Netsend http://netsend.com e-invoicing and e-billing solutions for business Wed, 23 May 2018 16:56:34 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 http://netsend.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/cropped-Netsend_Stacked_CMYK_square-1-32x32.png Netsend http://netsend.com 32 32 Ebilling – as part of the MBA in Credit Management http://netsend.com/blog/electronic-billing/ebilling-as-part-of-the-mba-in-credit-management/ Wed, 04 Apr 2018 13:30:13 +0000 http://netsend.com/?p=3543 As a leader in the ebilling space, we were recently asked to contribute to course materials for a module on ebilling, as part of a larger MBA in Credit Management.  It’s an honour to help shape the academic understanding of such an important field. The MBA materials we have created address Philosophy, Policy and Process […]

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As a leader in the ebilling space, we were recently asked to contribute to course materials for a module on ebilling, as part of a larger MBA in Credit Management.  It’s an honour to help shape the academic understanding of such an important field.

The MBA materials we have created address Philosophy, Policy and Process considerations for ebilling, as well as presenting a case study on ebilling for real-life context.

So, where does one start when learning about ebilling?  With a firm grasp of the ‘why’ to ebilling; the philosophy underpinning it.  We broke this philosophy down into sections, starting with challenges faced when using traditional billing.  Ebilling arose as advances in technology offered a route to tackle these challenges, evolving in sympathy with buyers’ needs and a range of internal drivers.

Ebilling Philosophy

From a philosophical perspective, ebilling exists to support the accounts receivable team’s need to bring cash into the business quickly and efficiently.  This needs to be carefully balanced against the demands on a seller to invoice, or bill, in a way that suits buyers.  In a world where customer loyalty is low, and businesses face growing competition, it pays to adapt billing to meet buyers’ needs.

We also explain, in light of customer experience management, how businesses need to view billing as part of their brand connection with customers, considering the ramifications of how all aspects of their billing process influence existing and potential customers.

Overall, ebilling philosophy is about supporting the needs of the business directly through improving cashflow, insight and enhancing Accounts Receivable efficiency, and indirectly through the ability to better meet customers’ needs and expectations, whilst improving customer experience and perception of the brand.

Ebilling Policy

Once the philosophy behind ebilling is understood, this can be put into context via principles set out in an ebilling policy.  Policies need to evolve over time, adapting to external factors but driven by internal stakeholders who have a firm grasp of the ebilling philosophy.

Ebilling policy should encompass communications, formatting, standards, integration, administration and risk management policies.

Policy ultimately drives process, so establishing a detailed and extensive ebilling policy makes it easier to develop effective ebilling processes that deliver on the overarching philosophy.

The communication policy should set out whether push or pull ebilling processes are emphasised for ebilling communications, and what options are available for each of these.  Formatting and standards policy outlines which standards are adhered to and formatting considerations relating to these.  It should also outline how future standards and formatting requirements will be incorporated and how legal requirements, such as EU Directive 2014/55/EU are supported.

Integration policy provides the business with guidance on how all aspects of integration with external data sources and accounts payable systems, or VANs, needs to be undertaken.  This policy drives the creation of individual processes for each integration requirement.

Administration policy for ebilling should outline administration hierarchy within the business, including workflow for all aspects of communication creation, reporting, action on exceptions and escalation pathways.  Policy should be designed to streamline responsibilities and access, providing the greatest overview with the least complexity for the most senior roles.  Administration policy should also take into account the option for handing-off to outsourced partners for faster resolution of issues, where appropriate.

Finally, risk management policy ensures risk is managed appropriately throughout the ebilling process.  Risk management will be shaped by a combination of factors, including the organisation’s philosophy or appetite for risk, the industry they trade in, the mix of customers, margin achieved and both internal and external risks to security.

Ebilling Process

The ebilling Process is the manifestation of associated policy, reflecting the organisation’s ebilling philosophy, through specific tasks and routines.  Documentation of the ebilling process is required to ensure tasks adhere to the agreed policy.

The ebilling process is made up of a number of process areas, each defining tasks relevant to their area.  The overarching process documentation presents a management-level view of how policies are applied to deliver on the ebilling philosophy of the business.

The ebilling process should encompass the following aspects:

  1. Ebilling Production Process
  2. Distribution and Communication Process
  3. Payment Handling Process
  4. Reporting Process
  5. Escalation and Dispute Resolution Process
  6. Management and Process Automation

To ensure ebilling success, processes must be reviewed and refined by their process owners – utilising insight from reporting and reflection on how we the process implements policy and supports the overarching philosophy.  Processes should evolve over time and may even feed back into policy review.

Ebilling isn’t just academic

As a leading supplier of outsourced ebilling services, we put all of the above academic considerations into practice on a daily basis.  Approaching ebilling with a thought to philosophy first, policy second and process third, ensures completeness and delivers ebilling success more quickly and consistently than jumping straight into process application.

Not everyone has the time or resources to study for an MBA and become familiar with the detail around these points, but outsourcing your ebilling requirements to Netsend provides you with the assurance that the approach will follow this best practice.

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Auditing and audit trail for e-invoicing and document distribution http://netsend.com/blog/auditing/auditing-audit-trail-e-invoicing-document-distribution/ Wed, 21 Feb 2018 11:15:18 +0000 http://netsend.com/?p=3534 Auditing in Accounts Receivable used to be a painful process, as it can still be for many businesses.  However, with the advent of e-invoicing this needn’t be the case.  Electronic documents, such as e-invoices, can be searched for and found programmatically – saving hours of rifling through filing cabinets. Since the 1st January 2013, the […]

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Auditing in Accounts Receivable used to be a painful process, as it can still be for many businesses.  However, with the advent of e-invoicing this needn’t be the case.  Electronic documents, such as e-invoices, can be searched for and found programmatically – saving hours of rifling through filing cabinets.

Since the 1st January 2013, the European Council Directive requires all EU members to afford the same legal status to electronic invoice processes as they do paper invoice processes.  As a result of this, e-invoices must have associated data guaranteeing the authenticity of the origin, integrity of the content and legibility of the invoice made accessible for auditing purposes.

Electronic invoicing systems are also required, by EU law, to store e-invoices in their original format, as well as an associated human-readable format if the original is purely machine-readable.

The consequence of these requirements is that electronic invoicing systems provide easy access to e-invoicing, invoicing histories and associated documents – typically enabling large-scale extraction and presentation of records for auditing purposes.

When electronic invoicing is done well, there should be full traceability of communication flow and engagement from customers with communications and associated invoicing processes.  Every point of contact and system engagement should leave an trace that can be used to determine the status of payment and/or awareness of payment requirements – supporting associated AR actions to bring the cash in to the business, and auditing this process.

 

Easy risk assessment for auditing requirements

e-invoicing systems enable the following risk assessments to be easily met and even automated.  Reporting on the scenarios below ensures accounts receivable are managed in an optimal fashion and no nasty surprises come to light through the auditing process.

  • Checking for receivables that do not exist
  • Checking for inaccurate receivable balances
  • Identifying incorrectly recognized revenue
  • Identifying collection problems with accounts receivable
  • Checking allowance for doubtful accounts reflects previous bad debt experience
  • Checking for sales transactions not processed in the correct periods

 

Beyond the audit trail – real-time visibility of invoicing progress

The benefits of e-invoicing in facilitating audit processes is clear, but audits should hopefully be few and far between.  A related benefit, more valuable in a day-to-day context, is the ability to have a real-time view of invoicing (and payment) processes.

Leading e-invoicing platforms, such as Netsend, emphasise the use of pull communications (rather than push communications) – meaning that customers are encouraged to click through from communications to an online portal to find their invoicing information.  This enables users to be tracked as they access their invoicing information and take any actions via the portal – e.g. acknowledging receipt of invoice, intention to pay or payment.

This online tracking provides AR departments and credit controllers that ability to quickly identify the status of specific invoices and accounts.  This real-time information can feed into management dashboards and be used to both track and improve business cash flow.

 

Audit trail for document distribution

It’s not just invoicing that can benefit from improvements in tracking and visibility.  Document distribution is becoming increasingly electronic in nature, even for business critical and legally sensitive documents.  With the advent of trust services, defined in the recent eIDAS regulation, more and more legal documents such as contracts are sent electronically; as there can be complete trust in recipient authenticity and content integrity.  This presents and opportunity for businesses who distribute their documents electronically to track receipt and engagement, in much the same way as e-invoicing systems do.

With systems designed to track and record which documents were sent to whom, when, and were engaged with in what specific way, this provides a detailed audit trail for sensitive documents.

Whether businesses need to meet compliance requirements of Sarbanes-Oxley, or other mandates to preserve records and interactions for a number of years, electronic records are a far easier format to store both documents and map the relation between these and communications involving them.

 

Why wait for an audit – turn communication insight into competitive advantage

Whilst e-invoicing and electronic document distribution enable ease of auditing, the insight they can provide is far more valuable for day-to-day business advantage.  Understanding the status of each invoice in the collections process, provides an unparalleled handle on cash flow into the business.  Where anomalies occur, these can be acted on immediately – even automatically.

Document distribution can also provide analytical insights to improve responses and reduce the requirement for exception handling by staff.  With the advent of robotic process automation, and indeed artificial intelligence as part of such systems, manual exception handling can be learned from to improve the scope of automated responses.

Whether communications directly affect cash flow or service delivery, or form part of the broader customer communication remit, knowing whether they have been received and the status of response provides valuable and actionable insight.

In high-churn markets, it’s critical to respond to delays or blockages in customer communications, or risk losing business.  Managing document distribution electronically, and automating where possible, presents competitive advantage in this regard.

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Blockchain in Accounts Receivable http://netsend.com/blog/blockchain-accounts-receivable/ Mon, 22 Jan 2018 09:24:28 +0000 http://netsend.com/?p=3523 The post Blockchain in Accounts Receivable appeared first on Netsend.

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Whilst blockchain technology is most often associated with cryptocurrency (e.g. Bitcoin), there are enormous opportunities for this across the business.  One such potential application is within the Accounts Receivable department, as part of the e-invoicing process.

Currently, invoices are sent (either electronically, or by post) before they are reconciled against POs and purchasing systems data, and then paid – each step requiring approval and review, which slows the process down.  Whilst electronic invoicing enables swift, often automated, delivery of invoices and payment processing is becoming increasingly automated, there are still opportunities to improve speed and accuracy.

Blockchain-enabled e-invoicing can provide greater transparency of what has been invoiced and the progress of payments, as well as preserving an immutable record of previous transactions and enhancements in both speed and security of the invoicing process.

In order to understand the benefits of blockchain in Accounts Receivable processes, it is first important to understand the basic principles of blockchain technology.

“Blockchain-enabled e-invoicing can provide greater transparency of what has been involved”

What is Blockchain?

Blockchain technology gets its name from its structure.  It is a chain of blocks, where each block of information (typically transactions) is created in a way that checks the validity of the previous block and consequently all proceeding blocks in the chain.

Blockchain technology is typically used to enable distributed ledger books.  In such a case, each block would consist of the latest set of transaction records, and the chain would contain all transactions to date on the ledger.

Various approaches to ‘mining’ blocks and verifying the validity of the proceeding block and entire chain exist.  The overarching principle, and benefits, of this are universal however; the validation and visibility of the ledger is decentralised and therefore more secure against both attack and loss of availability.

For a more detailed explanation of blockchain technology, take a look at our Blockchain Technology FAQ document.

How can blockchain work in AR

The positive disruptive potential from blockchain in Account Receivable is enormous.  Transactions could exist pre-approved on a blockchain (from point of purchase) with the necessary information to ensure they are processed automatically when reaching Accounts Payable.  The shared access to a blockchain between Accounts Receivable (at a supplier) and Accounts Payable (at a buyer) removes the need to generate individual invoices – electronic or otherwise.  The Procure-to-Pay (P2P) process then becomes seamlessly supported from ordering through to invoicing and payment via access to a shared blockchain that is updated in near real-time between parties.

Access to a shared blockchain enables business partners to remove, or at least reduce, the need to pause for human validation and approval of agreed transactions.  This achieves faster transaction processing, leading to improved cashflow, an important goal for any Accounts Receivable department.

“Shared access to a blockchain between Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable removes the need to generate individual invoices”

Realistically, not all invoices are going to be replaced by access to a shared blockchain any time soon.  But businesses who are quick to adopt blockchain as an integral part of their P2P process stand to benefit.  AR teams who can offer blockchain to support the invoicing process are creating competitive advantage through innovation.  However, thought needs to be given to how blockchain will sit alongside traditional paper invoicing and e-invoicing.

The most effective way to leverage fast-evolving business technology is typically through working with an expert service provider, or hooking into an as-a-Service solution.  Leading e-invoicing providers, such as Netsend, are well placed to support businesses seeking to integrate traditional invoicing, e-invoicing and blockchain as one service– enabling customers to progress from one format to another, as well as recording, managing and reporting on transactions from a centralised solution interface.

What is preventing the adoption of blockchain for AR?

The biggest barrier to blockchain adoption is corporate inertia and the fear of change.  Very often businesses will have embraced digital processes throughout much of the business, yet still produce and deliver paper invoices.  Due to the sensitive nature of invoices – integral to business cashflow – there is an inherent reluctance to modify invoicing processes.

“77% from the financial services industry expect to adopt blockchain as part of an in-production system or process by 2020”

However, channel shift is one of the most important topics in business.  Businesses need to seek out expert partners to facilitate moving from old ways to the new.  Kevin Gill, Insurance and Blockchain CTO, at IBM warns that “traditionalists face the threat of becoming irrelevant if they don’t move first”.  Kevin goes on to explain that “There is tremendous potential for change and disruption. The winners are going to be those who are blockchain-enabled quickly. The earlier you are in, the greater your competitive business advantage”.

These sentiments are supported by the Global FinTech Report 2017 from PriceWaterhouseCoopers, they report that 77% of survey respondents from the financial services industry expected “to adopt blockchain as part of an in-production system or process by 2020.”

How to prepare for the blockchain revolution

Whilst we wouldn’t recommend investing in a whole new team to identify and implement blockchain solutions just yet, it’s important to prepare for the future.  Talk to us today and find out how Netsend can enable your Accounts Receivable department to support invoicing in a vast range of formats and standards, including blockchain when this becomes relevant to your market.

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eIDAS and Changes to Electronic Signature Legislation http://netsend.com/blog/eidas-changes-electronic-signature-legislation/ Thu, 11 Jan 2018 11:36:45 +0000 http://netsend.com/?p=3494 The post eIDAS and Changes to Electronic Signature Legislation appeared first on Netsend.

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Electronic signatures are widely used by businesses today.  It’s remarkable to think that they were only granted the same legal weight as their ‘wet ink’ counterparts from 1st July 2016 (in Europe).  Legislation around electronic signatures and associated ‘trust services’ continues to evolve, with the eIDAS (electronic IDentification, Authentication and trust Services) Regulation – Regulation (EU) No 910/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council – providing an update to legislation across the EU.

The new eIDAS regulation has consolidated and replaced a confusing patchwork of laws pertaining to electronic signatures, making them consistent across every EU country.  With electronic signatures used to sign international documents, the eIDAS regulation ensures all parties produce and receive signatures that are legally binding.

eIDAS updates the original Electronic Signatures Directive (Directive 1999/93/EC), setting out a legal framework to enable mutual recognition of electronic identification systems between Member States, and establishes trust services that can be used to support, or in place of, electronic signatures.

For a more detailed explanation of how eIDAS changes existing legislation, take a look at our Trust Services for Electronic Documents white paper.  This blog post explains some of the key points to consider.

“The new eIDAS regulation replaces previous electronic signature laws and is now consistent across every EU country”

 

eIDAS Changes to Electronic Signatures

Previously, electronic signatures could be used by both individuals and by corporate organisations.  eIDAS updates this to make a distinction between natural and legal persons, requiring that an electronic signature relates to an individual – not an organisation – henceforth.  This change switches the onus on to individual responsibility, ensuring greater awareness of the legal responsibility of those applying signatures as part of automated processes.

 

eIDAS Changes to Advanced Electronic Signatures

eIDAS redefines Advanced Electronic Signatures to allow for mobile technology to form part of the identification and authorisation process – through connection to a Certificate Authority for the issuance of a digital certificate.

 

eIDAS Changes to Qualified Electronic Signatures

Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES) are an extension of the concept of Advanced Electronic Signatures.  QES are only possible to create from a qualified electronic signature creation device (SSCD) – which must store the signature creation data.  Such a device is qualified by issuance of a Qualified Certificate, from a qualified trust service provider.  In turn, a qualified trust service provider is granted such status by the Supervisory Body.

The electronic signature creation device provides a level of security above and beyond an Advanced Electronic Signature, which is appropriate in certain scenarios.

 

What are Trust Services?

Trust services are introduced, as a concept, via eIDAS to provide additional routes to verify integrity of document content and sender.  eIDAS sets out a legislative framework to put these services into practice in the EU.

Electronic Seals

As part of these changes, eIDAS introduces the concept of electronic seals.  Electronic seals are similar to electronic signatures, but only available to legal persons (rather than natural persons) – such as corporate entities.  These provide a route for corporate entity to apply a stamp of authentication to a document, without the fine-grained individual responsibility implicit in an electronic signature.

As the name suggests, an electronic seal works a little like its traditional, physical, counterpart.  The seal guarantees that the contents of the document has not been tampered with, as well as guaranteeing the authenticity of the sender.

Time Stamps

Time stamps are used to verify that the data contained in the document existed, and remains unchanged from, the data at the time and date of the stamp.  This is particularly useful to anchor documents, such as contracts or bills, to a time and date.

Delivery Service

The Electronic registered delivery service prevents risk of loss, theft, leakage or alteration of documents being sent from one party to another.  The service also provides evidence of receipt and proof of delivery.

Website Authentication

Website authentication, by way of electronic certificate added to the site, validates the authenticity of the site and link to entity or person(s) owning the site.

 

The Business Benefits of eIDAS

In the competitive and fast-paced world of business, capitalising on changing legislation provides a competitive edge.  Working with an expert partner, such as Netsend, enables your business to quickly offer the benefits of trust services and the full range of electronic signature types to your customers.

Whether incorporating the latest changes from eIDAS within internal document distribution processes, or as a way to improve security and assurance with partners and customers, these recent changes make document transactions more secure than ever before.

Move beyond the benefits of simple electronic signatures and turn trust services to your business advantage.

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How to beat the Christmas Post (with electronic delivery) http://netsend.com/blog/beat-christmas-post-electronic-delivery/ Wed, 13 Dec 2017 16:15:03 +0000 http://netsend.com/?p=2257 It’s the time of year to be jolly… but actually, when you’re trying to get important documents over to clients, you might be feeling a little less jolly.  The infamous Christmas Post has a lot to answer for.  As millions of cards and presents enter the system for just a few weeks, this throws delivery […]

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It’s the time of year to be jolly… but actually, when you’re trying to get important documents over to clients, you might be feeling a little less jolly.  The infamous Christmas Post has a lot to answer for.  As millions of cards and presents enter the system for just a few weeks, this throws delivery timescales into disarray.

Have you ever tried to get a document to a client urgently on the lead up to Christmas?  What normally takes a couple of days can take weeks.  That level of uncertainty and delay is a problem when waiting for signed documents, and can lead to significant cashflow impact when invoices and payments are directly affected.

With the volume of post increasing massively on the lead up to Christmas (up to 10 million parcels per day at its peak), it’s simply too much for the infrastructure to handle effectively.  This resulted in 4.8 million reported delivery problems over the Xmas period in 2015.  Last year saw £148 million worth of lost or damaged post this Christmas in the UK. And according to Citizens Advice, online shoppers will typically spend two-and-a-half hours sorting out a delivery problem this Christmas – because an item is late, turns up broken or doesn’t arrive at all.

In a survey carried out in December 2016, more than one in five had a parcel go missing*

A third of consumers who receive a damaged parcel don’t take action. For those that did try to complain, more than 40 per cent ran into problems – such as difficulty contacting the retailer or delivery company on the phone.

So, how can you avoid this as a business?

Electronic Document Distribution – for reliability and speed of delivery

As every Christmas shopper knows, the online world is without the queues and traffic of the high-street.  This is also one of the attractions of electronic document distribution, enabling businesses to send documents swiftly and securely irrespective of season.

Furthermore, electronic documents can be produced and sent automatically.  The paradigm of accounts receivable automation has sprung up in response to the demand for more streamlined and cost effective ways to generate and distribute invoices and other AR documents.

In the context of the accounts receivable department, electronic invoicing is growing at a rate of 20% year on year globally.  It’s not hard to see why, when you consider the value of getting invoices out quickly, as this brings the cash into the business sooner; Christmas post, or not.

Know when your documents arrive

Beyond the simple ability to avoid postal traffic, electronic document distribution systems, such as Netsend, afford the sender insight into how the document distribution is progressing at every step of the journey.  There is enormous value in determining who has actually received time-sensitive documents, and even whether they have opened them and, where appropriate, agreed to the content.

With an electronic document distribution system, it’s possible to see at a glance who has not yet responded to documents.  Reports can be generated for direct follow-up, or statements and/or dunning letters can be generated automatically to nudge slow-responders into action.

You’re not just saving time, but saving money too

Electronic documents are not just the fastest and most secure way to ensure business documents are delivered, they also present a significant cost saving.  Reducing the reliance on print and postage for the distribution of business documents brings paper, stamp and printing costs down considerably.

Many businesses go as far as outsourcing the remaining print and postal requirements to be handled through a single document distribution solution, such as Netsend.  This simplifies the process of distribution, as documents are directed to the distribution system and then either sent electronically (in most instances), or automatically printed and posted for recipients who are yet to convert to accepting electronic format documents.

Save throughout the year and be ready for next Christmas

Businesses making the most effective deployments of electronic document distribution are committed to onboarding as many customers to the new process as possible.  When you consider the average saving of €6.60 per invoice sent electronically, rather than by post, it’s clear that efforts to convert recipients are highly valuable.

At Netsend, we achieve an average conversion of over 80% within 6 months.  The industry standard sits a little lower at 60% after 1 year, but there are many techniques, as well as product nuances that can encourage an audience to convert to electronic documents more quickly.

Get in touch today and find out how quickly you can benefit from electronic document distribution, saving all year round and side-stepping postal strikes and seasonal fluctuations like the Christmas post.

 

*Shock figures reveal how many parcels are lost or damaged

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Business Process Improvement (BPI) http://netsend.com/blog/business-process-improvement-bpi/ Fri, 01 Dec 2017 09:04:35 +0000 http://netsend.com/?p=3421 The post Business Process Improvement (BPI) appeared first on Netsend.

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Business process improvement, or BPI, is an important undertaking in any business – whether as a formal and rigorous process, or as a guiding principle to enhance profitability in a broader sense.

BPI is defined by TechTarget as the following:

“Business process improvement (BPI) is a strategic planning methodology aimed at identifying the operations or employee skills that could be improved to encourage smoother procedures, more efficient workflow and overall business growth. This process can also be referred to as functional process improvement.

 

The purpose of business process improvement is to meet customer demands and business goals more effectively. Rather than drawing out change management in incremental steps, BPI seeks to bring drastic transformation in an organization’s performance. In IT, business process improvement addresses the root causes of process or system deficiencies to harmonize IT and business goals. Process mapping, which assesses business operations to pinpoint problem areas and adjust workflow, is often the first step in a larger business process improvement effort.”

 

Warning signs – the need for Business Process Improvement

Identifying the need for Business process improvement is crucial to maintaining an effective and healthy business.  Whilst BPI could arguably be applied as a continual improvement cycle, there are specific warning signs that show your business needs BPI.

 

Email

Email is central to many business functions, providing a valuable service.  However, overuse of internal email indicates problems with existing processes.  Consider the ideal characteristics of business processes; running smoothly without questions from operators or exceptions to handle.  This would generate very little email – perhaps only the end result of the process; directed towards customers or business partners.

When processes are inefficient, where there are gaps to bridge, poorly handled complexities or lack of support for anomalies, staff resort to email to clarify and handle exceptions.  Improving processes will reduce exceptions, and reduce the reliance on internal emails to seek solutions.  Keep a handle on internal email volumes and address processes that are leading to the generation of these.

 

Extensive training times and/or documentation for processes

Another clear indicator of poor business processes is the abundance of documentation to define them.  This can also be measured by the time taken to train a new employee in the operation of the process.

The less efficient a process, the more explanation is required to run the process effectively.  Keep an eye out for bulging ‘documentation’ files, extensive allocations of time for holiday handover, or long induction cycles.

The less efficient a process, the more explanation is required to run the process effectively.

Working from spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are another important business tool.  However, over-reliance on spreadsheets points to inefficient business processes and the need for BPI.  From an employee’s perspective, spreadsheets bring order to chaos, so the abundance of spreadsheets is an indicator that staff are struggling to bring chaotic (inefficient) processes under their control.

Solid management and review procedures should identify where staff have an over-reliance on spreadsheets to handle processes.  In these instances, you know there’s a wild process to be tamed through BPI.

 

Scalability challenges

It may seem a nice problem to have, but challenges around scalability, due to process inefficiency, come at exactly the wrong time.  Businesses should be agile enough to embrace opportunities to scale, or they risk being locked into a flat level of business, or worse, a decline.

Where a business process is challenging to scale, it implies too much variability and exception handling.  Rigorously defined processes are typically easier to scale than those requiring judgement and experience to select an appropriate solution at any stage.

Check your business can scale if and when needed, where would the bottlenecks lie and how can these be refined and improved before they present a scalability problem?

 

Business Process Improvement – the first steps

Business process mapping is typically the first step to take once processes have been identified in need of business process improvement.  This forms part of good workflow management practice, which also takes into account business process modelling (a more detailed representation of the process in question).

Business processes cannot be improved upon if they are not clearly understood and mapped.

Mapping a business process should start with defining the start and end points of the process, what triggers the process and how does the end point map onto connected processes.  Each task in the process should then be clearly documented with yes/no decision points identified and subsequent loops or branches defined.  Where a process requires a more complex decision, this presents an opportunity to simplify as part of process improvement.

Business processes cannot be improved upon if they are not clearly understood and mapped.  The next step, after mapping, should be modelling – taking into account the full range of variables the process may need to handle.  Feeding example, or live, data into the process model will highlight bottlenecks and uncertainties.  This all sheds important light on the process before moving on to remodelling or reengineering to improve performance.

 

Business Process Improvement through Digital Transformation

Once processes are clearly mapped and modelled, many businesses find opportunities to digitise repetitive and mundane tasks – freeing up human resources to handle more valuable and dynamic workloads.

Various different opportunities exist for digitising processes, from end-to-end outsourcing of the process to a business process outsourcing (BPO) partner, to configuring a robot (program) to replicate the steps taken by a human – robotic process automation (RPA), to integration with an as-a-service solution (SaaS, PaaS or IaaS) to offload some of the process handling to externally hosted solutions.

At Netsend, we offer a fully-integrated solution which replaces many of the mundane and repetitive steps in document creation and distribution, often deployed as an automated e-billing/e-invoicing solution.  This programmatic approach to process automation ensures 100% reliability and removes human error from the equation – something that costs businesses precious time and money when occurring in cashflow sensitive process such as billing.

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How Business Process Outsourcing is Evolving http://netsend.com/blog/business-process-outsourcing-evolving/ Thu, 30 Nov 2017 14:32:37 +0000 http://netsend.com/?p=3394 The post How Business Process Outsourcing is Evolving appeared first on Netsend.

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Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) has evolved considerably as the market has matured.  Some years ago, BPO may have been considered to simply be a way of getting work done cheaply, but now the depth of BPO offerings is far smarter than just offshoring to a low-cost labour force.

 

The decline in Offshoring for BPO

Firstly, let’s address the eternal rumour of the decline in BPO.  Yes, in a number of sectors, and in specific regions, offshoring as an approach to BPO has decreased in popularity.  This is understandable – BPO is now more sophisticated with the automation revolution of RPA (Robotic Process Automation) and greater emphasis on quality, rather than quantity, through the paradigm of KPO (Knowledge Process Outsourcing).

Specific insight into the impact of RPA on the jobs market in India can be seen in recent reports from HfS Research, a US-based business advisory firm.  HfS Research estimates that automation is likely to lead to a 14 per cent decline in India’s IT workforce with 4,80,000 IT jobs at risk by 2021.  As RPA becomes more sophisticated, it is likely to consume an increasing percentage of work outsourced to individuals.

It is estimated that there will be a 14% decline in India’s IT workforce, with 4,80,000 IT jobs at risk by 2021

One region that has experienced a recent decline in work from BPO is the Philippines – with a widely reported 34% fall in investment pledges, from the IT_BPM industry, in the second quarter of 2017.

Offshoring is understandably viewed more cautiously these days, with the increasing awareness of risks from environmental factors – from storms, floods and the like to political and religious unrest.  But what is lost from offshoring is more than readily taken up by the growth in onshore BPO options.

 

The benefits of RPA as a BPO option

Business Process Outsourcing definition

We address the topic of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in more detail in a separate post, but it’s worth mentioning here how RPA is gathering momentum quickly as it becomes easier to emulate, and improve on, rules-based behaviours via robots running either as part of an in-house system, or via connection to an as-a-Service offering from an expert partner.

With the advent of more sophisticated solutions, via RPA or KPO for example, businesses increasingly consider BPO as a method of improving service, rather than simply reducing costs.

If an outsourced service can reduce errors, provide better analytical insights and complete tasks more quickly, this presents a competitive advantage.

 

BPO to provide insight and advantage

In an increasingly digital world, business decisions are fuelled by analytical insights best gained from electronic systems.  When processes are held in-house on legacy systems, it’s often hard to drill down into performance specifics, or extract broad analytical insights.  BPO service providers are aware of this and strive to deliver valuable, actionable, insights back to the business via a range of analytical tools.

 

Traditional BPO vs. as-a-Service model outsourcing

According to the Information Service Group’s (ISG) latest annual report, the annual contract value (ACV) for traditional IT and business process outsourcing, globally, declined by about 25% – whilst the as-a-Service increased by 38% in the same quarter (Q4 2016).  Within the as-a-Service model, Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) is seen to outpace Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) by 3 to 1 for ACV.

“The market migration from traditional sourcing to as-as-service sourcing is gaining momentum, as enterprises increasingly embrace the digital opportunity to transform their operations, enhance their engagement with customers and better leverage their connections with suppliers,” said John Keppel, partner and president of ISG.

Whilst globally the trend is towards as-a-Service, this is driven primarily by the dominance of this outsourcing type in the Americas and Asia Pacific regions.  EMEA is seeing an acceleration in growth of as-a-Service outsourcing, but traditional sourcing still constitutes the majority of the ACV for this region.  Rate of change, acceleration of growth, in as-a-Service outsourcing is the key metric to watch though as this market evolves to become more digital.

The annual contract value for traditional IT and BPO declined by 25%

The Global ISG Index indicators for 2017-2018 imply an expected growth of as-a-Service by 20%, leaving traditional sourcing behind with an expected growth of just 2.5%.  The future appears to be increasingly digital.

 

Capitalising on the benefits of as-a-Service outsourcing with a human edge

Expert partners, such as Netsend, present businesses with the opportunity to capitalise on the benefits of as-a-Service outsourcing, and Robotic Process Automation, through a solution that is refined and implemented by people who deeply understand the business challenges this will answer.

With any new paradigm, there will be those too eager to jump straight to the end goal, perhaps trying to develop or deploy as-a-Service or RPA solutions directly themselves and causing more harm than good.  Bringing in an expert partner to assess the business needs, refine and deploy the ideal solution, and even maintain this over time, will prove more efficient and remove the risk of incorrect deployment.

Talk to us today to hear more about how we support global businesses through the outsourcing of their document distribution and e-billing needs.

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What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)? http://netsend.com/blog/what-is-robotic-process-automation/ Mon, 20 Nov 2017 16:28:23 +0000 http://netsend.com/?p=3349 A popular question this year has been “What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?” and more specifically “What are the benefits of RPA for my business”. The robots are coming.  It’s a fact that businesses need to embrace.  In a typical office, so many day-to-day tasks are completed by following repetitive behaviours, adhering to a strict […]

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A popular question this year has been “What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?” and more specifically “What are the benefits of RPA for my business”.

The robots are coming.  It’s a fact that businesses need to embrace.  In a typical office, so many day-to-day tasks are completed by following repetitive behaviours, adhering to a strict set of rules.  How many of us recall the mind-numbing copying, or transcribing, of data from one place to another in our early careers?  As you knew at the time – humans are more valuable than this.

Robotic Process Automation enables businesses to free up staff to focus on valuable problem solving, creative challenges and direct customer or partner interactions – areas where automation simply isn’t possible (at least in this day and age).  Through RPA, tasks that involve repetitive, rules-based, behaviours can be assigned to a robot (typically a software-driven system, rather than an archetypal mechanical robot).

Research by McKinsey & Company indicates that the automation market is likely to be the third most impactful change for businesses over the remainder of the decade (just behind the growth in mobile internet and wireless technologies).  In another report, McKinsey and Company suggest that up to “45 percent of the activities individuals are paid to perform can be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies”.  It’s time to consider not whether RPA is relevant to your business, but how it is relevant.

45 percent of the activities individuals are paid to perform can be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies

What are the benefits of Robotic Process Automation?

    • Accuracy – once programmed, an RPA ‘bot’ will not deviate from the task, copy-pasting is 100% accurate, information is never miskeyed and quality never wanes due to fatigue.
    • Scalability – bringing more bots online to tackle greater volumes of the same process is a simple task of cloning the original bot, no training required. Modifying a bot’s programme to extend their remit can be just a tweak to a few lines of code.  RPA enables businesses to rapidly scale up, or down, without the need to train, hire or restructure employees to meet changing demands.
    • Speed – working at the speed of a machine, bots can process vast amounts of information, far more quickly than a human. With the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning, RPA paves the way for self-refining processes that improve in efficiency and speed as time goes on.
    • Security – when programmed correctly, RPA presents a reliably secure workforce. Gone are the worries of accidental data leakage, malicious acts, or vulnerabilities from the exploitation of human weaknesses.  Security becomes a matter of encryption of data transfers, hardening of firewalls and something that can be outsourced to an RPA partner, rather than an HR concern.
    • Visibility – every action a bot takes can be recorded for review and auditing at a later date. Total transparency and visibility of all activity is achieved through RPA.

How to implement Robotic Process Automation

There are various ways to bring RPA into your business, typically it is advisable to partner with a specialist for automating whichever aspect of your business you wish to focus on.  Some solutions are driven by code level commands, and some use a full abstraction layer that accesses the user interface of your business systems as a human would.

The initial set up of Robotic Process Automation is key to its success.  Taking the time to ensure all eventualities are covered and any outliers or extremes can trigger a manual checking request will save time later.  Where data is transferred between systems, ensure this cannot be intercepted and establish a protocol for handling breaks in communication.

RPA only works when processes can either be digitised, or are inherently electronic in nature.  In addition to this, automation needs to follow rules.  Without complex AI, it’s hard for RPA solutions to handle tasks which require evaluation or judgement of any kind.  RPA is best suited to repetitive, rules-based, tasks, leaving the decision-making process for humans.

Robotic Process Automation and Accounts Receivable

Accounts Receivable is an area of business ideally suited to Robotic Process Automation.  Many businesses underutilise their AR teams, losing time to repetitive tasks that can be automated via RPA.  Automating repetitive tasks frees up AR teams to focus on the areas that require human expertise, such as dealing with anomalies and answering questions.

At Netsend, we have been helping global businesses automate AR processes for over a decade.  We can help you pinpoint the most repetitive AR processes, establish secure and dependable automation routines for these and roll out automation in a scalable manner – even across multiple countries, business units or brands within a parent company.

Our approach requires minimal time and technical support from your IT department, enabling fast deployment based on proven approaches refined over years of experience.  Netsend integrates with existing Accounts Receivable infrastructure directly – removing the need to export or copy data from one system to another.

With Netsend, the output of the automated processes needn’t be restricted to electronic format communications.  If certain customers still require paper-based communications, Netsend offers a centralised print and postage service to deliver each communication at a fraction of your existing cost.

Talk to us today to find out how we do this for businesses all over the world.

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Improve Accounts Receivable Performance through Better Communications http://netsend.com/blog/improve-ar-performance-better-communication/ Mon, 23 Oct 2017 09:49:18 +0000 http://netsend.com/?p=3273 The post Improve Accounts Receivable Performance through Better Communications appeared first on Netsend.

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Improving Accounts Receivable performance can provide a valuable impact on cash flow for any business.  This improvement can be thought of as spanning a number of focus areas, these are:

  • Communications – types, frequency and content
  • Production – systems and tools to create communications
  • Management – reporting, proactivity and escalation processes

We look at each of these here and outline recommendations to review your existing processes and improve AR performance.


Communication tactics to improve AR performance

The communications process in AR is all about striking the right balance between chasing prompt payments and maintaining good customer relations.  Invoices are sent with plenty of notice, and ideally customers pay promptly with no further reminder.

In reality, many customers require a little extra nudge.  Often this takes the form of a statement – outlining invoice details and reminding of the need to pay.  Or a dunning letter, which is typically sent after progressing from polite reminders and direct contact to the need for a firmer demand for payment.

Conventional wisdom is that if an invoice is not paid within an acceptable period, a statement is sent, followed by direct contact and then, if needed, a dunning letter.  However, it is valuable to identify whether a customer has actually seen the initial invoice, or statement, before sending the next communication.  One of the most common excuses for late payment is ‘not having seen the invoice’, but tools exist to reduce the risk of this now (see the later section on managing AR communications).

In the world of digital communications, many businesses are moving over to electronic invoicing as part of an e-billing intuitive.  This presents many benefits to the business, such as improvements in efficiency and accuracy, but increasingly electronic formats are preferred by customers too.

Consider your customers’ needs, do they have automated Accounts Payable systems, or require invoice submittal to a Value Added Network (VAN)?  In such cases, connectors exist to mesh invoicing systems from AR with their customer-side counterparts.  In some cases, customers will prefer to receive communications by email, or even SMS.

There have been countless studies showing how communication preferences have changed from Generation X, to Y, to Z.  Think carefully about your customer demographics, should you be targeting younger customers with SMS, WhatsApp messages, or other channels?  Where is the sweet spot for email communications, and when do you need to fall-back on sending printed letters by post?


Improve AR performance through better production

Once you have mapped out your customer communication needs and preferences, you need the tools to effectively deliver these communications.  Leading e-billing systems, such as Netsend, offer the ability to send communications in a variety of media types, spanning print and post, to email, to EDI and direct integration with AP systems and VANs.

Where possible, invoicing and other AR communications should be automated – flowing directly from accounting systems to reduce the risk of human error in the copy-paste of information.  Outsourcing to an e-billing specialist, such as Netsend, enables the AR team to deliver accurate communications quickly and efficiently, allowing them to focus on more profitable tasks, such as chasing late payments and dealing with anomalies.

In the era of electronic communications, it makes sense to allow customers access to their invoicing archives – through an online portal.  The use of such a portal can also provide a location for customers to self-service requests for reprints, or even pay invoices online with a card.


Managing AR communications to improve performance

Where modern, electronic, solutions are deployed for AR communications, there is an opportunity to use these to record engagement levels.  Forever removing the risk of customers claiming not to have received, or read, an invoice or similar communication.  Through the advent of such tracking, reports can be generated on a regular basis to understand who has indicated intent to pay, or paid, and who hasn’t even engaged to any degree.

Armed with the insight into who is engaging, or expressing intent to pay, AR teams can more effectively organise proactive communications to remind customers to pay, or identify who they need to pick up the phone to.

Given the linear, procedural, nature of AR communications, it’s not hard to see how many steps in the escalation process can be automated – further improving AR efficiency and performance.


Conclusion

A carefully balanced approach is required to ensure the best communications, production and management practices are in place and aligned to deliver optimal AR performance.  Working with an expert partner to outsource aspects of AR processes, such as electronic invoicing and associated communications is one of the most effective ways to achieve this.

 

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How to Solve the Sales vs. Credit Control Battle http://netsend.com/blog/credit-control/how-to-solve-the-sales-vs-credit-control-battle/ Fri, 13 Oct 2017 15:56:44 +0000 http://netsend.com/?p=3262 The post How to Solve the Sales vs. Credit Control Battle appeared first on Netsend.

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It never ceases to amaze me that many squabbling factions can still comprise a successful business.  The case of sales vs. credit control is a classic example of this.

From the perspective of a sales person in a business whose main customers are credit controller departments, I’m privy to a unique perspective on this age-old divide.  In the most successful businesses, these two departments work seamlessly together – two equally valuable sides of the same process.  In businesses where this isn’t the case, there’s room for growth and improvement in efficiency when these departments are drawn together to work more effectively.


The Sales Perspective

As sales teams strive hard to win deals, it’s understandable that frustration is felt if credit control refuse to extend credit to close a deal.  Those who have worked in, or close to, a sales department may have heard inaccurate, but popular, reference to credit control as ‘the risk department’ or ‘order prevention’ at times.

There are many sales people out there who will go to great lengths to avoid involving credit control in the sales process – fearing they will shut down a promising deal, for undue worry about their ability to pay.

But stop and think about it.  If a deal is genuinely at risk of going unpaid, is it worth ‘closing’ anyway?  Credit control have no negative agenda, they are simply watchful to ensure credit isn’t overextended and cashflow is reliable.  So, let’s understand their side of the story…

The Credit Control Perspective 

Where credit control can be accused of being too cautious, the inverse can be true of their view of sales.  Credit control departments have to pick up the fallout from sales committing to working with unreliable clients who may struggle to meet invoice payment deadlines.

There’s a popular saying in credit control departments – “It’s not sold until it’s paid for”.  It’s no good winning the biggest deal, if the money can’t be brought in.  Businesses rely on cashflow, and it’s up to the credit control department to ensure that the money is brought in.

Understandably, it only takes a few bad experiences before credit control departments can be heard referring to members of the sales team as ‘sharks’ who will ‘sign anyone up, regardless of the risk’.

We should pause for thought here too, as how many sales people are educated on risk factors for payment, or encouraged to work collaboratively with credit control to ensure deals are landed that stand the best chance of success?

Reconciliation for Success

Reconciling sales and credit control, through better mutual understanding, and communication, is key to addressing any divide.  It’s common for businesses to focus on improving performance by training and educating within the narrow band of each employee’s designated role.  But great value can be achieved by interdepartmental training – particularly between complimentary departments such as sales and credit control.

Encouraging a tighter working relationship between sales and credit control will ultimately enable the business to chase more profitable business

Consider how much less time would be wasted if sales teams filtered out high-risk opportunities, which would be shut down by credit control anyway, before they progressed things too far.  Encouraging a tighter working relationship between sales and credit control will ultimately enable the business to chase more profitable business, more quickly, and ensure greater reliability in cashflow.  Benefits could also be measured in improvements in DSO or delinquency.

Taking the concept of sales and credit control collaboration further still, credit control could proactively furnish sales teams with information about any existing clients who have an uplift in credit-rating.  This would imply that they are growing, or at least present a lower credit risk.  Sales teams could use this insight to drive higher sales volumes with these clients.

Better Tools, Better Working

Tools such as credit information resources can provide inter-departmental value, as mentioned above, but what other tools exist to improve this working relationship?  At Netsend, we find that some of our clients rely on Netsend to provide deep insight into what is being sold where.  In some cases, detail of specific product sales, in specific locations, is only apparent from invoicing records.  Beyond this, our clients use Netsend to identify late-payers and address these, as well as calculating credit risks based in insight not available to credit information resources.

Sales teams can also benefit from knowing when a customer is facing payment reminders, so they can either hold back from trying to grow a troubled account, or even assist in the communication process to bring the cash in more quickly.

Ultimately sales and credit control are two sides of the same process, and both rely on the overall health of the business (i.e. cashflow) being optimal to ensure ongoing security and growth within their departments.  Working more closely together, and sharing data from appropriate tools and services, leads to a more efficient business and better working environment for all.

 

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