Bartłomiej Wójtowicz, Comarch e-Invoicing: Plenty of multinational corporations have been opening Shared Service Centers for Accounts Payable to consolidate the processes from multiple locations to a central and reduce costs
The significant factor is the desired level of automation – some corporations want to increase the number of employees when facing an increased volume of documents, whilst others are looking for new technological systems to automate the processes. We sat down with Bartłomiej Wójtowicz, Product Manager at Comarch e-Invoicing, to learn more about these solutions.
What is the biggest challenge when implementing ERP systems?
Assuming that internal ERP systems operating in local companies were successfully integrated, the challenge is to import high quality data. In most cases, the project includes vendors from all around the globe with various degrees of technological maturity. There are a lot of channels that need to be properly handled, for example traditional mail, fax, email, and PDF. Document capture is an important technology to be considered here.
Can you tell us more about the capture technology?
You need a solid system to collect the invoices, extract data and classify information from incoming documents. The invoice formats and volumes, in combination with the data you must extract, may necessitate an optical character recognition (OCR) solution to help capture the data. In that way, instead of manually processing thousands of documents, the automated system can read and process them in digital form much faster.
What are the latest e-invoicing trends?
More innovative companies have launched cloud-based supplier portals. Sending the Purchase Orders (PO) and Goods Receipts (GR) to the suppliers and the availability of PO flip functionality, guarantee data that are more accurate and a lower volume of credit and debit notes.
What do you need to consider before starting a portal like this?
First the onboarding process. There should be a self-provisioning tool enabling prompt and secure launch of the services. Then, we need to focus on updating supplier master data. This means the suppliers should have the possibility to update their master data to assure coherency in the whole process. Purchase orders, goods receipts or other data may be provided from various systems, so it is crucial to assure multi-system integrations to match invoices and handle the complexities surrounding line item reconciliation. Appropriate validation rules should also be set up. Business and legal compliance is important, in order to prevent suppliers from filling out the wrong data.
Finally, the technicalities: the easier and more intuitive the portal is, the higher is the probability that the supplier will use it regularly, and there will be less time spent on explanations and solving requests.
You mentioned that automation speeds things up, but how can you assure quick communication with your suppliers?
There should be an efficient exceptions handling system along with an approval process implemented in either the ECM or ERP systems. These functionalities, enriched with notifications and escalation management, should guarantee immediate contact with suppliers. The appropriate repository is crucial as well. Sometimes you need to refer to archival documents, and going through countless folders stacked in cabinets takes many hours. To assure prompt access to historical documents, you need to digitize your whole archive. It takes up less space this way - it is better for the environment, and much more convenient.
What should the ideal solution provide a business with?
Complete visibility of all tasks, employees and processes is key. The analytics module should provide details and reliable information on KPIs. Having already integrated ERP systems with the portal for suppliers, and having achieved high quality documents with exception handling and increased efficiency, companies have time to implement other technological innovations.
And the future is…?
Dynamic discounting is a good example, offering suppliers the ability to request early-pay discounts and become an additional source of income for the company. Recently, automation has become more and more popular too, and it will change the way the SSCs operate. According to the Global Shared Services 2017 Survey Report prepared by Deloitte, 8% of the surveyed companies have already been using robots, 26% run or plan pilot programs, and 24% have launched initial research in this area. More than a third of respondents (45%) believe that robotization can result in cost reductions up to 20-40%.
To conclude, the companies who do use innovative technology and break away from the current legacy systems will probably achieve better business performance than others.