Intersection of Technology and Humanity: A customer-focused tech company’s CTO balances what people need with what technology allows

Being the CTO of an enterprise information technology provider company implies that I have to be on a constant hunt for bleeding edge technologies or else risk obsolescence. While that is true and the reason we read technology publications, attend technology events and build flashy prototypes, we need to always remind ourselves that the end goal of all those cool artifacts helps a business user at an organization perform his/her functions more efficiently and at a lower cost. Tapping into the wisdom of this business user, who is at the intersection of technology and humanity, is key to the success of what we do. If we keep this simple notion in our thoughts, the result can be very rewarding. In this blog series I will provide a few examples where we drew inspirations for major improvements in our solutions, or new solutions, through customer collaboration. Case 1 – PWR (Pay Within Range) feature in Accounts Payable One of the hurdles in Accounts Payable automation is the stubbornly high rate of non-PO invoices. Despite various procurement initiatives to eliminate the non-PO invoice volume, it never goes away, and sometimes for valid reasons. Processing such invoices does increase the process lead time and reduces the potential for data entry reduction technologies such as OCR or e-Invoicing. Data entry reduction potential is hampered because a supplier does not know the coding structure (GL and cost allocation) of their ERP system. Therefore the data on the face of the invoice does not correspond to the posting. This means we can only automate the data entry of the header level data and not the line data. This increased data effort when combined with a need to manually route the non-PO invoices over a certain threshold for approval also means higher process lead times and potential impact on DPO (Days Payable Outstanding) and discounts. Some of this delay is inevitable; by not raising the PO you have simply transferred the time that would have been spent on the front end to the tail end of a P2P process. However manual coding and approver selection only add to the woes. After constantly dealing with this problem, we collaborated with key AP process users and admins from departments such as “facilities” that frequently use non-PO invoices to understand how they typically perform coding and some patterns seemed to emerge. It turns out, if we provide a flexible business rules framework in our AP solution that can use a combination of the invoice history in conjunction with the invoice header data along with some other elements on the face of invoice (the utility account number, for example), for a large number of such invoices we can automate, or at least suggest a coding structure that can significantly reduce the data entry. By adding some amount thresholds and approver assignment logic to this framework, we could also potentially auto-post or auto-route such pre-coded invoices to the departmental admins. After some quick prototyping and a pilot, we introduced this feature in our core solution and today, PWR, or “Pay within Range”, is a beloved feature that a lot of our customers cannot live without. This demonstrates how technology can be combined with the wisdom of a non-technical, and at times very tactical, business user to produce great results.  

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Intersection of Technology and Humanity: A customer-focused tech company’s CTO balances what people need with what technology allows

Being the CTO of an enterprise information technology provider company implies that I have to be on a constant hunt for bleeding edge technologies or else risk obsolescence. While that is true and the reason we read technology publications, attend technology events and build flashy prototypes, we need to always remind ourselves that the end goal of all those cool artifacts helps a business user at an organization perform his/her functions more efficiently and at a lower cost. Tapping into the wisdom of this business user, who is at the intersection of technology and humanity, is key to the success of what we do. If we keep this simple notion in our thoughts, the result can be very rewarding. In this blog series I will provide a few examples where we drew inspirations for major improvements in our solutions, or new solutions, through customer collaboration.

Case 1 – PWR (Pay Within Range) feature in Accounts Payable
One of the hurdles in Accounts Payable automation is the stubbornly high rate of non-PO invoices. Despite various procurement initiatives to eliminate the non-PO invoice volume, it never goes away, and sometimes for valid reasons. Processing such invoices does increase the process lead time and reduces the potential for data entry reduction technologies such as OCR or e-Invoicing. Data entry reduction potential is hampered because a supplier does not know the coding structure (GL and cost allocation) of their ERP system. Therefore the data on the face of the invoice does not correspond to the posting. This means we can only automate the data entry of the header level data and not the line data. This increased data effort when combined with a need to manually route the non-PO invoices over a certain threshold for approval also means higher process lead times and potential impact on DPO (Days Payable Outstanding) and discounts. Some of this delay is inevitable; by not raising the PO you have simply transferred the time that would have been spent on the front end to the tail end of a P2P process. However manual coding and approver selection only add to the woes.

After constantly dealing with this problem, we collaborated with key AP process users and admins from departments such as “facilities” that frequently use non-PO invoices to understand how they typically perform coding and some patterns seemed to emerge. It turns out, if we provide a flexible business rules framework in our AP solution that can use a combination of the invoice history in conjunction with the invoice header data along with some other elements on the face of invoice (the utility account number, for example), for a large number of such invoices we can automate, or at least suggest a coding structure that can significantly reduce the data entry. By adding some amount thresholds and approver assignment logic to this framework, we could also potentially auto-post or auto-route such pre-coded invoices to the departmental admins. After some quick prototyping and a pilot, we introduced this feature in our core solution and today, PWR, or “Pay within Range”, is a beloved feature that a lot of our customers cannot live without.

This demonstrates how technology can be combined with the wisdom of a non-technical, and at times very tactical, business user to produce great results.