As we close out this calendar year, it's a great time to reflect, recast, and project out where we intend to be next year and in the years to come. One of the exciting things is seeing the growth of CloudX from it's conception through it's infancy and on to it's adolescence. With respect to Document Process Outsourcing, we've been steadily charging along, evangelizing the world with our message of freedom from paper based processes via our cloud solutions, but that's not enough.
With that said, one key thing needs to be in place for any organization to grow well, and that would be it's charter. In most companies, there will be a utilitarian mission statement, and for the more advanced there could even be a vision statement. But for the enduring companies, and brands that have made an impact on the market and on people's lives, it's necessary to go a level deeper. That would mean getting into values discussions, or lists, and ultimately what those comprise...aka a culture.
Having distilled our collective experiences from companies large and small, and across various sectors, we've honed our Cultural Charter to be both introspective, defining, and shaping.
Please enjoy the Slideshare above and feel free to share or comment on it. At CloudX, we're busy transforming back office processes across the world, and we're just getting started.
In 2014, we'll be expanding our scope of offerings well beyond the traditional core of Accounts Payable automation to include Relocation Expense Management, Logistics Management, Accounts Receivable Remittance processing, and several other niche solutions that are going to be hugely helpful for our customers.
To do that with excellence, we're going to need the A-team in all of the roles that we'll be creating and growing, and it's our hope that this deep and clear reflection of what our culture is and what we aspire to be will serve as a magnetizing agent to attract those who want to be a part of a company with heart and a cause that matters.
At CloudX, every day is an adventure, and there's tons to be done. We're pumped for the future, which is very bright and you can count on us for more quality content and solutions in the fields we listed out above.
Thanks for taking the time to check us out and we wish you and yours a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year in 2014!
A journey of a thousand miles...
One of the endearing tales that has been retold since the first Christmas certainly has to be the journey of the Magi. Having traversed the deserts and mountains of lands afar to arrive in Israel in search of the King that was to be born as indicated by the astronomical phenomenon they were following (aka THE star). Perhaps because the story as a whole is so compelling that the creator God would come into the earth at just the right point in history to redeem that which was lost, or just how majestic and humbling the picture of mysterious and wealthy dignitaries prostrating themselves before a toddler…either way, it’s a tale and historical narrative that is endearing and easy to remember at this time of year. That’s powerful, and seasonally apropos, but what does it have to do with Accounts Payable automation.
A lot in fact, and I’m happy to share them with you…
1. The wise men had a destination. For them it was finding their prize, in this case, the Christ child. Just as many Accounts Payable and Finance leaders have a destination with respect to Accounts Payable automation, the endgame is to have an efficient, streamlined, paperless Accounts Payable process that is fundamentally different, and better than the previously manual and highly paper-based process. As an AP leader, it’s important to define what your destination is. Be clear about setting your goals as you set about the business of course direction. Identify, what approach you’ll need to transform your process to include components like document management, workflow, business rules, dashboards, reporting etc.
2. The journey is long & not easy. Anytime you begin a long trek, it’s important to understand that by default it’s going to take time and that there will be obstacles in the path to completion. For AP leaders this can happen during the phase where they need to get the buy-in of peers or other critical stakeholders like those who control Information Technology or equally importantly, the corporate coffers. One of the ways to improve the process is by building a solid business case. That means not just a one-dimensional costing model, which, don’t get me wrong, is a great thing, but looking at the issues around what your process, as good as it might be in its existing state is causing throughout the business. AP as it relates to procurement, or customer service, or forecasting, or spend management, etc. When you start to quantify the financial components of improvement, what it takes to get there, and the human / process aspects and implications of improvement, you’ll have the tools you need to make the long journey possible. Also, from an implementation perspective, there can be many nuances to building customer specific business intelligence, logic, and workflow into any system, all of which will take time to think out, plan, and execute, but ultimately the result is worth it.
3. Satisfaction. There’s nothing like completing a challenging task or achieving a significant objective. If you’ve ever played on a competitive sports team and won a league championship, you’ll know what that means. I have to believe that for the wise men, seeing their prize with their eyes and setting their gifts before Him was probably an unforgettable and awe-inspiring experience. Now, I won’t go so far to say that building Accounts Payable automation into your process will be an out of body type experience, but I will say that it will amount to being a major victory for you when it’s up and running because it will mean visibility, performance, speed, and control in manners just not before possible, when compared to a totally manual process. For that reason, there’s a deserved pride that goes along with a job well done and transformation complete.
So in more ways than one there are some similarities between the sojourn of the three wise men of antiquity to those pursuing the AP automation road.
It's time to give Thanks!
Perhaps it’s just the sentimentality of the season, but it seems appropriate to write about the macro-changes taking place in the back office environment in most modern-countries. Technological advances are creating upheaval to traditional ways of doing business and practices that have been in place for decades are finally beginning to be transformed and re-thought. With that said, I wanted to take a few paragraphs to relate four key things that any astute Accounts Payable Manager, Finance Director, or Shared Services leader. As much as most-folks are reticent to change, opportunities to transform process will create unparalleled value for organizations and afford leaders the opportunity to leave an indelible footprint upon the companies and people they serve.
The Short List
Abundant Automation Technology – Automation, and specifically Accounts Payable automation, solutions abound today. The key distinction among them can be difficult to discern given that many technologies are similar in nature, but the fundamentals include being able to turn paper based documents to data and then use the data to advance the process, coupled with the business rules of any given organization to reduce data entry and manual labor hours associated with the process. Beyond traditional AP automation, other technologies like Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and E-Invoicing (Procure-to-Pay/P2P) solutions are faring well, and the wholesale picture is that the technologies exist, whichever you prefer, to take you out of the stone ages and into the 21st century.
Executive Openness – Not sure if this is an actual term, but the days of ivory tower leadership structures are long-gone. Sure, they may still exist in various silos or in environments that function like glorified old-boys clubs, but more often than not there has been a progression to a more inclusive approach. One that garners feedback and seeks out ways of doing things in the best possible way, not just one that soothes egos and appeases agendas. In trying times, if you can prove out a business case for improvement and the cost and time investment required to deploy a new process or technology isn’t a show-stopper, then in most cases, it’s a green light to kick the tires and light the fires (thank you Top Gun for informing the common vernacular).
Transactional Licensing – Dove-tailing with my last point is the fundamental transformation for the solutions marketplace. Riding the momentum of cloud-delivery, the option to engage a pay for usage model, on a dynamic basis is throwing down the gauntlet for suppliers of traditional technology solutions. Consider the macro-shifts going on corporate e-mail communications technology. Many leading companies in the world are jumping on the Gmail bandwagon, because of it’s availability, scalability, and to the point, it’s affordability. The beauty of transactional models means the HUGE added benefit of minimal cost to entry for companies investigating improvement. Because of this, the playing field is being effectively leveled and many small and mid sized business are actively getting in the game so to speak from an Accounts Payable automation perspective.
Information Availability – Not really so much in the vein of Big Data per se, but just in the copious amount of resources available to leaders who are earnest about fundamentally improving their metrics. Best Practices and key insights have never been more readily available. There really isn’t a good excuse for not seeking these items out and at least examining your process periodically to see how it holds up to other leading and innovative organizations. There’s a lot to be learned and there are a bevy of trade organizations that make it available to include IOMA, Paystream Advisors, Aberdeen, & The Accounts Payable Network among others.
The common thread across all of these categories is that there is a massive opportunity to fundamentally transform/improve the back office burden that is the Accounts Payable process. So, this Thankgiving, be grateful that there are some awesome tools available to help you get better in your AP process. For additional resources in that regard, check out this info here!
When You Come To A Fork In The Road, Take It!
Yogi Berra was one of the most prolific Yankees of the 20thcentury, not only for his outstanding play, but also for his hilarious antics and unforgettable quotes. To whit, he said this “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.” Ironically, though it makes no logical sense, it still conveys the point that some things retain value and ofter things depreciate. One of the things that I’ve seen depreciate in value is the idea of charging for specialized information. If the internet has done anything, it’s made copious amounts of information on virtually any subject available to them masses, and more frequently – gratis. I recently came across a major trade association that peddles a benchmarking service to it’s would be consumers for a significant amount of money. While that might get you a benchmarking study that’s printed on some fancy kind of 8.5 x 11 stock, more likely, you’re overpaying for data that you can mine out yourself with some guidance and good will.
Here’s 3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Pay for An Accounts Payable Benchmark study:
1. It’s not rocket science
Seriously…identifying the major areas to focus on and Key Performance Indicator’s that are relevant for your business, is not so much a function of figuring the expansion rate of the universe or how Han Solo made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs. In fact, measuring the most common areas of interest for most Accounts Payable managers (that we’ve spoken to, and that’s quite a few) is quite easy to compile. Most AP managers are interested in understanding their employee productivity, their cost and time to process an invoice, their exception and error rates, and other baseline metrics. That’s not to say that you can’t quickly rabbit trail and establish dozens of other views into your departmental data, but the biggies will always resolve around productivity, cost, time, and risk. We provide a primer to understanding the costs associated with invoice processing, that by default, require you to assess other performance and risk parameters to arrive at the basis by which cost benchmarking is established.
2. Free is better than cheap
Who says you can’t get anything for free these days? There’s whole websites dedicated to free deals and couponing these days. So if there were free deals on getting your Accounts Payable benchmarking, it stands to reason that it could be a better option to see if you could actually improve your understanding of your Accounts Payable process and operations efficiency. With respect to that, we offer a complementary rapid AP benchmarking assessment whereby, we’ll analyze a customer’s payables scenario in depth and then provide context for their metrics in the light of agnostic, third party data from benchmarking and survey organizations.
3. Allocate that $500 towards more productive ends
Like Michael Scott, in an earlier season of The Office, it’s always a wise thing to take the $500 budget surplus and re-invest back into your team through a high end espresso machine. If we’re talking in terms of real productivity booster, nothing is better than providing a legalized drug to your AP staff. If you want to start to see your performance improve, it’s a short (and tasty) investment. However, mastering the skills required to hand craft sublime artisan beverages may take a little doing. However, the upside is your folks will be empowered to work well past the boundaries and constraints of traditional nine to five working hours.
Where to go from here?
With the understanding that you get from most Accounts Payable benchmarking efforts, it often comes to light that there are opportunities to improve efficiencies and eliminate risks in the process. Namely, many people will arrive at the conclusion that Accounts Payable automation is the order of the day…the question then becomes how do you do that? Well, more on that here…
Prepare for rapid descent...
The age we live in boasts tremendous gains in human intelligence as cited by David Russell Schilling. In this blog article on www.industrytap.com, he posits that,
“Buckminster Fuller created the “Knowledge Doubling Curve”; he noticed that until 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the end of World War II knowledge was doubling every 25 years. Today things are not as simple as different types of knowledge have different rates of growth. For example, nanotechnology knowledge is doubling every two years and clinical knowledge every 18 months. But on average human knowledge is doubling every 13 months. According to IBM, the build out of the “internet of things” will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours.”
That’s an astonishing rate at which we are making quantum leaps forward in terms of our understanding and discovery of things. However, in the case of how we communicate and interface data within the context of our work lives, the quantum leaps forward in advanced fields like nano-technology and the bio-sciences are not the standard in other core areas of the business realm. To put it bluntly, we are often reliant upon antiquated means of processing information. In the world of transactional document processing, we see major dependence on a combination of human intelligence and physical data entry to convey document based data.
Data Entry’s 4 Big Issues
Information entry into critical back end, or front end systems that drive business processes forward, can often have error rates in excess of 3% in traditional scenarios, like Accounts Payable or Sales Order Processing, this can contribute to all kinds of problems, whether from over or under payment or incorrect order placement. In extreme scenarios it can lead to much more harrowing scenarios like this one, entailing a rapid descent in altitude on a commercial flight, whose flight systems were dictated by user entry of the navigation and flightpath system.
Data entry is only as effective as the operator who is doing the entry. Human resources have physical limitations and can’t scale to match the velocity at which sophisticated Optical Character recognition technology can capture and extract character data. Ultimately, slower processing has a direct proportional impact on the cost to process said documents, which ties into the next point.
Data Entry is a costly proposition, especially if you operate in any first-world country. The obvious solution to this equation has been the rise of outsourcing, though that has its own set of complexities to include linguistic barriers, infrastructure stability, time zone constraints, and cultural differences. However, despite those factors, the off-shoring model for tasks like data entry have gained significant traction and become booming markets in countries like India, the Philippines, and even China.
Another complexity of data entry is misinterpretation of data from its source information. This can often transpire as syntax errors, or simple transpositions in things like dynamic assignment of data field naming conventions based upon the subjective discretion of the individual operator, which can create all types of indexing and continued processing issues. Such is the reasoning for the adage, garbage in, garbage out in terms of computer (and data) processing.
Certainly there are advantages to capable data conversion technology like OCR, but it is a challenging technology to deploy in most scenarios because it is costly and requires intense technical management in an on-going capacity. For these two reasons, many organizations that have looked at bringing this type of technology in because of the demonstrated benefits, have simultaneously shied away from committing to the necessary investment, because in most cases it is not justifiable.
To that end, the continued desire to improve operations, and interest in ways to boost productivity, and reduce processing costs, will result in more companies moving to document process outsourcing providers. More than just a traditional business process outsourcing arrangement, many companies will want to gain the efficiencies afforded by advanced technology, but will want to retain critical control over their core processes. In a sense it is a hybridization of the success of traditional BPO practices and the addition of both advanced technology and web-based, scalable software that enable companies that would otherwise not be able to obtain the technology and process improvements outside of the transactional arrangement.
The implications are far-reaching with areas of opportunity to include Accounts Payable automation, Accounts Receivable remittance processing, Sales Order processing, and expense report receipt management.
Baby steppin' through the door...
There’s a saying that’s been around for some time that the more things change, the more they stay the same. In the modern world in which we live, technological advances offer us all kinds of applications and life-hacks that make our life easier…allegedly. It seems that even though we have all these cutting edge apps for personal productivity, health, directions, tasks, communications, and more, that we’re more cluttered and busier than ever. There’s a general feeling in the world, that despite all these advancements, we’re more disconnected from true connections and deep relationships than ever before. That’s great, and even may be true, but what does it have to do with Accounts Payable invoice processing and AP automation.
Begin at the beginning!
The same truism above has significance within the Accounts Payable space, especially for those encumbered with the challenge of processing utility invoices. How so? What’s so special about utility invoices?
Utility invoices are among the most complex invoices to process for a few primary reasons:
- Size - The line item volume of certain utility invoices can be excessive. This means that in some cases they can literally take numerous man hours to process, as is the case for telecom and energy utilities. As a response, some organizations process only the summary page and leave the line items out of the equation in processing, hence why there exist niche market processors that specialize in vertical markets. However, in some cases, it’s required to splice and dice these types of invoices to get accurate GL coding and booking done, especially if it’s a consolidated statement of services. Either way, the sheer length is a daunting thing to deal with and presents a big pain.
- Unique data – Whereas many single or even multi-page trade invoices will be complete with many line items that are requisite to the core needs of the purchaser, in certain instances the data being presented on utility invoices can be extremely niche, though nonetheless relevant. For example, with respect to processing energy invoices, things like cubic feet of gas, or Kilowatt hours come into play through a variety of text and graphical media, all of which are the accompanying analysis and breakdown for the period or accrued charges.
- Pricing / Service variances - Again, with invoices of lesser stature, aka, invoices with a more svelt page footprint (less pages), it can be easier to audit for pricing variances against contract data, when performing a two way match against procurement documents. When it comes to more expansive services such as utility invoices, it can be downright puzzling to figure how the vendor arrived at certain billing charges, especially with line or site drops or adds, not to mention any promotions, credits, or adjustments. This is one of the principle reasons that specialty adjudication vendors exist to improve the processing of invoices within a nitch vertical market. Their promise is to lighten the burden of processing said invoices, while providing a gain-share costing model to split the difference on any savings realized through a relationship with them.
What’s the remedy?
Well, like all invoices, there’s the same toolset required to successfully deploy an Accounts Payable automation initiative…OCR, electronic workflow, business rules, dashboarding, electronic content management, etc.
But as we’ve established in other posts, these are costly tools that require specialized IT resources to install. It’s a big reason that their installation architecture is changing to a cloud based infrastructure. People increasingly have less time, less money, and less people to spare towards non-core technology, so if they are going to pursue it, it needs to be with a vendor-partner that can fill in the gaps where they don’t have the street cred to pull it off.
Because of that, we advocate the Document Process Outsourcing revolution, which you can learn more about here. It’s the most sure-fire way to help you boost processing output, improve visibility, and reduce costs on a wholesale level in your organization.
To find out how much your payables process is really costing, you should consider a rapid AP assessment, which we’re happy to provide you with here! But if that’s not your speed and you’re a smarty-pants self study do-gooder then check out the e-Book below! Until next time, keep baby-steppin’ on to success!
Horse racing they say, is the sport of kings.
Few animals have the sheer power, beauty, speed, and grace of the horse, and if you’ve seen anything along the lines of The Horse Whisperer or Buck (Brannaman, the guy the Horse Whisperer concept is based on), it’s hard to argue that the animals don’t have a deep connection with their human handlers and riders. With that said, it’s always an interesting phenomenon to see the anticipation that comes around every year in the hopes of seeing a truly great horse compete and vie for the Triple Crown, a feat that hasn’t been repeated in 35 years. Considering that there have been 11 in almost the last 100 years, we’re ripe with anticipation, given the numbers and the sense that we’re due. However, sometimes a horse just doesn’t live up to expectations and you are presented with one of the greatest leadership (and life for that matter) truisms that I’ve come across.
“If the horse you’re riding is dead, by all means dismount!”
Essentially, if you’re strapped to an initiative or project or system or lifestyle or fill in the blank and it’s just not working, progressing, advancing, or showing signs of life, it’s probably a good idea to get off it and get on with something else.
How does that relate to AP automation?
We’re so happy you asked!
Recently in talking with an IT Shared Services executive of a multi-billion dollar organization, it became evident that their OCR engine (Horse – or should we say donkey?) that had been in place to facilitate invoice processing got screwed up. Not just a little either. Through the manipulation and severe over-tweaking of the system, the quality throughput fell of the grid and simultaneously caused the performance of the system to literally hang for hours at a time. The underlying reason for this was due to human error…meaning someone tinkered with the plumbing and violated the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it rule!’. Well, that person was summarily ejected from the organization and did not advance to go and collect $200. The ‘degradation’, to use the gentleman’s words was so severe that several man years of effort in maintaining and honing the system were lost, with no means to recover…now that is a tough and bitter pill to swallow!
So what to do?
Well, given that this client is processing upwards of 15,000 invoices per month through this capture engine, and that their Accounts Payable automation efforts resulted in a ballooning AP staff, that increased by 100% post-automation, it precipitated a common phenomenon…thinking about how to solve the problem.
The conclusion…ditch the OCR management function in-house and leave it to a subject matter expert. Which is to say, abandon traditional systems management and move to a compartmentalized document process outsourcing approach. This way the data on said invoices can get converted by folks who eat, breathe, and sleep OCR (which is definitely odd-ball technology, though not to say we’re odd by any means).
Why this approach makes sense?
- Faster results than having to learn a new technology
- Subject matter expertise makes a difference to getting better results
- Having a ‘throat to choke’ - it’s easier to force improvement on a supplier than to do it internally
- Costs less – a DPO approach means virtually no capital dollars, which are scarce in most back office improvement scenarios
- It’s achievable – tying up personnel is a show-stopper for many small and mid-size companies and having a valued partner manage this function alleviates that issue.
The big aha!
In the course of the conversation, the tone of the customer changed from one of fledgling hope to the steadfast resolution that this approach actually existed and that it would actually fit, hand in glove with the latent needs of their organization.
What’s cool from our perspective too, is that the rest of the market is going to catch up to this gentleman’s epiphany in short order. It might not be today or tomorrow, but as more companies venture into the Accounts Payable automation world, they’re going to realize that they’re not in Kansas anymore, and that things can get complex, bog down, or go sideways in a hurry, and it’s at those times that you need someone who gets transactional document processing, and who has the tools needed to improve the end to end processing of paper or imaged paper documents.
Have a heart!
One of the consistent things I’ve noted in traveling the Accounts Payable automation world for the better part of two years is that most service providers in this space have done an effective job of building organizations with brains and brawn. This is a good thing and ensures a robust suite of compelling solutions to meeting todays myriad business challenges. Whether the issues stem from processing centric issues to compliance to visibility, there’s seemingly a solution for virtually every business challenge that a Finance leader, and more specifically, an Accounts Payable leader could face. While that’s well and good, the one thing that is lacking is that it seems to me that there is a fundamental disconnect within the industry and the consumers who utilize said solutions…a connection of heart.
Now that’s not to say that the service providers in the AP automation space don’t have heart, it just means that heart is not something that is reflected outwardly in their approach to their customers. If what I’m saying makes sense, then it’s because the relationship between many vendors in this space and their customers is mechanical and primarily intellectual…which is a good thing since many of the issues that solutions address are highly technical and require deep levels of subject matter expertise. The issue herein is how these are addressed at both a core and surface level. Consider how Apple transcended Microsoft in its approach to personal computing and the human experience. One could argue that the emotional connection to the Apple brand inspired a much higher level of devotion, similar to other industry leaders like Starbucks Coffee, Hubspot for Marketing, and Nike to athletics. They almost become lifestyle representatives that evoke a synthesis between form and function, purpose and beauty.
Because of that we feel it’s important to note that the connection between the heart and the head are not mutually exclusive. That ultimately compelling AP automation solutions (and Document Process Outsourcing applications) at a high level need to integrate both of these needs. It’s also our belief that the primary users of these applications often go overlooked in their organizations. The relegated back office users that never get any of the cool toys…kind of like the younger siblings in large families, having to fight for servings or the ones inheriting tattered hand me downs.
At CloudX our goal is to help companies that are looking to bridge the gap to automation through cloud based improvement.
The cool factors:
- Cloud delivery makes it accessible…to pretty much anyone, anywhere. If you have access to the internet through a browser, you’re pretty much good to go…no servers required.
- You’re not held hostage by IT. No offense to the IT folks, because they are indispensable, but you don’t need an army o f them to support this prior to and after go-live, which keeps things simple and keeps costs down.
- Our approach doesn’t break the bank. Many software companies in this space have legacy business models that require big time software licensing fees to bring their technology in…unfortunately though, because Accounts Payable automation solutions are sometimes an after thought for executives in terms of priority for improvement, it doesn’t leave much by way of capital dollars. The problem for many of these providers is that their business model is inextricably intertwined to that type of revenue cycle, and transitioning away from it is costly and foreign to their thinking.
- Experts on demand. Many of the software providers give you a toolbox to set about improving your operations. That’s great if you are a craftsman, but for many people, learning the new technologies to improve said processes are a show-stopper. When dealing with the Accounts Payable process, you’re talking about learning how to manage OCR technology, workflow technology, database technology, business intelligence, and reporting. Not to mention user administration, support, etc. With a cloud delivery model and customer focused organization…supporting this is a cinch without the headaches mentioned above.
- The waterboy mentality. No, we’re not purveyors of high quality H20, nothing wrong with that … and from what I hear on the Discovery channel, without water you’re toast in 3 days in a survival scenario. But given the confines of most corporate convention centers, I don’t think that will be an issue…surviving the coffee is another story. What I mean by that is that we as an organization have infamous Rob Schneider ‘You can do it!’ philosophy. And no, we’re not talking about anything untoward…we simply mean that our responsiveness to customer concerns, adaptations, and needs is paramount and that our product road map is responsive to latent marketplace needs…meaning that we help you do what you need to and get the headaches out of the equation period.
So if you’re interested in learning more about this philosophy check out this Prezi on our approach to improving Payables here!
In today’s complex world, there’s certainly no shortage of concerns for businesses of all shapes and sizes. While many may be kept up at night by food cravings or late night television, those two items don’t make our top five list for the things that concern the top Financial brass of most companies. With that said, we wanted to take a look at the things which most concern CFO’s in the 2013 economy, and evaluate how they can be addressed.
So what are the big 5?
1. Global Instability – It’s kind of oxymoronic, but the adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same. With that said, there have been macro shifts in the global economy in the last twenty years, with massive markets gaining strength in countries like China, India, & Brazil. Additionally, sustained geo-political crises, especially in crucial regions to the global energy supply (Middle East anyone…?), and competitive pressures from low cost service providers create many challenges that inevitably pressures CFOs to consider the potential business impacts if any of the aforementioned proverbial chess pieces gets moved.
2. The US Recovery – Much has been written about the solidity of the current US recovery. Many would argue that the recovery is much more benign than is being propagated across media channels and that there are inaccurate financial calculations and projections being shared regarding capitalization, actual labor participation, inflation, and the like. When you boil it all down, many CFOs have an inherent distrust in the fortitude of the US recovery at present, which ultimately impacts consumer (and commercial) spending, which in turn are the growth engines of how our economy functions. The other side of this coin is that CFOs have to be involved in setting their organizations on the right path (from a product/strategic investment perspective) to help raise top line revenues regardless of the adversarial, or at best lukewarm market conditions.
3. Finding & Retaining Talent – With higher than average numbers of people who are available in the market for hire, many CFO’s have challenges in getting qualified protégés for succession management. Additionally, many organizations would like to expand their talent pool, but ironically many companies are not quick to set about the hiring and expansion process precisely because of point #2. With instability in the US recovery, not many C level executives are willing to bet the ranch and go long the market (so to speak) by bringing in additional resources. To add complexity to this mix, many CFOs are looking for a melding of core capabilities that are difficult to come by…high analytical skills, political savvy (interoffice, not Donkeys and Elephants – though that can be valuable too), broad economic insights and understanding. Beyond that a core focus is the grooming and mentoring process, which takes time, leading to our next point.
4. Assaults on time – With the average CFO receiving between 200-500 emails a day, it’s safe to say that speed reading coursework might be in order. Or, perhaps it’s a matter of prioritization. The point is that there are many competing interests that will quickly drain a CFO of energy and time, and so CFO’s must be judicious in their use of time and adopt a mindset of delegation. By having quality direct reports in place, CFO’s can prioritize what demands their attention and what can be handled by others who are empowered. By not embracing prioritization and delegation, CFOs literally are kept up at night as the idyllic 9-5 work schedule becomes more of a 6-9 affair, all kidding aside. The long term consequence of that is burn out, and certainly no organization wants to lose it’s top executive talent to fatigue, stress, or the like.
5. Cash Management – The Gambler may be a trite Kenny Rogers song in which the gambler has an uncanny savvy about the appropriate times to hold, fold, walk away, and run. Similarly, CFOs need to evidence a deft hand for managing the organizations finance. Certainly some of this falls on the Treasurer of an organization, but managing cash is fundamental. Using Cash to buy back outstanding shares of stock, pay dividends, reduce debt, make strategic investments all comes with pros and cons, and must be weighed qualitatively and quantitatively by CFOs in conjunction with their C level peers.
So what are some of our thoughts on improving the life of a CFO…we never thought you’d ask.
For starters, most of our philosophy on improving the well being and performance of an organization deals with improving the bottomline through back office improvements. By eliminating inefficiencies bound up in transactional paper based processes and leveraging a transactional costing model in addition to high technology in the cloud that requires nominal investment (as opposed to the big dollar investments archaic software providers have normally charged) augmented by human intelligence, which we call document process outsourcing…you can start to touch a couple of these key items. You can impact the financial piece (Accounts Payable automation !!!), especially the liquidity management, and create more powerful outcomes than your current personnel constraints. Certainly any kind of a project lift, requires focus and will consume time, but in our experience, the most meaningful and impactful projects begin with Departmental level desires to improve, get the blessing from the C-level suite, and are designed, championed, and executed by the department level folks, aka delegates.
To learn more about Document Process Outsourcing and how it’s making life easier for CFO’s all around the globe, check this out!
Accounts Payable automation invoices gather no moss!
The Rolling Stones are renowned as one of the longestperforming and best selling major rock bands of the 20th, and now 21st century. With a plethora of major hits including ‘Paint it Black’, ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, and ‘Satisfaction’, it’s hard not to agree with the vast influence they have exerted upon the music industry and the global rock and roll movement over the last 50 years. With that said, another of their famous songs is ‘Time is On My Side’, though it was a cover of Norman Meade’s original (and now more popularized work). The cultural disconnect to ‘Time is On My Side’ has never been more prevalent in the workplace than in today’s frenetic business culture, as people cope with increased pressures to accomplish greater workloads with fewer resources in addition to integrating newer technologies to their core function.
Recent studies from global consultancies reflect the trend of knowledge workers increasing amount of time spent on communications, searching for, and managing information. In a set of fairly astounding findings, McKinsey Global Institute (of McKinsey Consulting fame), cites that the average office worker now spends 28 hours a week (over 1,500 hours per year!!) writing emails, searching for information, and ‘collaborating’ with internal colleagues. No wonder that workers feel more stressed as they set about handling their core functions, and routinely expand their workdays beyond the traditional 9-5. Couple this with a decreased labor force, and you wind up with the common theme of individuals being tasked to do more with less, and wonder why employee satisfaction languishes today. A microcosm of this that we routinely run across is within the Accounts Payable process and the good news is that with robust Accounts Payable Automation, it is possible to make a meaningful and impactful difference on individuals, performance benchmarks, and internal communications.
The Case For Intelligent Document Management
As outlined above, it’s evident that people spend quite a bit of time chasing pertinent information. Overlay that with an already cumbersome manual, paper-based process like Accounts Payable, and you have the right recipe for the making of a Cat-5 Hurricane. Because of the sheer volume of invoices, credit memos, check request forms, and other miscellaneous documents that enter the Accounts Payable process, it’s largely been an area that has been ripe for improvement for some time. One of the key tenets of improving how companies interface with documents stems from orienting the initiative around specific process improvement. In other words, the goal of improving how paper is managed in an organization is much more of a reality when it is anchored around a specific, day to day process, and most organizations are looking for ways to extend electronic document management solutions to impact a variety of processes and thereby reduce extraneous or redundant systems.
Enter Accounts Payable automation…
Most Accounts Payable automation projects include the following components:
Scanning Technology (though not always including Advanced Capture)
Electronic Document Management (On premise or hosted (increasingly))
Electronic Workflow Technology
Areas of increased interested with Accounts Payable automation include:
Automated Compliance Services (TIN matching)
Automated Expense Management Submission
It’s absolutely possible to improve the search and retrieval aspects to a high volume transactional process like Accounts Payable through scanning and document management, but to improve the process from a dynamic perspective it really requires advanced capture and workflow coupled with business intelligence (rules) in order to get out of the data entry and manual routing processes that otherwise advance invoice processing. However, for many businesses, it’s just too costly to entertain doing all of these items simultaneously, not just from a hard dollars perspective, but also from a personnel standpoint.
That’s why at CloudX, we see a huge future in Document Process Outsourcing, which enables folks to jump on the automation bandwagon, who may never otherwise have the opportunity to get into the automation game.
Only when a process is impacted at the front end, can you really get Time On Your Side by getting the time consuming elements of the process underfoot. In the case of Accounts Payable automation, this means eliminating invoice entry to the ERP and expediting the routing process, which will otherwise bog down in interoffice mail, emails, and worse expensive couriers.
To learn more about ways to improve that process check out the eBook below!