ensure a high percentage of data is captured automatically when invoices enter the solution. They have also used it to make workflow routing changes, upgrade the software components to the latest version and seek advice from the solution experts on potential future projects.

So, who should demand these Managed Services? Well, we believe the customer and the technology partner should both demand them. They provide significant benefits for both parties. I have identified these benefits below;

Benefits to the Using Customer

An ROI that is sustained [and possibly even improved] over time. Work can be regularly scheduled to keep the system operating at peak level despite any changes to the operating environment. The Managed Service can also be used to digitise additional processes and drive even greater ROI.

Team member satisfaction with their work as the systems they use are modern and operating well. This is more important to organisations as the millennials continue to rise through the workforce. Like it or not, this generation expects their employers to be digitally savvy.

An ability to ensure you are maintained onto the latest versions of your software components. These versions generally have significant security upgrades as well as a slew of new and improved operating functionality. Whilst most organisations understand the importance of software maintenance, far less of them ever actually implement a regular upgrade process to ensure they are on the latest versions of their software platforms. This is often due to the cost of a technology partner implementing these upgrades. With a Managed Service, these upgrades can be done as part of the service thus ensuring the customer continues to reap the benefits of their investment in software maintenance.

Priority of work request processing with your technology partner. Your technology partner will definitely process their Managed Service customers in priority over their non-contracted customers.

A smoothing of cash-flow relating to the operation of the solution. Even if you do not have a Managed Service it is highly likely that at some point in time [usually when there has been a big problem] you will need to spend a quantum of money maintaining the system. This work is generally not budgeted for.

Benefits Summary

  • A solution that adapts to the changing environment
  • Maintained, reliable systems for workforce use
  • Timely access to improved security and new / improved functions
  • Priority response from technology partner
  • Improved cashflow for solution maintenance costs.

Benefits to the Technology Partner

A happy customer that will often act as a referral customer. In our experience, our active Managed Service customers are easily our happiest. They get everything they want, when they want it and when there is an issue with the solution we don’t waste time trying to work out who is paying, we just start work. Having a Managed Service means that the technology partner can be at their best when things are at their worse.

The ability to resource accordingly so that service requests can be dealt with in a timely manner. When a technology partner has a critical mass of Managed Service customers they are able to staff their engineering departments with stable, high quality solution engineers. If a technology partner only ever does project work it is much harder to ensure adequate staff levels for peak demand.

Significant increases in customer delight. As well as all the standard benefits that accrue from a happy customer there are also lots of efficiency benefits that accrue. An unhappy customer needs a lot of management. Most of that organisational effort is nonchargeable and diverts organisational effort away from strategically important tasks [like growth].

Reduced commercial risks as deployed solutions remain valuable for the length of the agree service contract. There are less late payments and discount requests as the customers are happy.

A potential case study target. One of the most powerful things a company has is its customer success stories. It is these stories that often provide the confidence and credibility needed to succeed in attracting new customers.

Benefits Summary

  • Turns customers into advocates
  • More effective technical resource management
  • Reduce customer rework costs
  • Significantly reduce commercial risks
  • Create case study opportunities


So, there are many benefits to Managed Services however there is one key element that needs mentioning for those customers considering using one – A Managed Service is only valuable if it is actively used by the customer. Failure to use a Managed Service just leads to an unjustifiable organisational cost.

As we continue down the digital transformation path, more and more organisations will be implementing digital work solutions. These work solutions need to give great ROI and ensure that any human labour required by solution is deployed on high value tasks. First-world economies need for this to happen if they want to be able to maintain high wage levels.

Organisations that want to ‘Win’ in the information age need to implement solutions that deliver great ROI, delight their staff, adapt to the changing world and maintain high levels of security. Implementing a Solution Managed Service for your digital solutions is the best way of maximising your organisation’s chances of being one of the ‘Winners’.

Do you have any experience with Managed Services on Digital Solutions? We would love to hear your story.

Contributed By: Lee Bourke, CEO, FileBound Australia.

Procuring Digital Transformation? Tread Carefully.

Digital transformation of an organisation is a complex undertaking that involves a change in culture that is more profound than both the technical and process changes combined.

Most organisations lack the skills internally to deliver a transformation process and generally will rely on external parties to assist.  If you accept the notion that the cultural change required will be greater than the organisational process change, then it makes selection of the right transformation partner a critical choice as they will not only need to change your processes, but more importantly influence a significant change in your organisational culture.

Most organisations would use a traditional tender process as a means of selecting an external party to assist with the transformation.  Many service providers will bid for the business process transformation work, however they will give little attention to their responsibilities as it relates to the cultural transformation.  Executives need to be aware of this and consider if a tender process is the right choice for such a crucial decision.

Tender processes are a common part of a modern corporate landscape.  Essentially tenders are a great way of assessing the offerings of one company against another.  They are incredibly valuable when procuring commoditised items.  A commoditised item is easy to specify, easy to evaluate and lends itself to the creation of price competition.  If, however, you are looking to procure a solution then the humble tender process, as it commonly functions, may not be the best tool for the job.

Solution procurement requires the selection of a partner that will be able to deliver an outcome where the journey to that outcome may not be readily apparent.  That outcome also needs to come at a cost that is deemed acceptable to justify the project.  The  problem here is that it is nearly impossible to accurately determine the cost when the journey is not readily known.  Tender respondents deal with this by loading up the response with ‘caveats’.  These are conditions placed in the response that are purposefully designed to ring out responsibility for situations that the respondent believes are likely to occur.   Add to this the complication where, generally, the team writing the tender has very little subject matter expertise in delivering a digital solution like the one being procured. This effectively creates a situation where an organisation can get extremely poor outcomes.

At the time of awarding the tender it is impossible for the procuring organisation to understand what will happen next.  There is a chance that the selected party will deliver a marvellous outcome.  It can, and does happen, however, this is generally good luck not good management.  What often happens is a situation transpires where the selected party assumes little to no responsibility for assisting with the cultural transformation of the organisation.

In my experience cultural transformation issues are the thing most likely to cause you a significant project failure and / or cost blowout.  Modern technologies allow us to solve most technical issues in a reasonable time-frame.  What can’t be easily solved is an organisational culture that will not adapt to change. The respondent will not be too troubled by this as they will have placed enough ‘caveats’ into the agreements so that they will be able to bill their way through this phase of the project with very little motivation to assist with remediating any of the roadblocks.

One option available to an organisation considering undertaking a digital transformation is to focus on procuring a great partner as the highest priority.  Procuring a great partner will ensure that your organisational objectives are much more likely to be met at a cost the organisation can afford. A great partner will assist you to select and implement a great solution.

One way to start the process of finding a great partner is to see how they can and do solve a single digital problem for you.  If they do it well and achieve a great outcome, then you give them another problem to solve.  Obviously you are able to control the selection and timing of the problems being passed to the partner and if you hit a major hurdle with that partner you are then able to try another without having to back out of a large enterprise wide contract.

Implementing a single digital transformation project will allow you to assess the technical, management, leadership and cultural qualities of your partner. Measurable aspects of these qualities can be written into the engagement as key success criteria for the implementation along with the technical aspects of the solution. If the chosen partner delivers a great outcome, then you are able to contract for the next phase building in these key criteria.  If the outcome is less than great you will not have wasted a significant amount of organisational resource [time and money] to determine that you need a different partner.

Contribution By:

Lee Bourke

Chief Executive Officer

FileBound Australia Pty Ltd

Project Requirements Management

What is it?

Requirements for a project need to be mined, compiled, analysed, negotiated, specified, validated, tracked, and updated during the life of a project. All of this has to take place within a controlled environment so that;

  1. All stakeholders know exactly what is to be delivered by the project team.
  2. There is governance placed around the authorising of changing requirements.
  3. The solution can be supported into the future.  i.e. new personnel can read the requirements and get a FULL understanding of the system intent.
  4. Each requirement can be traced back to a specific commercial outcome.

What can it look like?

The method of requirements delivery will vary from project to project normally based on project complexity.  As well as complexity the level or type of requirements management can vary for risk, cost or political purposes.  Here are some common project requirement configurations across simple, standard and complex project categories;



Each organisation may use different document titles however the purpose and content should be very similar.  Some organisations may also use a version system on each of the documents.  The core concept here is that collectively all requirements are trapped and documented.

 The Commercial Imperative?

The requirements delivery for a project is directly related to the projects commercial outcomes. Every requirement delivered should exist in one of the requirements documents and each of the requirements should have an associated commercial cost (even if it is $0). A problem we see too often is project teams failing to document $0 changes.  Whilst they may think that this is saving time on admin they are actually causing the following potential problems;

  1. Future support engineers may not be able to understand what was delivered by reviewing the documentation.
  2. They miss the opportunity to show the client what value add they have delivered [especially if there were multiple “no-charge” changes.
  3. Having a change made to the deliverable without the appropriate authorities knowledge or approval.


This diagram shows the accumulation of cost [or revenue if you are a service provider] that should attach to the requirements.

What happens when we get it WRONG?

Research tells us that approximately 50% of projects have a frustrated delivery and approximately 25% of projects have a complete failure to deliver.  Poor requirements management is a major contributor to both of these outcomes.

Failure to manage requirements can lead to any or all of the following NEGATIVE outcomes;

  1. Stakeholders feel they have lost control of the project and withdraw support.
  2. Unneeded requirements can be delivered.
  3. Critical requirements can be missed.
  4. Forward support of the solution can be costly and time consuming.
  5. The project can experience poor commercial outcomes.
  6. Loss of reputation from delivering a poor outcome.

The good news is that with proper planning and care any organisation can become good at project requirements management.  See our other blog posts for additional related information;

Avoid Implementation Issues – The Big Four.

Delivering a Great Requirements Document.

Poor Project Execution – The Hidden Costs.

At FileBound we would love to hear any thoughts you have around this subject matter.  Have we missed anything? Have you noticed similar outcomes?

Contribution By:

Lee Bourke

Chief Executive Officer

FileBound Australia Pty Ltd

Poor Project Execution – The Hidden Costs

IT projects are notorious for having a high rate of partial or total failure.  These failures are often born of poor project execution and can lead to any or all of the following outcomes;

  1. Additional resources needed to deliver the project on time.
  2. Additional time to deliver the project with the same resources.
  3. Reduced or modified functionality of the project deliverable.

As well as these troubled outcomes there is also the fatal outcome where nothing gets delivered.  This blog seeks educate on the hidden costs of the poor project execution that lead to these outcomes.

Before exploring the hidden costs lets take a look at the real or understood costs.  In project terms there is a golden rule relating to remediation (rework) costs.  Essentially the cost of remediating a troubled project magnifies exponentially the further into the project you get before identifying the issue.  For example:

Defect Costs

Figure 1: Relative Costs to Fix Software Defects (Source: IBM Systems Sciences Institute)

This table tells us is that if we fail to discover an issue until the project has gone live then we are faced with a cost to remediate that is one hundred times greater than if the issue had been found during design. So lets assume the issue in design cost four project hours to remediate.  Using sixty dollars an hour as our cost base then failure to find an issue until a solution is live could cost us $24 000 to correct.

Now those hard costs are a real problem for an organisation, yet these can often seem insignificant next to the hidden costs of poor project execution.  Lets explore some of the major hidden costs of these poor project deliveries;

Opportunity cost of the project team resources

In most organisations there is a resource bottleneck in relation to high value IT resources.  These resources are rarely idle and generally go from one project to the next as an organisation continues to transform itself or its clients based on the demands of their respective markets.  When a project suffers from poor execution it either delays the current project resources moving to a new project or it draws in resources off another project to help with the remediation.  In either case there is another of the organisations projects that gets delayed or restrained.  It is rare for organisations to factor in the cost of these ‘other project’ delays when assessing the cost of a poor project deliverable.

Opportunity cost of your executives

When a project starts spinning into a troubled state it inevitably drags the organisations executives into it’s wake.  These executives are the ones that need to re-organise and reallocate resources.  They are also responsible for the additional communications and expectation management around the knock-on impacts of the struggling project.  This all takes time and distracts the executives from other tasks.  These other tasks could be revenue in nature or could simply be tasks to ensure the efficient operation of the organisation.  Either way these knock-on effects can become quite costly and are never assessed as costs associated with the rectification of the troubled project.

Opportunity costs associated with sales misdirection [service provider]

If your company is a third party delivering the project for your client then there are a whole extra level of opportunity costs you need to consider over and above the ones detailed already.  The largest of these is the opportunity cost of having your sales arm continue to be involved in a damaged project.  If your sales team are engaged in these post sales activities they reduce the amount of pre-sales activities they can perform and as such there is a direct reduction in revenue.

Future revenue cost of reputational damage. 

Often a troubled project leads to failed customer promises.  These failed promises lead to reputational damage that can impact the organisation to sell its customers products in the future.

Future revenue cost of late delivery

Often an organisation is undertaking a project to enhance a listed product or create a new tailored product for its customers.  Delays to these enhancements or delays to the introduction have a direct revenue implications.  Notably like the previous hidden costs, these are never taken into account when tallying the costs of poor project execution.

As you can see from the above list there are some very compelling reasons whey we should all place a high premium on getting projects executed correctly the fist time around.  Feel free to review the following blogs that deal with the methods for avoiding these poor project outcomes;

Avoid Implementation Issues – The Big Four.

Delivering a Great Requirements Document

At FileBound we would love to hear any thoughts you have around this subject matter.  Have we missed anything / Have you noticed similar outcomes?

Contribution By:

Lee Bourke

Chief Executive Officer

FileBound Australia Pty Ltd

Delivering a Great Requirements Document

When thinking about or being tasked with capturing a customer’s detailed requirements, beyond the high-level Business requirements … for me, it’s hard not to immediately draw mental pictures of that well referenced tree swing analogy. For those not familiar with the analogy it simply points out that without proper requirement definition a customer looking for a tree swing could have any of the swings in the illustration delivered to them.
Purposely jumping off the tree swing for a moment… and focusing on software solution marketplace with its vast product range with a plethora of configurations, outcomes and customer experiences, it has never been more important to queue up those powerhouse discovery questions to ensure that you have accurately and clearly understood both the functional and non-functional requirements of your customer. If we do this we avoid delivering the wrong outcome for the client.

A functional requirement typically describes the behaviour (such as automated workflow) or presentation of a configured component that meets the specific needs of the customer, whereas a non-functional requirement describes the systems operation… such as a Web Servers Availability etc.

My Top DO’s and DON’T on Producing Great Requirements Documents

DO Have a sound understanding of the customers high-level Business Requirements prior to meeting with them to perform the deeper dive discovery.
DON’T Ask a series of unnecessary/repetitive questions where the information has already been provided in advance. This opens your ‘incompetence account’ with the customer and doesn’t build the necessary rapport or credibility for downstream engagements which are required to deliver success.
DO Schedule a Discovery Session with all applicable stakeholders, communicating in advance a structured approach with an agenda or at a minimum a simple email to highlight discussion points for the Discovery session.
DON’T Avoid the inclusion of the IT Manager and/or Senior IT Representative in your Discovery session.
DO Use the phone wherever possible to help qualify any gaps in understanding of the customer’s requirements. Verbal communications result in far fewer misinterpretations of conveyed information over those which can occur in a series of detailed emails.
DON’T Fill the Requirements document with verbose, non-specific or redundant content (e.g. marketing content) that doesn’t help define or qualify the customers’ requirements for review and approval.
DO Use a very good healthy balance of quality images, screenshots and diagrams to present your clean understanding of the customer requirements in your proposed technology.   Microsoft Visio is my go to application of choice.
DON’T Make wild and nonsensical assumptions, when they can be solved with a short call or a qualifying email.
DO Document the specific non-functional requirements for success even if they are requirements for the client to deliver on. IE IT landscape changes needed, additional staff training needed etc
DO Scale the length and depth of Requirements detail with respect to the level of complexity of the solution delivered. See Solution Complexity to Requirement Detail Chart below.

Using the Correct Weight Approach

Following on from my last ‘DO’ recommendation, Requirement documents should contain the appropriate weight of detail/content to be classed as an ‘efficient document’. Obviously producing an overly wordy document for a small, yet simple project can frustrate many customers as they struggle to digest all of the details. On the flip side unconsciously leaving a lot of important detail out OR left only to verbal references will effectively leave the gate WIDE open for assumptions to be made on all sides. Poorer outcomes are consistently achieved when this lack of detail and specification exists within the documentation.


Solution Complexity to Requirement Detail Chart

Hopefully some of these quick tips will help you produce superior requirements documents for your projects.
Contribution By:

Tony Smith

Professional Services Director

The Ellby Group (FileBound Australia Pty Ltd and Upflow Pty Ltd)



Avoid Implementation Issues – The Big Four.

Our organisation spends a lot of time assisting others to implement Document and Work Management solutions.  We have been doing this since 2007 and individually many of us have been doing this for a lot longer with other organisations.  We are still surprised at organisational avoidance of implementing change management processes for their teams.

Many years ago systems projects had a very strong technical leaning.  Remember using the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) to structure long projects to deliver positive organisational outcomes?  Projects these days happen a lot quicker (generalisation inserted – we would love your view).  This speed is underpinned by advances in technology as well as globalisation driving a world market.  We can now configure software to do a lot of things that we used to require software development projects to deliver.

What are the impacts of this faster delivery of organisational outcomes?  Here are The Big Four impacts we see;

1. Less structure.

We do not see organisations using Project Managers (PM) and Project Management hygiene as frequently as they used to.  This provides less organisational structure which leads to generally poorer outcomes.  In our experience having a PM on a project virtually guarantees the project will not fail as well as ensuring the project will deliver at an acceptable time and cost (note the use of acceptable as opposed to budgeted, that could be a single blog in its own right).  As a minimum, organisations need to have a responsible executive so that there is a single point of escalation for the technical resources on the project.  We would love to see this trend away from formal PM reversed.

2. Less formal requirements.

A significant trend we see is the reduced focus on formal requirements.  We often see projects being attempted with no agreed formal requirements.  The theory being that the tools can be adjusted so easily that once a solution is live it can be altered as needed.  Whilst this may be somewhat true, it does not deal with the various pre-conceived expectations of the stakeholders.  Stakeholders are quick to get frustrated and unsupportive of the project if their early expectations are not met.  One of the great things about a formal requirements document is the articulation of expectations before any delivery has happened.  If there is a gap in the expectations of the solutions delivery team and any of the stakeholders it is highlighted and dealt with long before the project is thrown seriously off track.

3. Lack of a formal change control process

Just having an initial set of requirements is not sufficient.  We see projects falter regularly because valid changes to the project are not managed with a controlled process.  The beauty of a change control process is the involvement of all stakeholders and management of their expectations throughout the delivery.  As with formal requirements, change controls are a vital commercial and legal instrument that can reduce your organisational risks.

4. People aren’t ready

With modern technology we can often implement a really complex solution to an organisational problem in a very small amount of time.  Whilst this is great and any technocrats will love the speed and outcome, it give technophobes very little time to adapt to a new work design.  We see this happen a lot and often those technophobes will start an internal marketing campaign against the project / changes (interestingly in our experience once the key issues of this group are addressed they can be turned into strong advocates).  In our experience the number one reason why projects struggle is the human change element.  Of course there is a direct link between this impact and the project management impact described above.  Less Project Management hygiene leads to less focus on the core change management principles built into that hygiene.  We would encourage anyone currently implementing or considering a technical change project to spend more time considering the human change elements.  If you do you will be rewarded for having done so.

Of course there are other factors that can lead to implementation issues – poor technology choice, poor partner choice, external factors, poor resourcing and inadequate skills to name a few. Despite these other risk factors we still see most troubled projects having one or more of The Big Four issues identified above as the root cause of the challenges.

In summary, we suggest that all solution implementation projects have a Project Manager, use a tight requirements recording and change control recording process as well as have a program of change management built into the core deliverables.  Implementing hygiene’s to account for The Big Four will seriously improve your chance of implementation success.