Want More Impressive Results from Your AP Department? Embrace Digital Transformation

 

 

Earlier this week, the entire country was caught up in a spectacle not seen in the contiguous United States in nearly four decades. The moon passed between the earth and sun to create an awe-inspiring natural phenomenon known as a total solar eclipse.

There were festivals, viewing parties and even weddings held to celebrate the rare celestial occurrence. Small towns in the path of totality were flooded by outsiders dying to get the full breathtaking experience of this seemingly once-in-a-lifetime event.

It was hard to ignore. And the end result was inspiring; undeniable.

If only the average accounts payable (AP) department could produce such impressive, indubitable results for all to see and appreciate …

Raising your expectations of AP

Let’s be clear: The results of a solar eclipse and the results of an AP solution aren’t in the same galaxy. The point is, many of today’s AP departments are selling themselves short by not expecting more out of the performance of their vendor invoicing process.

A lot of businesses think having an ERP system in place is enough to create a best-in-class AP operation. However, ERP systems don’t address many of the manual pains that inhibit AP efficiency and effective cash management, including: keying in invoice data into the ERP, tracking down approvers around the office for signatures, manually filing invoices and more. Furthermore, all of these error-prone, non-value added tasks are being performed by well-paid and highly educated AP staff members.

The effects are fairly predictable: The business ends up paying more for less, collaboration between other purchase-to-pay (P2P) processes suffer, staff turnover rates increase, strategic supplier relationships become damaged, and opportunities for new business dry up.

Embracing digital transformation

Sticking to the status quo cannot produce the kind of results today’s businesses need out of their AP department. The c-suite wants to be shown in clear and certain terms how AP is contributing to an improved bottom line — not told.

If you’re looking for a show-me solution to dramatically improve your AP performance, businesses no longer have to settle for a budget-breaking alternative to what they already have in place. This 12-page eBook explores how four different companies embraced digital transformation in their AP department, and highlights the truly amazing results of accounts payable automation.

There’s more …

Want to learn more about the benefits of making a digital transformation in AP? Download the full eBook, 4 Amazing Esker Launches: Accounts Payable Automation Stories with Awe-Inspiring Results to discover how these four companies created new competitive advantages thanks to automated AP invoicing solutions.

Building a Successful Business Case for AP Automation

Accounts payable (AP) and finance managers are aware of the advantages that AP automation has to offer. But it’s never as easy as simply selecting a vendor and implementing a solution. Before an automated AP invoicing project can hit the ground running, one critical hurdle must be cleared — getting buy-in from upper management and other key stakeholders.

The good news is, despite upper management consistently being cited as the biggest obstacle to AP automation, they understand the general benefits. According to survey results compiled by the Institute of Finance & Management (IOFM), the c-suite believes AP would benefit from automation more than any other finance/administrative function.

Check out this SlideShare to learn how to enable AP and finance managers to embrace their responsibility and equip themselves with the knowledge and strategies needed to make AP automation a reality. By better understanding how automated AP invoicing works, AP and finance managers can cite key performance indicators (KPIs) and analytics to more effectively persuade their organization’s top decision makers.

 

1. Finance Executive Survey: Priorities, Challenges, and Technologies for the Year Ahead, 2014. Institute of Finance & Management.

How to Start Building a Successful Customer Experience Program

By the year 2020, customer experience will overtake price and quality as the key brand differentiator. In other words, brands that don’t work on improving their customer experience will be left behind.

Customer experience is more than a trend or buzzword — it will play a pivotal role in the future of marketing and has an insightful ability to predict where a company will be 5-10 years down the line. What should you be doing, if anything to prepare for this change?

First, what is customer experience?

On a basic level, customer experience (CX) refers to how a customer perceives their interactions with your company. How does your customer feel at every touchpoint they have with you, from marketing to sales to support? CX is ultimately defined by the consumer, which means businesses need to actively adapt and set themselves up to exceed expectations.

Should you be investing in this?

Joe Hanousek, Esker’s Customer Experience Manager, believes that every company needs to be tracking their customer touchpoints and working towards continually improving that process. He often says that: “Seventy percent of senior executives in companies believe that CX is important. In my opinion, the other 30 percent shouldn’t be executives.” So much of the B2B focus is on lead generation instead of improving customer experience, although most people are well aware that it is less expensive to keep existing customers than it is to acquire new ones. Companies mistakenly start looking into customer experience as a last resort once they’re suffering, but customer experience is best as a proactive approach, taken when business is growing versus lagging behind. The graph below shows just how valuable an investment in improving customer experience could be.

How do you begin?

If you’re just getting ready to work on improving customer experience, aim for C-level sponsorship. It won’t go very far unless there are people at the top behind it, so do the research you need to convince someone to back you up. Most executives are aware of the importance of CX, but still aren’t taking active steps to improve upon it. If you haven’t already started in a few years, it’ll be too late.

Next, be sure you’re ready to invest a significant amount of time and human resources into building a solid customer experience program. At Esker, the process took a full year to go from conception to having a Customer Experience manager and a team in place. It’s a good idea to have at least one person fully devoted to customer experience and multiple people from different departments committed to being a part of the CX improvement process; otherwise, CX can easily become a task that is swept away on an already busy to-do list. This will also depend on executive buy-in, as far as whether the need to have a customer experience manager or team is understood.

Finally, it is important to communicate the goals of the customer experience program throughout the organizationEveryone should be on board and kept up to date. As Joe puts it: “It’s not C-Level people or managers that make customer experience better — it’s the staff working directly with them.” Educate, train and update all those who interact with customers at any level on what needs to be done to improve those important touchpoints.

The beginning stages of our customer experience journey.

Joe’s biggest recommendation for those starting to work in CX? Change your perspective. “It is not an area for problem customers to go to, but rather a way to prevent customers from ever having the problem in the first place,” he explained. As staff focus on offering solutions to immediate problems, the CX team should be looking into why those problems happened in the first place, and if there is anything that could be done to fix that.

Customer experience goes beyond customer satisfaction or happiness. A successful customer experience program will work to prevent problems before they arise, delighting your clients past the point of mere satisfaction. CX has become more of a trend in the past two years, but it is definitely here to stay for the long haul. If you have any questions about the process we went through to build our customer experience program at Esker, or about customer experience in general, leave a comment below and we will respond to you!

Success! Awe-inspiring Customer Results with Accounts Payable Automation

Are you sitting at your desk thinking of all the ways to improve your business? Ok, maybe you’re not at this exact moment but at some point, we all try to come up with ways to improve our businesses. After all, we want to impress the boss and see organizations succeed! One big step you can take to do so is through Accounts Payable Automation. AP Automation is an essential business process you don’t want to be without, and we have the results to prove it!

What can AP Automation do for you?

Many organizations are trying to improve their KPIs to keep up with best-in-class competitors by using benchmarks to improve supplier and employee satisfaction or track how their day-to-day operations are running. The big question to ask yourself before embarking on a major project is “Are we going to see the results we hope for and expect?” We know how important it is to be able to see how automation can truly affect your business, which is why we compiled four customers who are currently reaping the benefits of AP Automation. What are you waiting for? See the results for yourself and find out just how attainable the goals can be!

AP Automation Customers

If you are:

  • In the process of working on a business case for AP automation
  • Contemplating if automation is the right way to go
  • Wanting to see if the results align with your business goals
  • Interested in seeing what all the hype is about automation and simply what other companies are doing

this piece is for you! You can download your own copy today and see some awe-inspiring results of AP Automation.

Don’t miss this opportunity to see firsthand how impactful automation has been for our customer’s Farmland, Albemarle, San Benedetto and Austin Powder, and how it can do the same for you! Click on the download below to take off on the journey towards an easier and more efficient business process through AP Automation!

 

10 Eye-Opening Quotes About the Importance of Customer Service

 

  1. Loyal customers, they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you.
    Chip Bell
  1. In the world of Internet customer service, it’s important to remember your competitor is only one mouse click away.
    Doug Warner
  1. Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.
    Mother Teresa
  1. Customer service represents the heart of a brand in the hearts of its customers.
    Kate Nasser
  1. Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.
    Dale Carnegie
  1. Customer service shouldn’t just be a department, it should be the entire company.
    Tony Hsieh
  1. There is a big difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal customer. Never settle for ‘satisfied’.
    Shep Hyken
  1. It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.
    Henry Ford
  1. Although your customers won’t love you if you give bad service, your competitors will.
    Kate Zabriskie
  1. Courteous treatment will make a customer a walking advertisement.
    James Cash Penney

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Manage Your Business Process via Email

 

This weekend I was hiking the Beaver Brook trail near Denver, CO, an 8.5-mile trail that many families and dog walkers will hike. Every now and then, we like to set up a car shuttle and hike one end to another. Much of the trail faces east and catches plenty of sun. The vegetation on either side of the trail has really built up — in some places the trail was overgrown and it was tough to see the trail and what lay ahead. Three hours into the hike, I heard my partner freak out behind me as he was backing away from me. He explained we had missed a rattlesnake that had crossed the trail between us, meaning that I may have just stepped over it. I was so busy working my way uphill that I failed to see or hear it. We were both very wary and enjoyed the hike out a little less for the rest of the afternoon.

Maybe that’s an extreme example of what a lack of visibility can mean in business. But it is very easy to get lost in what we are doing, like working hard to keep up with order processing to meet customer SLAs or routing AP invoices to be coded and approved in order to pay suppliers and not miss early payment discounts. However, a lack of visibility due to our focus can derail the entire process. Customers have explained to me that when an invoice sits too long, a senior leader may burst into the shared services center in need of an urgent payment as to not get cut off by the supplier, and any early payment discount opportunity on the invoice to that supplier already flew out the window.

In an earlier blog post, Mark gave some examples of how a group email inbox, also known as a “hotbox,” can hurt business processes like AP, order management and AR. IT staff have also shared that they do not care to use an Outlook hotbox as the company archive as it’s inefficient and inconsistent, and they get pulled away to try and find emails or fix issues plenty.

Last week, one of my customers shed more light on this and shared the following problems regarding managing a business process hotbox:

  • Hard to take ownership. It’s confusing who actually owns the next step. There are multiple people in a department; is the action on you or someone else?
  • Visibility issues. This often gets limited to one person, meaning emails may be stuck in one person’s inbox without anyone else ever knowing about it.
  • Schedule conflicts. This ties into visibility again. Someone being out of the office is a problem and urgent emails can be stuck or won’t get auto-forwarded to the team, especially if the employee is out of the office sick unexpectedly.
  • Inaccurate sorting. Emails can be dropped in the wrong folder and get lost forever. Then, customers get mad and suppliers don’t get paid and they are confused by our poor process, or our DSO gets dragged out.
  • Coding system. It’s easy to assume an issue is resolved because the email was color coded differently, but that’s not always the case. There isn’t really any accurate tracking on exceptions.

Before we talk about automation of these processes using tools like machine learning, what many are seeking is a set of clear dashboards that help sum up the current volume of orders, invoices, etc. in the process, ranked by stage (e.g., new, in process, under review, approved).

The ability to monitor these documents for key words/key SKUs helps ensure rush or priority orders actually get priority. For example, distribution centers may have regional cut off times that need to be met and east coast orders may need to be weighted higher to ensure on-time delivery and a positive customer experience. Layering on dashboards for extra visibility helps AP departments see which invoices are stuck in the approval cycle, how much money needs to be accrued, and the potential amount of pre-negotiated early payment discounts at risk if the business owners do not code and approve their AP invoices.

Esker provides visibility and automation across business processes to help avoid nasty surprises and stressful disruptions. I think I’ll take my hiking higher up to Snowline for a clearer path.

[Infographic] Sit Back and Relax with the Perfect AP Process

If you’re looking for a way to improve productivity, financial management, and overall AP performance, kick back and sip on this perfect AP cocktail.  Afterwards, have a look at our AP Buyer’s Guide and discover the 15 key questions to ask when scoping out an automation solution for vendor invoice processing.

Does Your Process Pass the Sniff Test?

Good order management goes a long way. But here’s the thing: It’s hard to know with certainty if your process is really best-in-class or bottom-of-the-barrel.

A little benchmarking makes a big difference.

Take our brief 10-question quiz to determine once and for all if your current order management process meet today’s standards for timeliness, efficiency, and cost.

Go on, see where you stand and comment or share your results!

7 Reasons to Automate Accounts Payable in an Oracle E-Business Suite Environment

 

 

Do you work in the Oracle® E-Business Suite realm? Are you still looking into automation and how it could fit into your organization? Look no further, Esker has laid out 7 Reasons to Automate Accounts Payable in an Oracle E-Business Suite Environment. That’s right, you heard me: in an Oracle E-Business Suite Environment! Not only does Esker offer accounts payable (AP) automation, we now have a seamless connector for those working in the Oracle space.

What’s Your Reason to Automate?

Do you suffer from lack of visibility into your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) on a daily basis? Maybe your AP specialists are being stretched thin by manually processing invoices, or you could be looking to take advantage of early payment discounts but don’t have a good way to track them in your current process. Whatever your reason to automate may be, you will want to start putting an action plan in place for automation by laying out how it will benefit your organization. Now, there is no need to rack your brain coming up with reasons to automate, I already did the work for you!

 Reasons to Automate Accounts Payable

  1. Address the Issues
    What pains are you experiencing in AP? I am sure if you have pains, others in your department feel them as well (or additional ones). Take a moment to familiarize yourself with all the procedures, or even give yourself a nice refresher, you might end up pinpointing a few issues automation could fix that you didn’t think of before. You want to make sure you have identified all the pains in your department to make a strong case for automation.
  1. Consider the Big Picture
    What is automation going to bring your organization for years to come? Maybe you are being hit by the lack of visibility, imagine the joy of automation providing total visibility into invoices throughout the process and the ability to track KPIs on a daily basis! Think of all those in your organization that will benefit. Are you looking to improve supplier relations? Automation can give you a vendor portal which gives vendors insight into where their invoice is without needing to pick up the phone! Think of the time that AP specialists could be saving. Can you already imagine a few of your vendor relationships improving? Maybe early payment discounts are a hot topic, think of the money your organization could save by having visibility into the process with real-time tracking. Catch those discounts before they are gone! What does your big picture look like and where do you want automation to take your organization?
  1. Assess Your Situation
    You have pinpointed your issues, taken a look at how automation will benefit your organization, in the long run, now it is time to assess your situation. How well do you rank among your competitors? Do you have easy access to your KPIs and other important data? If you are not happy with where you stand, or you are content with your ranking but know you can improve, it is time to take action with automation!

Get all 7 reasons to automate AP in an Oracle E-Business Suite environment by downloading our guidebook today! You won’t want to miss out — kick start your business case today!

Algoma Chooses Esker’s Cloud-Based Solution to Streamline Its Accounts Payable Processes in an SAP® Environment

Sydney, Australia — June 5, 2017 Esker, a worldwide leader in document process automation solutions and pioneer in cloud computing, today announced it is working with Algoma, a North American steel manufacturer, to automate its accounts payable (AP) processes. Esker’s cloud-based accounts payable automation solution will integrate with Algoma’s SAP® system to bring more speed, accuracy and visibility to the 12,000 incoming documents it processes monthly.

Algoma selected Esker after implementing an SAP system in 2012. One of Algoma’s top priorities was to gain greater real-time visibility into important invoice details. The ability to integrate with SAP applications and sophisticated analytical capabilities of Esker’s solution were exactly what Algoma was looking for. Additionally, Esker will enable Algoma’s team of AP specialists to transition from clerical work to analytical roles, setting the stage for greater productivity and professional growth opportunities.

“Our goal was to not only transact vendor invoices more efficiently, but to also gain rapid insight into the potential bottlenecks and problems in our processes,” said Piper Lee Frech, senior manager – financial accounting, taxation and pensions at Algoma. “Esker’s machine learning technology and real-time dashboards that can be tailored to individual needs of each AP Specialist, gives us the flexibility and user-friendly interface we need to achieve our goal.”

This project signifies a positive step for the organisation, as it is the company’s first venture with a cloud-based solution. Algoma believes they will see real benefits from Esker’s cloud capabilities when it comes to communication with its vendors.

About Algoma

Algoma has been a mainstay of the North American steel industry for more than 100 years. A fully integrated steel producer with a raw steel production capacity of approximately 2.8 million tons per year, Algoma’s size and diverse capabilities enables it to deliver responsive, customer driven product solutions straight from the ladle to direct applications in the automotive, construction, energy, manufacturing and defense industries. Algoma’s operations are based in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario with sales offices in Burlington, Ontario and Calgary, Alberta.