SAP Accounts Payable: Paying it Forward

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1 SAP Accounts Payable: Paying it Forward Improve business performance and make back-office operations a competitive advantage by optimizing SAP Accounts Payable with Dolphin.

2 Copyright 2015 Dolphin Enterprise Solutions Corporation (dba Dolphin) All rights are reserved, including those of duplication, reproduction, use or disclosure of the contents of this documentation, or any part of it. No part of it may be reproduced in any form, passed on to third parties or particularly by electronic means, processed, reproduced, distributed or used for publication without the written permission of Dolphin. We reserve the right to update or modify the contents. Trademarks 2015 Dolphin Enterprise Solutions Corporation (dba Dolphin). SAP, SAP NetWeaver, ArchiveLink, ABAP and all SAP logos are trademarks or registered trademarks of SAP AG in Germany and in several other countries. All other product and service names mentioned are the trademarks of their respective companies Dolphin, Page 2/12

3 CONTENTS Introduction... 4 The Current State of Accounts Payable... 5 Benefits for Businesses... 6 Cost Containment... 7 Cash Flow Optimization... 8 Risk Mitigation... 9 Timeline Conclusion About Dolphin Dolphin, Page 3/12

4 INTRODUCTION In the corporate race for reducing costs and improving cash flows, companies today often overlook an obvious area for improvement. As they are busy gaining advantages from just-in-time manufacturing and Six Sigma strategies, brand awareness benefits of social networking initiatives, and improved supply chain efficiencies, they may forget to look at traditional cost centers. Nearly every corporate effort must now demonstrate return on investment and be accretive to the bottom line, if not self-sustaining. Often the easiest way to accomplish these goals involves cutting costs. But companies are already operating on lean headcounts and the remaining employees are being asked to do more with less. What is the call to action? As a timeless back-office function, Accounts Payable doesn t get the attention or resources that newer initiatives receive. However, improving your organization s Accounts Payable processes can dramatically boost business performance. Best of all, it doesn t require cutting critical functions or people only waste, risk and inefficiency. Standardizing and automating business processes such as Accounts Payable will ensure that your organization is operating more effectively. After all, efficiency is critical to keeping costs down and beating your competition. While many factors, including the still sluggish global economy, demand that companies contain costs, tighten financial controls and automate business processes, Accounts Payable remains a stubbornly manual and disconnected business process for many organizations. Even global companies with significant investments in SAP still receive paper invoices, sort and distribute the documents, manually key them into the system and eventually file away the paper in cabinets or send them to off-site warehouses in boxes. These manual processes are costly, time-consuming, repetitive and error-prone. The people responsible have no visibility into the process and executives cannot be assured of getting timely, accurate information on demand to better run the business. Lack of quality information from inflexible, paper-based processes is both risky and costly. There is a better way. Dolphin can help you optimize SAP Accounts Payable processes, which can improve business performance overall and provide a critical competitive differentiator. What you will learn from this white paper 1. Why optimize Accounts Payable Discover how automation and optimization of your AP process can improve business performance and be a competitive differentiator. 2. The benefits and advantages Learn how to cut costs, improve cash flow and minimize your risk. 3. How fast you can expect results See how quickly your company can benefit from AP optimization. 4. Why swim with Dolphin Learn more about Dolphin, who we are, what we do and why we are uniquely positioned to help improve your business performance Dolphin, Page 4/12

5 THE CURRENT STATE OF ACCOUNTS PAYABLE For most companies, even many of the 85% of Fortune 500 companies using SAP, the Accounts Payable process is an afterthought. Relegated to the realm of non-strategic but necessary core functions in many executives minds, Accounts Payable often remains far from view where it only occasionally is seen as an important business requirement. Vendors must be paid to keep the supply chain moving fluidly. However, this mindset neglects to acknowledge that Accounts Payable is a business process that plays a critical factor in cash flow, which is important at a time when credit remains costly and tight. This most basic of business processes must be included as part of your cost containment strategy. Streamlining and automating Accounts Payable can support cost containment initiatives and help to minimize risk to your organization from fractured business processes or fraudulent activity. Optimizing the Accounts Payable process has direct impact on controlling organizational costs, reducing invoice processing cycle times and providing significant analytics and intelligence. Realizing payback on AP process optimization projects within the first year is easily attainable. White Paper: Invoice-to-Pay To gain a detailed understanding of the Invoice-to-Pay process and the steps involved in optimizing it, read our free white paper, Accounts Payable: Building a Lean and Green Invoice-to-Pay Process, at The Accounts Payable Invoice-to-Pay process in particular is ripe for automation and optimization. Dolphin combines its expertise, best practices and technology that work inside the SAP application to optimize the Invoice-to-Pay process for its customers. The significance of this process is in the integration with two other primary business functions Procurement and Finance. While standard SAP MM/FI/CO solutions are widely known and accepted, Accounts Payable often happens in a vacuum, leaving purchasing and financial teams with ongoing process challenges. In both of these instances, it is important to ensure that the Invoice-to-Pay process is designed with seamless integration. For example, invoice optimization does well to consider the purchasing process. Areas such as Purchase Order integration and Vendor Master Data maintenance can impact the overall Procure-to-Pay process significantly if Purchasing and Accounts Payable are not aligned. It is always better to deal with these during business process design, rather than post-implementation. Similarly, Financial Management processes such as financial reporting and controlling are important integration touch points with Invoice-to-Pay. The Finance and Audit organizations must be included at the outset in the design phase of the project. The solution is not simply to automate how you receive the invoice. A more impactful, long-term solution that considers all aspects of the Invoice-to-Pay business process will better support strategic and tactical objectives for the organization. Other constituents who are dependent upon timely, transparent data 2015 Dolphin, Page 5/12

6 demand process optimization not just automation. Because most companies today are data-driven businesses with processes that rely on real-time intelligence, this means everyone benefits. BENEFITS FOR BUSINESSES A typical AP optimization project benefits businesses across three primary categories: Cost Containment Cash Flow Optimization Risk Mitigation In addition, Dolphin s deep experience for nearly 20 years across many industries has proven that optimizing SAP Accounts Payable improves AP throughput and reduces paper, supporting sustainability initiatives. Meanwhile, the opportunity to standardize business processes opens the door to successful shared service environments or even process outsourcing. Business process standardization and automation also mean an easier transition for acquisitions, accelerating the successful integration of merger partners. The overall value is the sum total of several incremental benefits. These benefits include cycle time reduction due to flexible workflow models; managing organizational knowledge via transparency to business-critical information; and neutralizing non-core tasks in favor of promoting value-added activities. Figure 1: Benefits CEOs Want from Invoice Optimization Fractured business processes often stand in the way of integrated approaches to cost savings and staffing reductions. Dolphin s solution helps Accounts Payable departments enjoy benefits at every step throughout the entire AP process from receipt, capture and validation to coding, approvals and posting. The AP process culminates in payment and analytics, perhaps the most beneficial aspect of improved AP automation and optimization. Dolphin takes a cross-functional approach to evaluating and defining objectives. As a result, the points in the process where an organization will see benefits are clear from the outset Dolphin, Page 6/12

7 Regardless of what you hope to accomplish by AP optimization within your organization, experience shows that most businesses benefit from cost containment, cash flow optimization and risk mitigation. COST CONTAINMENT Last decade s financial crisis, or The Great Recession forced businesses to be more careful with cash. Every dollar spent was more scrutinized than ever. And, with topline revenue stalled or in a downward spiral, cost containment became critical to corporate survival. Experts expect selective spending and cash management controls to remain vital now and in the future. Optimizing the AP process benefits the bottom line through both hard and soft cost savings. First, hard cost savings include the potential for headcount reductions or other noticeably reduced costs of managing the AP process. For example, it is possible to improve throughput of invoices with fewer resources when capture technologies such as optical character recognition (OCR) are utilized that reduce manual data entry tasks and corresponding errors. Making the business process more straightforward and less complex translates into fewer hands touching each transaction, lowering your cost of a critical back-office function. Enabling a self-service dashboard that provides data, notes and images of transactions to internal constituents (e.g., Audit, Purchasing, etc.) saves considerable time and opens up resources for deployment on other mission-critical, value-added tasks. The Dolphin InfoCenter delivers controlled access externally as well, allowing vendors to check the invoice status and perform other functions, freeing up valuable AP time which results in still more cost savings. Processing reams of paper documents every month is not only environmentally antagonistic, it is very expensive when considering the cost to handle, store, retrieve and re-file such documents. Eliminating paper from the process leads to sustainable, ongoing cost reductions. The typical invoice automation project generates economic benefit quickly. Even if the project is costneutral over the first 12 months, a well-planned invoice automation program will accelerate the organization s progress toward broader process optimization. Typical projects offer cost containment opportunities throughout the process chain. Depending on your organization and project scope, the benefits may vary as a result of introducing or optimizing workflow, better knowledge management, streamlined processes, reduced process complexity and elimination of non-core tasks. According to Dolphin research, companies can cut costs by nearly 25 percent by minimizing AP process complexity, optimizing workflow, improving throughout and other factors. (See: Figure 2) 2015 Dolphin, Page 7/12

8 Figure 2: Ways to Contain Costs with AP Optimization Accounts Payable optimization not only reduces costs, it adds real value to your organization. Rather than simply laying off employees, a personnel reallocation and training plan can turn AP staff into knowledge workers who analyze and interpret new levels of business intelligence. These insights are made available through the newly automated AP process and Dolphin add-on software tools that extend the capabilities of your core SAP modules. Soft cost savings include improved process efficiencies, more beneficial engagements with suppliers and vendors and other intangibles such as the ability to neutralize employee involvement in non-core functions. Overall, an optimized AP process cuts costs, adds intangible value and can pave the way for future business process optimization efforts. CASH FLOW OPTIMIZATION As Corporate Finance teams seek opportunities to leverage liquid assets and current liabilities, they should be able to look for support from activities such as Accounts Payable. An optimized Accounts Payable process may reduce the cycle times from when you receive an invoice until it is fully posted in the system, which helps maintain strong supplier and vendor relationships. Enhancing these relationships often brings additional intangible benefits because suppliers are effectively helping finance your business. Shorter cycle times, made possible by accelerated invoice processing, can enable proactive payment management on your terms. Your organization may enjoy improved Early Pay 2015 Dolphin, Page 8/12

9 discount take-rates and flexibility in managing payment timing. Combined with enhanced analytics, you will gain insight into your near-cash positions to help maximize cash flow. But, processing vendor invoices more efficiently doesn t necessarily mean you will pay them earlier. Reducing the cycle time from Receipt to Post puts your organization in the driver s seat to manage discounts proactively so that you can pay your vendors early to take advantage of discounts, on time to keep them happy, and manage cash flow more effectively. Optimizing the Invoice-to-Pay process delivers better control and increased clarity over cash forecasting. For example, consider whether your organization can answer basic cash forecasting prediction requests easily, confidently and accurately. Do you know, or can you quickly determine, how much cash the company can preserve by extending Days Payable Outstanding (DPO) by 5 days, for example? If it is a cumbersome exercise that yields little confidence due to limited degrees of accuracy and incomplete information the time to optimize your AP process is now. Using Dolphin s InfoCenter dashboard and What-If Cash Analyzer, organizations easily can calculate cash implications for modifying payment terms. Additionally, advanced analytics can point to missed or approaching payment deadlines and highlight the value of realizing discounts where they are not presently offered. The impact to cash flow can be far-reaching when all invoices are managed in line with the organization s objectives. In order to help accomplish these goals, Dolphin s vendor self-service portal solution powered by Taulia offers a dynamic payment platform for SAP. The vendor self-service portal allows businesses to take advantage of hidden savings opportunities within their own supply chain. Suppliers have complete access to their purchase orders, eliminating the need for mailing, faxing or ing purchase orders, which reduces your costs. And, suppliers can accelerate payment for approved invoices and schedule early payment based on the discount terms set by your business as the buyer. This enables you to offer and capture early payment discounts more readily than ever all within the SAP system via an SAP-approved add-on application. Dolphin helps you gain visibility into the AP process that is deeper than standard SAP modules allow, which helps you manage cash flow more strategically and take advantage of savings from suppliers whenever possible. Improved insight results in better cash management. RISK MITIGATION Accounts Payable optimization projects must address, and can significantly reduce, two key aspects of organizational risk: Business Process Risk and Corporate Risk. Business Process Risk: Business risk increases with the inability of organizations to quickly adapt to changing economic environments. Non-standardized processes across business divisions, especially in decentralized organizations, pose a risk to efficiency. Using outdated, paper-based processes doesn t allow companies flexibility to modify the AP process as needed. This is particularly true during economic peaks and valleys when companies may have too many 2015 Dolphin, Page 9/12

10 AP employees for slowing volumes or too few resources performing manual tasks when the number of transactions expands upward. Manual AP processes are always a challenging liability, especially when a company grows via acquisition and faces uncertain workforce responsibilities or redundancies. For example, reliance on Authorized Signature Cards, which designate individuals with direct authority and related responsibility to commit funds of the organization, can be cumbersome when a business is stuck with an AP process that requires lots of people to manually execute. Manual data entry and processing require higher resource levels and are prone to error and fraud. More resources are required when transaction volumes are high and fewer when the invoice numbers drop. This limits process adaptability at a time when a volatile business environment requires it. On the other hand, automating manual tasks, digitizing images and introducing smart workflows harmonize processes across business units and geographic locations. These standardized process improvements support integration for mergers and acquisitions and migration to new business models, such as centralized shared services teams or outsourcing. Optimized global processing is only possible with an AP process that minimizes manual, paper-based processes. Corporate Risk: Companies risk potential or real liabilities from fraud, lax oversight or uncontrolled business processes Dolphin, Page 10/12

11 Manual and uncontrolled process models offer opportunities for fraudulent behavior. Unfortunately, a high percentage of corporate fraud occurs within the Procure-to-Pay process. AP processes that are not automated also necessitate increased time spent on manual verifications. Errors often lead to overpayments or duplicate payments. Automation of the invoice receipt process and pre-defined workflow approval chains mitigate the fraud risk. Dolphin s approval selector and approval chain build process ensure invoices are approved by managers with appropriate authorization levels. Risky rush check requests become a thing of the past with Dolphin s Check Request solution. Our Duplicate Invoice check and analytical functionality help to ensure duplicate payments are a thing of the past. Your process will be inherently more secure prior to posting an invoice and ardently more audit-proof after the invoice is paid. Quantifying the benefits of reduced corporate risk is challenging often, the value is in cost avoidance over tangible savings. Regardless, there is a real organizational cost in time spent on non-compliance audits, legal challenges, internal audit requests, unmitigated errors and faulty workflow. TIMELINE With shorter, highly focused implementation cycles, Dolphin has helped its customers implement Invoiceto-Pay optimization solutions within weeks, and experience the benefits from the moment it goes live. SAP Accounts Payable processes can be standardized and automated in weeks, and can return real value on the investment in months. The typical invoice automation project generates economic benefit quickly and in general projects are cost-neutral over the first 12 months. CONCLUSION Successful business process optimization creates flexible, adaptable processes, optimized for nearly any business and economic environment. For companies invested in SAP applications, the Accounts Payable process presents an opportunity for significant streamlining. Optimizing your SAP Accounts Payable process with Dolphin benefits your business in three primary ways over the short and long term: 1. Reducing operating costs through greater efficiency is only the beginning. More importantly, this cost containment is sustainable over the long term, delivering ongoing savings to the bottom line. 2. Gaining visibility into the invoice process can be the difference between managing by using current, accurate information or not. Improved analytics and insights help deliver cash flow optimization. Greater control delivers even more savings. 3. Optimizing processes mitigates risk to your organization from non-standard and manual processes that limit flexibility and are susceptible to fraud Dolphin, Page 11/12

12 In addition, these back-office process improvements can provide your business with a competitive edge by making it easier for suppliers and vendors to work with you. Accounts Payable optimization also reduces waste, supporting sustainability and other strategic initiatives. Finally, optimizing the SAP Accounts Payable process can kick start other business process improvements within the company, fostering broader enhancements and bottom line-boosting best practices across business operations. Dolphin, with its exclusive focus on SAP customers, has the skill and expertise to help you optimize Accounts Payable to improve business performance and gain a competitive advantage. ABOUT DOLPHIN Dolphin leads the way in SAP business performance improvement and is a unique partner that manages both data and processes. From data and information lifecycle management to end-to-end solutions for SAP procure-to-pay and order-to-cash processes, Dolphin delivers a competitive advantage that drives cost savings, optimizes cash flows and fosters a lower total cost of ownership. Leveraging SAP technology, Dolphin s data lifecycle and business process management solutions, and add-on applications with SAP-certified integration, have built-in flexibility and are designed to be tailored to each customers specific business processes and IT environments. The company was founded in 1995 and has offices in San Jose, CA, Philadelphia, PA and Toronto, Canada. Dolphin s smart, adaptable and proven solutions are implemented by hundreds of companies across North America and around the world. More than one-third of Fortune 100 companies running SAP systems use Dolphin solutions. To learn more, us at or visit Dolphin, Page 12/12

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