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When automating a business process, do you prefer a solution that is easy to set up and run, or one that has a broader scope and more effectively supports your business objectives?

In sports, many coaches take the former approach, a topic that Mark McClusky discusses in his book Faster, Higher, Stronger.  In the book, McClusky examines the impact of science and advanced technology on the performance of elite athletes.

The section on motor skills learning caught my attention. Here, McClusky discusses two training approaches: “blocked” practice and “random” practice. In blocked practice, athletes drill on a specific skill, then move on to another. Random practice, on the other hand, is “whole training” where athletes work on the complete skill as if they were competing.  Consider striking a soccer ball. Blocked practice would devote specific time for individual players to practice different kicks, while random practice would work on kicks as part of a scrimmage, simulating a soccer match.

Coaches are drawn to blocked practices, relates McClusky, because they are easier to set up and run, but he then concludes that “it’s simply not as good for the final outcome.”

This may explain why certain approaches to e-invoicing and AP automation have a limited upside. A solution that take less time to set up may also limit the potential for business process improvement; for example, requiring manual effort to apply account codes to invoices or match invoice lines to contracts.

Elite performers today are automating more low-value tasks across the procure-to-pay spectrum, so they can devote more time and resources to strategic activities. How do they do it?

That will be a topic of conversation at Ariba LIVE, scheduled for April 7-9 in Las Vegas. This annual conference brings together business professionals from sourcing, procurement, payables, finance, and related business areas to discuss the future of business commerce, and the opportunity for transformation from business networks. The agenda includes keynote addresses, an exhibit hall, networking opportunities, and close to 100 breakout sessions on how you can buy, sell, and manage cash better.

Session topics in the Manage Cash track offer opportunities to hear from industry analysts and practitioners on the many ways to thrive in a network economy. They include:

  • Proven Strategies for  Automating Your Accounts Payable  Operations
  • Supplier Enablement: Building a Strong Foundation that Supports Program Ramp Up and Expansion
  • Closing the Loop in Your Procure-to-Pay Process
  • B2B Payments in the Networked Age
  • Dynamic Discounting Best Practices

For organizations eager to learn how elite organizations have adapted to a networked economy, this is a good place to start. You can get more information by visiting the Ariba LIVE web site.

And you can read more about developments in the networked economy today at Conversations on The Networked Economy.