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Stamp paid

Computerworld Singapore | June 18, 2009
Technology and accounts payable handling in Asia

Companies typically do not pay enough attention to cash, except in recessions. Current economic conditions have raised the importance of cash flow strategies like A/P transformation to the board level. As a result, many enterprises have both a priority and a solid opportunity to improve A/P and the related processes; however, they are not necessarily fully equipped to do so in a cost-effective timely manner.

This is where a new approach to process and document management, Persona-based BPM, can be effective. Unlike BPM solutions that focus on the way work moves through a process and on the people who build BPM systems, Persona-based BPM puts the focus first on the way work gets done and on empowering all three types of people critical to the success of BPM systems. These are: builders, the people who build them; participants, the people who use them; and managers, the people who manage them. By putting people first, Persona-based BPM can cut deployment time by 50 per cent and achieve a 40 per cent increase in productivity compared to other BPM solutions.

With BPM, companies can automate their paper-based, labour-intensive A/P processes. However, this "model-driven" approach is not sufficient, because it lets the model dictate how work gets done and treats users as an afterthought. Improving a process with speed alone can only help make the same mistakes faster; and forcing an unfamiliar, non-intuitive user interface on staff can hurt productivity more than it helps. Persona-based BPM solutions deliver both an improved process flow and an optimised user experience, delivering significant contribution to the bottom line.

To pay an invoice, for example, the A/P staff will have to involve many stakeholders. Because of this, opportunities for errors and delays are the norm. Invoices are often sent directly to department managers, where they may sit ignored on desks for days and weeks at a time. A/P does not know about the liability until it physically receives the invoice, which could be anywhere from just days before it's due or, in many cases, after its due date. In addition, the A/P department often loses complete control of any invoice that must be forwarded out of their department for approval. Further, A/P managers need to see process flows and trends. Ideally they should be able to link their organisational objectives with the business rules that drive their processes.

What is required, then, is a robust yet easy-to-use A/P solution that takes the process Participant, the Manager, and the IT design and support perspectives into account, and enables work to be effectively organised, prioritised, managed, and tracked.

Do you have any success stories to date that you can share with us today?

Well, the first adopters are already seeing results. Market leading companies like Ciba Vision and Lowe's use Persona-based BPM to improve accounts payable, eliminating errors that cause delays and unnecessary adjustments, such as goods being received for which no invoice has been generated, or vice versa. These companies avoid situations where the processor needs to track down the information, delaying the process and possibly missing time sensitive vendor discount terms.

As a result, these companies are experiencing key economic benefits, including increased "straight-through processing," so that processor staff and approvers can focus on more strategic value-added tasks and improved prioritisation of payables as well as tracking of organisational performance. Process steps are automated and all related documentation is consolidated, A/P staff can reduce processing time while simultaneously increasing volume. This can represent hundreds of thousands of dollars in discounts that might otherwise have been wasted.

Perhaps now is the time for you look at transforming your accounts payable. It could really "pay off" for the business.


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