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Part II: Benefits of Pilot Groups for Testing Purchasing Card Programs

December 15, 2010 Finance

When we first looked at Part I: Benefits of a Purchasing Card Program, we discussed the first steps companies should take in making the decision to implement a PCP into their B2B daily activities.

Besides saving money on processing costs, capitalizing on rebates, and minimizing fraud risk and exposure, PCPs bring automated convenience, security and efficiency to laborious, paper-based processes.

Once a company decides to implement a PCP, there are a couple of paths to look down for next steps. One is an organizational hierarchy set-up for structural reporting and data visibility. Another is starting a pilot group for testing purposes.

Pilot groups can be extremely valuable for companies, whether they are first time PCP users or simply switching issuers. These testing groups give companies a chance to operate in a small-scale production mode. Team members can test program elements and features, identify gaps, provide feedback and make any necessary changes before implementing a full program roll out.

Across the PCP industry, there are key success elements companies should consider when organizing a pilot test group.

  • Be sure to have a manageable group size that is also a representative cross-section of the user community. Core team members should also be actively involved in test group oversight.
  • Provide adequate training in a variety of formats and make sure the materials are as comprehensive as possible based on the level of sophistication of the PCP technology. These can be in the form of webinars, on-site meetings or manuals, but are usually a mix of each.
  • Test the PCP technology as thoroughly as possible with different components and variables to produce different outcomes.
  • In the same token, make sure to include all account structures for every situation and explore different scenarios with multiple suppliers and a variety of purchase scenarios (i.e. ghost accounts).
  • Set a time frame for testing duration that includes a definite begin and end point. Typically, testing groups are utilized for two to three months. This gives users enough time for exposure and employees enough time for orientation and training purposes.

Fahrenehit Finance launched Phase 1 of a three-phase approach for a client back in November and is anticipating a 3-month duration for each phase. The foundation has been built for the PCP and this particular platform can compensate multiple ERP systems. Cardholders and employees are beginning their initial orientation and taking advantage of the testing environment.

Part III in the Purchasing Card Program blog series will examine the development of an electronic interface, which requires plenty of IT support and resources for mapping logic and system communication.

– JoAnn Vernacchia

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