CloudX Blog

Document Process Outsourcing: Preparing for uncertainty!

Posted by Chris Cosgrove

Sep 14, 2015 3:36:41 PM

DreamTeam

 

The only thing that is certain is uncertainty.  

It does seem that this adage has never been more true as in recent weeks you can see the jitters, jolts, and jounces that have happened in the global financial markets.  This in turn creates stresses on investors as well as corporate leaders as they strive to meet their fiscal earnings targets and in turn retain investment.  How does this then boil down to the world of financial back office improvements...quite simply, actually.  You see, the time may or may not be right to invest in a business depending on its health, trajectory, market influences, leadership choices, etc, but the time is ALWAYS right to invest internally in improving how business is conducted internally. (The only case where this would be untrue is if the organization as a whole is in TItanic mode and you’re about to become a Jacksicle, which case, we advise you to find a flotation device or the first suitcase outta there.)


For example, consider transactional documents like invoices, sales orders, remittances or checks.  In many ways, these are the unsung heroes and lifeblood of businesses.  Certainly less than glamorous, but consider the ramifications of not processing these for 60-90 days...well, loss of revenue, loss of suppliers, loss of customers….loss, loss, loss.  Alternatively, you can use these documents and improvements around them as a catalyst to gain control and insight in these processes which can end up padding the bottom line and supporting organizational objectives.  In fact, we’d argue that it always make sense to pursue improvements in these areas because they are invariably disaffected by broader market fluctuations as described above.


So, some key thoughts about how to set about determining what to do when faced with troublesome document processes:

  1. Assess - Take a hard look at how your process actually is...for better or worse.  Audit pressure helps drive this kind of introspection, especially if you know you’re about to suffer a face plant when the folks with the clipboards come strolling in.  Instead of waiting for that prescient crash test dummy feeling, why not conduct a financial, time in motion, and security audit on your process to determine what’s optimal, what’s average, and what’s lacking.  Use industry benchmarks to adjust your gauge, otherwise it’s kind of like using a blunderbuss to hit moving targets at a 1,000 yards downrange...not exactly going to cut the mustard!

  2. Define - Oliver Wendell Holmes said that ‘Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.’ As such, you may have to survey the market to understand the art of the possible in the process or the space you’re looking to affect.  As a for instance, there are many deployment options in re-working transactional document processes involving manual labor, outsourcing, on site technology deployment, managed services, cloud-based technology, etc.  You have to do some exploring and evaluating in the context of your organizational biases to determine what is going to work for you.  Oh yeah, a big one here is budgeting...definitely a massive constraint, but we opine that investments in this space should be minimal from a capital outlay perspective and deliver immediate and sustained ROI, which is contrarian to legacy software models from major system integrators.

  3. Cultivate - Remember the Dream Team?  No, not the Michael Keaton movie of the late 80’s...I’m talking about Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, John Stockton, & company, who were the murderers row of the 1992 Olympics.  Well, if you can assemble all-star talent to help you execute your vision, you stand a chance of having something remarkable happen.  Now a key piece, and probably the key piece, is who you’re choosing to partner up with as you pursue process optimization from a vendor-partner standpoint.  It certainly shouldn’t be someone as helpful as the average aisle clerk at the big box hardware stores, where you wished you’d never asked for help in the first place, but someone who really can saddle up with you and get the wagon train a movin’.


Best processes to consider for improvement:

-Accounts Payable Invoice Processing - Why? Well, it’s basically scraping data off invoices, marrying it up with purchase data and automating vendor and line item matching, then passing invoices through a digital approval process and doing this all electronically so you never have to touch one of these things again physically.  Score one for your back office and score 2 for the trees.  It’s also highly proven through about a gazillion (technical term) studies.  Check them out at Paystream, Aberdeen, or IOMA, if you don’t believe me.

-Virtual Payments - Who wouldn’t want to be rewarded for their loyalty? And who wouldn’t want to cease printing costly checks and then paying for the privilege to mail the suckers, which takes up more time and creates issues for the folks in the AR department of your supplier from a processing standpoint.  Instead, monetize your payment stream through virtual credit card payments, and increase your security standards around payments and card usage, while making the process faster for all and making your CFO really really happy with his new-fangled revenue stream.

-Sales Orders - Just like invoices, with many of these forms, it’s a simple thing to leverage data conversion tools overlaid with human intelligence for verification to take a painful, slow, and error prone process, and make it hum in a fraction of the time, for a fraction of the cost, with total insight to the process.




We think the best way to do this is via a document process outsourcing approach, since it's heavy on the top technology you need to reshape a process and light on the wallet, but you need to determine what's right for YOU!

 

 We hope this helps you navigate the ups and downs of the markets, as a transformed process can always be a boon to an organization and create value for all who partake in it!


Check these resources out to learn more!

Free eBook on Unlocking Profit From Transactional Document Processes!

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Topics: Accounts Payable Automation, document process outsourcing, Virtual Payments

4 Arguments For Amplifying Sales Order Processing Through Document Process Outsourcing

Posted by Chris Cosgrove

Jun 4, 2015 2:34:26 PM

Amplify your sales order processing through document process outsourcing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, it’s time to face the music, this much is certain.  

 

The days of paper are coming to an end...at least, that’s the vision that was laid out to me back in the day in 9th grade when we read Ray Bradbury’s iconic book Fahrenheit 451.  The temperature contained in that novel is the precise temperature at which paper ignites and it’s definitely an interesting read.  If fact, I think there are more than a fare share of people who lead operations in functions like the Accounts Payable process, Accounts Receivable remittance process, and even the sales order process who would probably like to see this come to fruition...at least theoretically.  For my part, it’s a scary notion, especially the mechanical hound, but I digress.


While I don’t think paper will ever be fully eliminated, as it’s too effective a medium to convey data between disparate systems to go entirely out of existence, I do think it’s a reality that fewer organizations will be encumbered by it as time passes and technology advances and the way we work evolves.


So with that in mind here are four considerations for why you should look to a document process outsourcing approach in processing your sales orders.


The big four:

1.  Time is money.  - Accounts Receivable, in healthy organizations, is a great indicator for the vitality of an enterprise.  However, you don’t get to jack up your AR number without some kind of sales, and if you’re not a retail environment that is capturing those sales through a point of sale interface or a web retailer with dynamic e-commerce, then you’re like the rest of the world that gets to kick off an invoice to your customer after they’ve place their order.  This is not a bad thing, but in fact a fun thing, and maybe THE most fun thing.  However, if Sales Orders pile up and don’t get processed quickly, products won’t get turned around and AR invoices will be stymied in their outflow, which is all a big pile of yuck.  Because time is money, and because AR is fun to process it stands to reason that you should put into effect a strategy to turn it around lickety-split...enter document process outsourcing.  Oh yeah, you’ll get paid faster, so there’s that too.

 

2.  Sales orders contain mucho data. - While some are simple and straightforward, others may contain complex tables of information that need to be mined out and dumped into Accounting systems to trigger services or order builds.  Either way, that data has to get from the sales order document into the end accounting system, and what better way than harnessing OCR to do the heavy lifting of data entry, all while boosting the accuracy throughput rate.  That makes a heckuva lot of sense and has the added benefit of not breaking the bank, which tends to keep executives deploying technology solutions pretty stoked.  The bottom-line is that you don’t want your most valuable asset, your people, bogged down by decades old processes where the lowest common denominator is the burden of data entry.


3. Customer participation. - In most cases of transactions, customers like to be included in the process. Now, it’s one thing to try force behavior adoption upon your pool of customers or suppliers, as that is something that only the biggest and baddest can do…(Walmart anyone?).  If you’re a smaller company, then good luck trying to strong arm your customers into doing business your way and besides who wants to go through those kinds of gyrations.  However, where vendor portals have failed many companies that have deployed due to their inability to effectively convert large volumes of customers (sidebar, ugly truth - that’s because people are inherently lazy and don’t want to do anything that makes their life more difficult than necessary), it is a reality that if you use a document process outsourcing approach that synthesizes OCR for the data conversion, cleanses the data through human validation, and ultimately provides storage in a cloud based repository, then it makes sense and good effect to provide a window into that, especially one that clues the customer into the status of their order as an optional benefit to doing business with you.


4.  Bringing these kinds of solutions in house is tough. - Duh.  That’s why our vision is to provide that as a service to folks who have come to that realization.  Besides the fact that it is a niche set of tools required to automate a document process, you get saddled with the extra hindrance of having to staff up for the person whose responsibility managing and optimizing the system will be.  Oh yeah, then there’s the fact that most executives are going to lean way in favor of dropping money on things that help them GROW the top line of the business, not trim the bottom, so that’s a consideration as well.  Either way, the DPO method for Sales Order processing is not only viable, it’s vital if you want to find ways to slash costs and boost performance in your business.


There’s some other similar concepts we bandy about over here that we think you might dig as well.  Until then, rock on and consider amplifying your sales order process through a DPO approach and create your own psychedelic rock opera in your back office!

 

Free eBook on Unlocking Profit From Transactional Document Processes!

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Topics: document process outsourcing, sales order processing

3 Reasons Your Accounts Payable Process Is Ideal For Document Process Outsourcing

Posted by Chris Cosgrove

May 21, 2015 1:18:50 PM

King-Zorboxart2

Because nothing says ideal like King Zor!

 

So you’re thinking about jacking up your processes to the next level, but maybe you’re unsure of where to start.  For many Finance and Accounting leaders, the choice is obvious...Accounts Payable invoice processing.  Specifically, we’re talking about the ugly Accounts Payable process that is the front-end invoice processing function that takes place from invoice presentment up until posting.  While there are many opportunities to improve the entire AP invoice processing cycle including the payment component, we’re going to just deal with the front end in this post.  (We’ll be back in a few weeks to discuss the payment piece in greater detail and layout alternatives for making that smoother and more profitable to you.)


Here’s a few reasons that you want to consider Document Process Outsourcing, specifically in this process area.


  1. AP is inundated with paper, and for most companies, this means manual processing, manual data entry, and manual workflows.  That can have implications like data errors, incorrect payment amounts, payments to errant vendors, duplicate payments, process bottlenecks, late payment fees, missed discounts, no audit trails, lost invoices, expensive manual document routing, and zero visibility into the process.  In short, without some kind of solid Accounts Payable process and robust Accounts Payable software...which brings up point #2.

  2. Pardon my French, but Accounts Payable software ain’t cheap, especially if you choose to deploy it in house.  That’s due in large part to the fact that it’s more like a DTP vaccine than an individual single strain shot in the arm.  By this I mean that you need a variety of technologies to meaningfully impact the process.  Things like OCR, business intelligence engine (to mimic business rules), electronic document management & workflow technology, integration technology all equate to different technical ingredients required to make the secret sauce.  Now, if your preference is to deploy locally instead of going with a SaaS model, then prepare to cut some big checks, usually to the tune of mid-six figures.  And with that sentence, so dies the aspirations of many finance leaders to improve their process, because for them it is simply unjustifiable, but hold fast because we’re on to #3.

  3. The prescription, at least for most companies sub a couple billion dollars in revenue is the document process outsourcing approach in our opinion.  It offers a blend of the technologies above overlaid by affordable resources to supplement the base efforts of document conversion.  The net effect is that process stakeholders don’t have to be buried under the mundane and monotonous any longer, but can transform their job functions to take on more strategic and higher order items.  If AP processors don’t have to bang in invoices to an ERP interface all day, they can pursue more valuable things like improving vendor payment terms or conducting other types of analysis for their Finance leaders.  In short, they can achieve better levels of insight through a system that can spit out real time reporting and dashboarding and in so-doing they can better manage their process more intelligently and effectively.  The nice thing as well about document process outsourcing is that the function itself isn’t turned over to a 3rd party from a process ownership perspective...meaning that the actual invoice processing, matching, reconciliation, and payment still resides within the safe hands of the company that is improving their process, thus decreasing additional risk points.

 

Closing Thoughts


Now there are other means to consider in terms of improving invoice processing, and for many folks that means giving a strong look to E-Invoicing, though this begets another slew of issues, primarily around vendor enrollment.  While we’re not opposed to that, as each organization has to make its own decisions on what’s best in their unique situation, we’ll definitely say that anytime you have to influence vendor behavior, prepare for resistance.  So, if you have patience that may be a good approach, but if the bleeding is bad enough, sometimes a band-aid won’t cut it so to speak...you may need triage, and therefore the remedy above should be a viable consideration.

 

Free eBook on AP Automation vs E-Invoicing:  What's Right For My Business?

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Topics: Accounts Payable Process, document process outsourcing, Invoice Processing

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