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How to Communicate Without Saying a Word

This can be a difficult challenge in the world of Accounts Payable when working to post invoices accurately and quickly. Just accurately and quickly alone is a major task but when you add “quietly”…is it really possible?

Think of all the people involved…Accounts Payable Professionals, Approvers, Corporate Procurement, Field Procurement, Receiving, Contract Management, Master Data Management, Tax Professionals…just to name a few. There are a number of Vendors offering solutions to address the accurate and quick…although in many cases you have to decide…do you want it accurate or quick…one or the other but not both. Yet very few address the quietly issue. Why is this important? For invoices that are received and immediately posted without any human intervention due to issues such as problem resolution or approval, communication is not a critical factor. Yet when that 80/20 rule kicks in where 20% of your invoices result in 80% of the problems, the Accounts Payable Professional must reach out and communicate. They need to communicate with the individuals that have both the knowledge and security authorization to resolve / approve invoices as required by best practice separation of duties. As an example, in an ERP such as SAP this communication is often started by running a report such as MRBR to find invoices blocked for payment. Without a solution that includes “quietly” as a building block, the first communication triggers a barrage of activity including but not limited to emails, phone calls, entries into spreadsheets for follow up, follow up calls, making copies of invoices and pulling contracts.

Quiet Solution Example

So how do you add “quietly” to the process flow? You must examine the entire process flow from how you receive the invoice, how you capture the meta data at the header and line item level, how you determine if there is a problem and then who must be involved to resolve / approve. Equally important is anticipate what that person requires to complete the task…such as…access to invoice and related document images, history of others that have worked on the process including their comments, transactional data such as purchase order, goods receipt, prior postings to purchase order and options to resolution / approval.

One excellent example of a “quiet” solution is provided by SAP with their SAP Invoice Management and optional OCR.

Closing Thoughts on a Holistic View

One last thought…quiet extends to reporting also…you need to anticipate the need for information related to the invoice. While invoice payment status is certainly important you must also anticipate others will want to know trends such as invoices paid without problem and if a problem…what type of problem is most common. Yet a truly quiet process goes beyond the expected reporting…the invoice occurred because of a purchase…the purchase occurred due to a larger business process such as a building project and so on. You must anticipate that others must be able to see the invoice as part of the bigger picture. This bigger picture is ECM. You would expect that a large ERP would anticipate this more holistic requirement and SAP has also done that by providing an ECM solution through it partnership with Open Text that takes the invoice and quietly makes it available as part of the ECM big picture. This allows you to see for example all the invoices from one vendor on one project in one virtual view or to see all the invoices related to the project regardless of vendor. No longer is it required to communicate and ask the Accounts Payable Professional to accumulate all the related information and wait for a response…it is already waiting for you to access immediate and quietly.

So…Accurate…Quick…Quiet…yes it is possible!

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