CHAPTER 13: PROCUREMENT IN CHAOS - SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIAL

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1 CHAPTER 13: PROCUREMENT IN CHAOS - SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIAL Brian G. Rosenberg From the book The Next Wave of Technologies: Opportunities in Chaos by Phil Simon Electronic Invoicing There is a significant focus in the industry in receiving invoices directly from vendors electronically. The reasons to do so are compelling. Invoices received electronically require no data entry input on the part of the AP staff, and have significantly less room for invoice matching discrepancies. Faster receipt of invoices means faster processing and payment to the vendors (if desired). All electronic invoicing environments have been promised for twenty years, but still are not a reality. Organizations are finding the transition to electronic invoicing far more complex than expected. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is the solution of choice with larger trading partners. With EDI, transactions are sent directly from the vendor in an electronic format to the AP department, who uses an EDI translator to convert the data to the format needed to import it into the ERP system. EDI is probably the most reliable form of electronic invoicing. However, it has proven costly to setup and to maintain as each vendor relationship with EDI must be individually established. As a result, EDI adoption rates have been disappointing, and most organizations implement EDI with their top suppliers. An increasing number of services and software packages have recently begun to be offered under the vague terms of e-invoicing or e-payables. Despite the similar use of these terms, the service offerings can vary widely. Many of them promise to get a large portion or all of your invoices to you electronically. Most E-payables solutions come in one of two forms. The vendor is offering to be a middle-man to force vendors to provide you with invoices in an electronic format, or the vendor is providing electronic invoicing services and when a vendor cannot provide an invoice electronically, they are then converting it to an electronic format by scanning it and using advanced data capture, essentially working as an outsourced data entry function. In the first form, the solution being provided is to enhance the efforts to get vendors to provide invoices electronically, often by making it a requirement to do

2 business with your company. The solution provider is facilitating electronic invoicing by providing an easy method to the vendor to submit their invoice. The solution provider usually charges a transaction fee, in some cases charged to the customer, in other cases to the vendor. Who pays the fee may not be as important as it sounds. The expectation should always be that you are paying the transaction fee directly, or in the form of higher prices from the vendors. E- payables solutions involve bringing in a third party to facilitate the transaction. That third party must be paid, and any vendor imposed fee is ultimately a cost to you. This method of e-payables has proven inconsistent to date. While your largest suppliers may comply with your requirements to do business, other vendors simply are not in a position to accommodate different invoicing methods for all of their clients. Yet other vendors, particularly small organizations, are still struggling with . It is assumed that there is a critical mass to this type of billing portal. Suppliers will only accommodate so many different billing methods. Eventually, one will get critical mass and become the platform of choice for this method of billing. However, no clear leader in this area has emerged at this time, and it could take considerable time for this to occur. Therefore this is not a recommended method of electronic invoicing at this time. The second form of e-payables is essentially outsourcing of the EDI management and data entry processes to a third party provider. In this model, all invoices are sent directly to your outsourced provider. They will then get it into your ERP system electronically. This could be accomplished through receipt of the invoice electronically from the vendor, using methods similar to the first process described, or it could be through scanning the invoice and processing it through data capture. While this form of e-payables can be effective, it should be viewed as a form of outsourcing. Further, organizations must ask the question if it is more efficient to outsource this function or to do the work with internal resources. Each organization must consider the costs of the outsourcing and the capabilities of internal staff in balancing its decision. These vendors are not doing anything that organizations cannot do internally with the right technology. While many forms of outsourcing can in some cases be cost effective, as a general rule organizations should keep procurement-related processing in-house.

3 Advanced Data Capture As organizations attempt to contain labor costs and streamline operations, AP departments face conflicting pressures to enhance their level of service while concurrently reducing staff costs. New technologies have long held the promise of achieving improved operational efficiencies while saving money. To address the costly burden of manual entry, filing, and retrieval, AP departments have increasingly looked to electronic forms of invoicing to replace the costly process of data entry. However, while electronic invoices are increasingly common, most organizations still receive and process large quantities of paper invoices. In a 2008 Member Benchmarking survey conducted by IAPP (International AP Professionals) i, respondents indicated that almost 70 percent of all invoices were received in paper form. As reported in a recent study from the Aberdeen Group, paper invoices can cost as much as $64.97 each to process ii. Furthermore, with the total cost of a full-time AP processor approaching 45k per year, iii it is simply not cost effective to pay resources just to enter data. Naturally, that is one reason why outsourcing to other countries has become a consideration for many executives. However, outsourcing has proven to have low adoption rates for AP departments due to control, quality, and service concerns. Organizations must find in-house solutions to reduce the burden of data entry, which accounts for 75 percent of the average AP department s cost according to the 2008 IAPP presentation. EDI has long promised to eliminate paper invoices but still represents a small portion of invoice volumes. According to an AP Network study, most organizations receive fewer than 10 percent of their invoices electronically, and there has been essentially no change in EDI adoption rates since E-Invoicing solutions have been slow to gain acceptance as supplier adoption lags due to technology restrictions or transaction fees. Document Imaging systems have quickly become the norm in AP operations, but while these system offer great efficiencies in record storage and retrieval, they do not address the most time consuming process in AP departments manual entry of invoice data. Advanced Data Capture (ADC) is a complementary technology to Document Imaging that provides a method for eliminating the manual entry of invoice data. The concept of Data Capture is fairly straightforward: Paper invoices are scanned upon arrival. Software then reads the electronic images for relevant data.

4 The software intelligently extracting dates, invoice and tax amounts, as well as invoice numbers. Vendor information is obtained by comparing the information on the invoice against the vendor master file to determine appropriate vendor number and remit code. This information is then presented alongside the image for confirmation a process commonly referred to as validation. Fields yielding confidence below preconfigured confidence thresholds, where the data cannot be located or is too fuzzy to be read, are flagged for review in the validation step. Once confirmed, invoice fields are transferred into the ERP system and sent out for approval if necessary using the workflow. The physical act of an AP processor transferring data from paper into software is essentially eliminated; significantly lowering the costs associated with invoice processing. The business case for ADC is simple: invoices can be processed with fewer resources. The time required to manually enter paper invoices into a system is reduced, meaning that fewer resources are necessary to enter them. In addition to labor savings, there are other financial benefits to invoices being entered into an enterprise system faster. ADC can virtually eliminate invoice backlogs. Rapid transfer of invoices into a system leads to an increase in discounts taken, reduced late fees, and greater visibility into short-term liabilities for financial planning and control. The next few years will result in a rapidly increasing trend towards adoption of Advanced Data Capture. Data Capture today is where Document Imaging was five year ago. According to a recent Invoice Reconciliation and Payment Report published by the Aberdeen Group, only 17 percent of AP departments currently use some form of the technology to capture data from invoices. Similarly, five years ago, only 23 percent of AP departments used some form of invoice Document Imaging. iv According to a Datacap survey of over 400 AP managers, that figure today has risen to over 50 percent. ADC utilizes the newest generation of extraction technology, designed to capture data from unstructured forms such as invoices, regardless of the format. ADC reads scanned invoices much like the human eye would; intelligently breaking down various components of the invoice and recognizing key fields based on the flow of the document and various triggers (e.g. phrases like Invoice # or Remit Payment To ). Templates have been replaced with a knowledge database that is able to absorb new information automatically. If the software is not able to identify a particular field, the validator can click on the field on the invoice image in lieu of typing, and the software will learn so that it is able to find the information next time. Since these new technologies eliminate templates,

5 they also eliminate the work and maintenance previously required in managing traditional Data Capture systems. This allows organizations to use capture for all of their vendor invoices, not just higher volume vendors. Limitations While an extremely promising and powerful technology, it is important to remember that ADC is not magic. Most adoptees who have been disappointed in the results of their data capture projects went into them with unrealistic expectations (though often these expectations were set by the software vendor). However, the results do not need to be magical to be effective. The validation process creates a focus on accuracy, with any field that has a chance of being inaccurate requiring review by a validator. For each invoice the validator reviews, they only have to look at the relevant fields, and the results is that they can validate an invoice in the fraction it would time to enter the data manually. If the validator then only has to review one out of every five invoices, we have created a significant improvement in productivity. Perhaps the most compelling argument against ADC is its complete conflict with the previously discussed forms of automation, electronic invoicing, and purchasing cards. If P2P automation is taking us to electronic invoicing, then we will no longer receive paper invoices, eliminating the need for ADC. Therefore, could it not be argued that money spent on ADC would be wasted? The validity of this argument should be based on to what extent you believe that paper invoices will be replaced, and on what timeline. For over twenty years, fully electronic invoicing environments have been promised, and yet the IAPP 2008 study showed that 70 percent of all invoices are still received on paper. As expressed in the electronic invoicing discussion, the reality is that the movement to electronic invoicing has been a slow one, and while progress has continued and will continue to be made, it may take 5,10,15,20 years or more for a truly 100 percent electronic environment to exist. P2P executives need to consider what can make their operation more efficient now. If ADC can help with the remaining 70 percent of invoices and save time and resources today, it can provide many years of value even if that value reduces in future years as more invoices become electronic. The bottom-line is that for now, ADC is just one more way to create electronic invoices where they do not exist. Opponents also claim that ADC over promises and under delivers, requiring long implementation cycles to train the software and cumbersome maintenance. This speaks to the original software technologies based on templates, which required software to locate relevant information based on its location on the page of a particular invoice format. This worked well for business units with standardized forms, such as Human Resources, but proved less able to

6 meet the needs of the varied world of AP, where tens of thousands of vendors submit invoices in an ever-changing variety of formats. The time required to build and maintain templates for smaller volume vendors negated the time savings derived from eliminating the manual entry of their invoices. Higher volume vendors, for whom templates proved highly cost effective, often transitioned towards Electronic Invoicing or EDI transmissions. Approval Workflow Approval workflow for requisitions and invoices is a rapidly growing technology as organizations have begun to realize the benefits and the number of success stories available has led others to being their own deployments. In the PayStream Advisors report, only 27 percent of respondents indicated that they are currently using approval workflow, but a resounding 26 percent are currently in the planning of deployment phase v. Approval workflow will rapidly become the norm in procurement operations, and the considerable benefits clearly demonstrate why that has transitioned so quickly. Approval Workflow is the process of obtaining approval electronically rather than submitting paper forms. Best practice is for approval to occur at the time of requisition, prior to the creation of the purchase order, though approval after-the-fact using the vendor invoice is common, particularly in organizations with high rates of invoices that are not matched to purchase orders. For the purpose of our discussion, we will focus on requisition workflow, though invoice workflow works in a similar manner. In workflow-enabled organizations, once a requisition is created, the system will check the amount of the requisition against established approval limits and determine if it is within the approval limits of the requestor. When a purchase is over their limit, an electronic notification will be sent to the next person in the approval hierarchy for their review and approval. Until such time as that approval can be obtained, the requisition will not be released. Approval hierarchies can be built to allow for multiple levels of approval based on escalating dollar amounts, until the final level of approval necessary has been obtained. It is also common for approval to go through special paths based on type of purchase, such as IT related purchases being approved by an IT manager, or a capital purchase going through a budget confirmation step. The benefits of workflow are very simple, yet very profound. Manual approval processes are often ineffective. Paperwork needs to be moved from desk to desk, often requiring mailing, faxing, or ing to staff in other locations. Sometimes paperwork gets lost or misplaced, or gets put at the bottom of a stack of things to do. As a result, approval is often slower than desired. The result of a

7 slow approval process is that over time, it breaks down. Operations staff needs to get their requests filled and eventually begin to simply ignore the approval process, or to obtain approval for purchases after the fact. In an automated workflow environment, requisitions move instantly from person to person, making it possible for almost immediate approval if everyone is attentive to the workflow requests. If someone is on vacation, rules can be built to bypass their approval or to designate an alternate approver. The result is the approval process is easier and therefore, much more likely to be used. The same concepts can be applied to invoices that are received that do not relate to purchase orders. It is best practice for all invoices to be sent directly to the AP department, rather than to operational staff. This ensures that there is visibility to the invoice at the earliest possible point, and allows AP to have a record of the invoice if a vendor calls. In manual environments, AP would then have to send a copy of the invoice to the operational staff for review, often waiting extended periods of time to obtain the approval, leading to late payments. In a workflow-enabled company, AP simply routes the invoice to the approver electronically, and it follows an approval path similar to a requisition. If the invoice is not approved timely, AP is able to determine where that invoice is in the process and follow-up. Workflow can be used for many other purposes within the procure-to-pay function. For example, it can be used to notify a buyer when there is a discrepancy on an invoice discovered in the three way match process. It can be used to obtain approval for a new vendor relationship and route the information to the vendor maintenance team. Workflow can truly transform the way that procurement and AP staff interact with their user communities. The results can be significant, including: the elimination of the pushing of paper from place to place significantly faster processes reduced administrative costs End-users quickly realize that the new process is faster and more reliable. As a result, they are much more likely to comply. As the compliance to purchase order policies increase, purchases are properly approved before being made. Ultimately, organizations increase the visibility of purchasing data and the accuracy of financial statements. In the end, this minimizes enterprise risk. 1 Any organization can benefit from implementation of workflow technology, particularly those with a large number of physical locations. Most major ERP vendors provide some form of workflow, so it is possible that organizations already won the software necessary to enable workflow. 1 For more on this, see Bob Charette s chapter on Enterprise Risk Management.

8 Purchasing Cards One of the basic tenets of procure-to-pay automation should be to reduce the number of transactions processed manually in purchasing and AP departments. Purchasing cards are a tool that allows organizations to reduce manual transactions while also increasing controls. This will increase convenience to the end-users. Best of all, purchasing cards are available at essentially no cost. AP departments are constantly challenged to address increasing volume of invoices as their organizations grow. As AP is an overhead function, managers are often unable to obtain the budget necessary to hire additional staff and need to explore alternative methods to reduce the amount of manual entry. Purchasing departments also operate on limited resources and may be bogged down by small routine requests for supplies and services that continue to grow while their staff size remains the same. Purchasing cards provide an option that can reduce the workload for both the AP and purchasing departments at essentially no cost to an organization. By reducing the number of transactions being processed, less staff is necessary, leaving remaining personnel to focus on more value-added activities. Purchasing cards, also known as procurement cards or P-Cards, are corporate charge cards which work in a similar way to credit cards. Most P-Card programs are Visa or MasterCard branded and can be used at any retailer or supplier that accepts credit cards. P-Cards provide a mechanism for authorized staff to make small, routine purchases without involving the AP and purchasing staff. Many organizations have a large number of small dollar transactions that are being processed by the AP department, resulting in costs to receive, approve, and issue checks. The 2003 Purchasing Card Benchmarking Study found that 90 percent of transactions are for amounts less than $2,000. In some cases, the cost of processing these transactions exceeds the amount of the original payment. The cost to process a purchase order and invoice is essentially the same regardless of the invoice amount. Purchasing cards provide a solution that not only significantly reduces the cost of these transactions, but also provides a rebate to the organization. Purchasing card transactions are usually interfaced directly from a file provided by the bank into the AP or general ledger system, eliminating the need for manual entry of purchase orders and invoices. The result is a reduction in the number of invoices processed by the departments, allowing them to process other transactions.

9 However, the visibility to these transactions is retained. This is critical as obtaining this visibility is one of the key objectives of our procure-to-pay automation. Procurement card data interfaced into your financial system will allow tracking of spend. As procurement card purchases are fully electronic, there is an immediate record of all activity and no risk of hidden transactions. There are other efficiencies gained from the use of Purchasing Cards, including faster payment to vendors and elimination of the need for petty cash accounts. The Purchasing Card Benchmarking Study demonstrated that P-Cards reduces the procurement cycle time by 74 percent; reduce the number of petty cash accounts by 57 percent. vi In addition, most P-Card programs offer rebates to participating organizations that are about one percent of expenditure volume. While these rebates can provide an additional savings, it should be noted that the P-card processor is passing on the fee to the vendors and rebates should not be the primary intent of a P-card program While rebates are beneficial, caution should be taken to ensure that the effort to take rebates does not come at the cost of other options to reduce costs. P- Card providers, as with all bank charge cards, make their money by charging the vendor a transaction fee, typically around two percent. By offering you a rebate, the bank is offering to "share" a portion of this fee with you as their customer. The vendor gets immediate payment, but makes less profit. For vendors that accept credit cards as a regular course of business, such as your local Home Depot, credit card fees are built into their everyday prices. However, if you ask your largest supplier working off of tightly negotiated prices to accept a credit card, you may find that they want to pass the cost back to you in higher prices. What s more, if they really are willing to give up two or two and a half percent for faster payment, organizations might be better off asking for a prompt payment discount instead of sharing with the bank. Rebates are only valuable if they are truly savings as opposed to paying more to get something back. Therefore, we recommend focusing on the primary intent of the cards, automating low dollar transactions. Consider rebates a bonus from using p-cards, not the reason to do it. While purchasing cards are becoming more common in organizations across many industries, there are still many detractors from the use of purchasing cards. One of the most common concerns expressed by leadership is a concern about loss of control an increase in rogue purchases and fraudulent use of the cards for personal purposes. Properly implemented, however, a purchasing card program will increase, not decrease, the controls and visibility surrounding these transactions. Current programs allow administrators to restrict usage of cards based on a variety of

10 business rules, including dollar restrictions per transaction and per timeframe. Also, restrictions can be set for particular types of businesses eligible for P-Card payments. Purchasing cards create clear ownership and accountability of transactions, and provide more information about buying habits than is generally available for non-purchase order transactions. Pattern based audits, such as reviewing transactions over particular amounts, for particular business types, or on weekends can be combined with random audits to reduce risk of fraud and ensure that cardholders are aware of what they are purchasing. Upon implementing a P-Card program at your organization, there are several key success factors managers should follow to better ensure that the card Program meets its fullest potential and is seamlessly integrated into the procurement process. P-Card Best Practices Best practices include for utilizing P-Cards include the following: Dedicated Resource - It is important to have a dedicated resource committed to handling all aspects of the P-card program including training, monitoring, performing spot audits, and answering cardholder questions. This staff member helps to ensure the smooth operation and growth of the program for increased effectiveness. Clear Guidelines - Discuss, develop, document, and communicate very clear guidelines as to what types of purchases should be on a purchasing card as opposed to purchase orders and other procurement methods. Controls - Establish realistic limits and be prepared to reassess the limits as the program progresses. Vendor Selection - For best results, the card management program selected should be flexible and user friendly, enabling the administrator to set or alter usage parameters for all cardholders in real time, with changes taking effect immediately. The program should also provide transparency in its monitoring capabilities for all cardholders and transactions, thus ensuring crucial accountability. Card Deployment - Create a clear communication approach to share key information as cards are deployed, including appropriate usage, training on statement review process, replacing lost cards, and addressing card rejections..

11 i International Accounts Payable Professionals Membership Survey, 2008 ii Aberdeen Group Report iii International Accounts Payable Professionals Membership Survey, 2008 iv Aberdeen Group Report v Paystream Advisors Financial Automation Study, 2007

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