Setting goals for the finance team — such as improving efficiency and reducing costs — helps drive process improvements across the organization, but it is important to review these goals regularly to ensure they continue to serve the overall strategy of the business. Evolving best practices and new technologies can make it necessary to revisit outdated processes and shift the focus on value. In his latest article, Brian Shannon discusses five ways that companies can drive meaningful process improvements in their finance departments.
- Improve Speed and Accuracy of Information Capture
- Use Intelligent Automation
- Focus on User-Centered Design
- Move to the Cloud Where it Makes Sense
- Value is More Important that Cost
Read Brian’s article to find out how to organizations can ensure that they are using current best practices and new technology to drive meaningful process improvements that deliver benefits throughout the finance department and beyond.
SAPinsider, July/August/September 2016. For companies looking to achieve the next step in their digital vision, the cloud-based smart applications that are available on SAP HANA Cloud Platform provide an ideal solution. These applications can be quickly rolled out to users even before a full business suite migration to SAP HANA, which means they can be strategically used to add new capabilities and address key business pain points in existing SAP environments. Because the applications run on a cloud-based, in-memory platform, users can benefit immediately from the applications’ modern user interface, powerful computing capabilities, and seamless integration with on-premise systems. They are faster and are easier to use, deploy, and maintain than legacy solutions.
Great-West Financial needed a mobile solution to improve the timeliness of its invoice approvals so its users could approve invoices whether they were in the office or out in the field. Yet, the regulated financial services company didn’t want to sacrifice centralized transparency or control.
This webcast demonstrates how in only a few weeks, Great-West Financial was able to deploy the Dolphin Mobile Approval app powered by Innovapptive to:
- Approve and code Non-PO Invoice.
- Accelerate the resolution of blocked or held invoices.
- View invoice images as an attachment.
- Approve other SAP transactions from a single mobile app.
- Activate same app with 40+ additional line of business approvals.
Please fill out the form to access the webcast:
Advanced Approvals Add On for Accounts Payable
Dolphin Advanced Approvals is an add on solution for Dolphin Process Tracking System for Accounts Payable. The application enables business users to approve or manage exceptions on vendor invoices using the web or a mobile device. Listen to Dolphin CTO Vishal Awasthi explain the benefits of using this application and watch a demo to see how it can:
- Reduce costs
- Improve efficiencies
- Reduce cycle time for processing invoices
Dolphin is an AppDev partner with SAP. We help our customers improve the performance of their business processes by giving them the solution that optimizes and automates them. At the same time, we also help them improve the performance of their SAP systems through data volume management.
The solution that we are going to show here is called the Dolphin’s Advanced Approval for Accounts Payable. It runs on the HANA Cloud Platform. This solution is essentially an extension app for our on premise accounts payable application (PTS-AP). The app allows us to extend the reach of our on-premise solution to the new user base.
In this demo we’re gonna see the example of Dolphin’s advanced invoice approval application that runs on the HANA cloud platform.
Here we’re going to take the example of the invoice that has just been sent by the accounts payable team for approval and the verification of the accounting information.
To take an action the user can actually click on this web approval link which you can see down here. That link essentially points to the HANA cloud platform base UI5 app. When they click on that app link using the single sign-on option, they might be taken to a screen like this here.
I can see the image side-by-side with the invoice information, which is shown here on the left-hand side.
We can see information like the PO number, the invoice number, the date, the amount, the reason code, why the invoice was sent
This application isn’t just limited to the invoice approvals, so it can also be used to resolve the exceptions such as the price mis-match between the PO and the invoice.
I can scroll down and I can see the notes from the accounts payable team in case they have some special notes about this invoice.
I can see where the invoice is going next.
I can see the invoice history as to what has happened to this invoice from the point it came into the accounts payable team.
I can upload any extra attachments.
I can put some notes of my own.
But finally, I can simply approve or reject the invoice using these two options.
When that happens, at that point, I can say accept and now basically the invoice will be approved. This actually will be sending a real time approval to the Dolphin add on solution (PTS-AP) that runs on the ECC which will then allow the accounts payable [team] to post this invoice or if you have the rules configured to auto post the invoice, the invoice will actually post automatically in the finance module in SAP.
We offer deep integration to SAP and at the same time we bring deep domain knowledge in accounts payable.
Our solution really plugs into SAP and now with the HANA cloud extension app we can bring the innovation at a much faster pace in the cloud and also extend the reach of our on-premise application (PTS-AP).
We chose to go with the HANA cloud platform because it really does offer us seamless access to the on premise components of the Dolphin solution. It allows us to give our customer the options for the user authentication and it really makes it very easy for us to manage the deployment and the ongoing maintenance of the solution.
Fast Invoice Approvals & More Discounts with a Modern and Responsive App on the SAP HANA Cloud Platform
Want to capture early payment discounts from vendors and have better control over cash flow? Dolphin Advanced Approvals enables companies to quickly and easily approve Accounts Payable invoices and manage exceptions anytime, anywhere using any device. Available on the HANA Cloud Platform, Dolphin Advanced Approvals is a modern and responsive web-based application that is both easy to deploy and use.
In this Webcast:
- Learn how enabling users to approve invoices quickly ensures the organization can capture more vendor discounts and lower invoice processing costs
- Discover how extending SAP applications with invoice approval solutions can improve transparency and control over organizational spending and cash flow
- Leverage the power of the SAP HANA Cloud Platform to quickly transform outdated, manual processes with minimal administration and support effort
- Increase user adoption with modern, responsive solutions that provide a consistent user experience on a desktop or mobile device
Please fill out the form to access the webcast:
The top priority among the many responsibilities of the CFO is managing the organization’s cash flow, costs, and financial risk. To accomplish this, processes must be both flexible and scalable in order to respond to immediate business challenges and opportunities as well as to future scenarios — such as potential acquisitions, divestitures, and expansions into new territories — with minimal disruption to operations. Processes must also be user friendly and closely aligned with the overall business roadmap to ensure buy-in across all departments. Read more
This infographic demonstrates how the University of Toronto Facilities and Services Department was able to have savings add up quickly by implementing a centralized and standardized Accounts Payable solution for SAP systems. This award-winning solution has saved the team hundreds of hours and thousands of pages of paper as were able to increase the percentage of electronic invoices and enable online approvals for more than 100 staff located across Canada’s largest university that is like city-within-a-city.
Cooper Industries, a leading worldwide manufacturer of electrical products, tools and hardware had automated its invoice capture and processing with Dolphin Process Tracking System for Accounts Payable. However, the high volume of invoices the company meant that the cost per invoice was still high as the company needed to to process the mail and capture the hard copy invoice. It became clear that the company needed to look at increasing the percentage of electronic invoices received to further drive down processing costs and meet their operational goals.
Dolphin recommended our e-Invoicing solution to eliminate all paper and manual handling. Invoices wouldn’t need to be validated, scanned, indexed, or distributed. Instead, vendors would be able to transmit the same information directly to the company over the Internet. The vendor invoice data and the image would be imported into SAP, starting the Dolphin Process Tracking system workflows, significantly reducing the time and effort required to process each invoice.
A pilot was implemented first to standardize the process and integrate e-Invoicing with the exiting organizational structures. Involving the Procurement team at this time was essential to encouraging vendors to switch to eInvoicing. The Vendor ‘on-boarding’ proved to be fast and very efficient and the project was brought in on budget.
Since implementing the solution, the company has realized the following results:
- Reduced processing costs by 72%
- Decreased processing time by 8 days
- Offer vendors a variety of input methods, including email or virtual printing
- Processes have become less complex
- Fewer errors and exceptions
- One-day processing earned vendor early pay cash discounts
- Better audit trails
After seeing these results, the company also implemented a successful intra-company e-Invoicing project to simplify invoicing between business units.
Simplify Expense Reporting, Comply with Expense Policies, and Improve Transparency
Submitting expense reports can be time-consuming and frustrating for employees and a challenge for accounting departments. Dolphin’s Travel and Expense Reporting, which is available as an option with the Dolphin Process Tracking System, makes it easier for employees to enter expenses while on the road, using web or mobile clients.
Simplify Expense Reporting
- Capture and attach receipts from a mobile device.
- Auto-populate expense items from corporate credit card statements or enter details manually.
- Ensure expenses comply with corporate categories, properly recover VAT and other input tax.
- Enter line or header notes to facilitate processing.
Enforce Expense Policies & Procedures
- Automatically route expenses to approvers based on SAP hierarchies and approval authority levels.
- Flexibly approve expenses in SAP, by email, on the Web, or using a mobile device.
- Set up substitute approvers or forward to other approvers to ensure quick, consistent processing.
- Automatic reminders and escalation if expenses are not filed or approved in a timely manner.
Improve Transparency & Auditability
- Track expenses in real-time by expense type, user, or date, either online or using configurable reports and dashboards.
- Analyze expense reporting patterns to prevent rogue spending and fraud.
- View supporting documents instantly, from a secure,low cost, SAP-compliant content repository.
- Maintain a comprehensive trail of expense approvals to support audit inquiries.
Hear Gretchen Kincade of GE Water & Process Technologies speak about how the company created a global center of excellence for controlling accounts payable activities across a broad multi-national organization to ensure maximum performance, achieve superior match rates, and capture all available discounts.
By integrating the Dolphin Accounts Payable solution with Ariba, GE Water has been able to gain better cost control over the procure-to-pay process with:
- Increased visibility and global metrics enables centralized oversight of an off shored Accounts Payable process
- An optimized the entire Buy-to-Pay process to meet and surpass corporate document retention and compliance standards
- Coordinated large multi-national project with a change leadership strategy to put the right pieces in place for success
Honeywell International, a Fortune 100 diversified technology and manufacturing leader, was looking to improve its AP efficiency with a solution that could be used across its six global business groups. Everyone, everywhere should be able to use the same process and the same solution, so the company could more accurately track and report on invoice status. The global and diversified nature of the business required a solution that was also flexible enough to allow the company to extend its common core process to accommodate local business needs and regulations where necessary.
The company initially rolled out Dolphin Process Tracking System for Accounts Payable in 2006, at the same time the company was rolling out its global SAP system. At this time, the company used the Dolphin solution to provide a centralized view of scanned invoices received from across the company. Gradually, over time the company expanded the functionality of the solution in phases to include capabilities such as:
- Increased electronic invoice capture, including OCR (paper, fax, or email) and EDI (large vendors or inter-company transactions)
- Automated the processing and coding of non-PO vendor invoices (i.e., Utilities, Rent)
- Configurable business rules to increase ability to auto-post invoices
- Tight integration with SAP OM to support billing documentation requirements
- Flexible document search and batch output to support internal and external inquiries and local document storage requirements
Separate phases and functionality were rolled out in 2010, 2011, and 2013.
Now that the company is using one common process and one common solution for Accounts Payable, it has achieved many benefits including:
- 40% auto-posting of invoices
- Real-time view of invoices across all six business units
- Ability to increase volume without increasing headcount
- Fewer keystrokes required for invoice entry and validation
- Faster processing of Non-PO invoices, such as utility invoices
- Ability to support international documentation requirements quickly and easily
- Compliant with EU payment directive and other regulations
- Multiple shared service centers running on the same IT infrastructure
The largest county in Florida wanted to centralize and automate the processing of more than 7,000 invoices a month. The county had implemented SAP ERP more than a decade before and used the software for many of its financial processes; however, the AP department still relied on a paper-based invoicing process. Vendors mailed invoices to the county’s various offices and departments, and these invoices were then routed for manual approval. For an organization that manages massive projects like constructing roads and buildings, accurate financial planning is crucial. Also, Florida Statute requires the Collier County Clerk of Courts to audit these documents to ensure legality of payment, which can increase the timeline for processing invoices.
“We had manual processes in place for receiving and processing invoices,” says Jane McDonald, Senior Project Manager for Collier County Clerk of Courts. “Workers used email and interoffice mail and didn’t always send the invoices to the AP department right away. We didn’t have visibility into an invoice’s status until it was approved and entered into SAP ERP at the very end of the process. Because our projects sometimes continue for months, workers often had to search through file cabinets (files are kept on site for two years) or warehouse archives to locate older invoices.”
The Clerk of Courts management information system (MIS) and AP organizations knew it was time to research new technology that would leverage the SAP workflow. A cross-functional team was assembled and began to evaluate how much work would be required to build and maintain a custom solution from scratch. At the same time, they also considered third-party vendors that might be able to provide an appropriate solution. Key capabilities the county identified include:
- Ability to integrate the chosen technology with the organization’s current SAP environment
- Digital storage of invoices
- Easy extraction of information for auditors
The county’s vendor selection team chose Dolphin’s Process Tracking System for Accounts Payable (PTS-AP), which went live in August 2012. The project involved instituting a new accounts payable workflow aimed at centralizing the AP process countywide. Key feature are:
- Automated invoice capture, with scan and capture
- Powerful InfoCenter to facilitate invoice processing and troubleshooting by the AP staff
- Automated workflows to route invoices to the appropriate department that, in turn, can route it for additional approval(s).
- Improved exception handling for If an invoice is rejected during that process, it can be easily returned to the vendor with a rejection code along, with any backup documentation to explain why it could not be paid.
“All of these steps in the invoice approval process have a predefined status within the system’s workflow,” explains Frank Bodino, Senior Systems Analyst at Collier County Clerk of Courts. “In this new process, all of the steps are visible. We know where each invoice is at all times, we know who looked at it, what notes they put down, and when it was approved. If the invoice was rejected, we know why.”
After the invoice is approved, the goods receipt is matched, and the AP audit is performed, then the invoice can be posted to SAP ERP. “All the information we need to post the invoice is there, so there’s no dual-keying or duplication of data,” McDonald says. “We just hit the button, and the invoice information posts.”
Improving the AP business process required changes across the entire organization. For example, since invoices now come into the AP department as the first step of the new process, the various departments within county government had to adapt to a new workflow where AP clerks scan the invoices.
While the new workflow for invoice processing is much more streamlined and intuitive, it did require training users on the new system and getting their buy-in on the updated processes. “Just like with any training, some people caught on very quickly and others struggled with the new processes,” says McDonald. “The project team created training documents to help explain the process in a way users could understand.”
According to McDonald, the new solution has delivered all of the benefits advertised and more.
- Easy access to and cost effective storage of invoice documents
- Simplified approvals process
- Ability to track how many invoices are processed in a given period is helping the organization measure its own performance.
- Improved visibility both internally and externally.
“Now, we can provide our external auditors with invoice information, purchase order (PO) information, and backup documentation more easily than we could with the paper-based system,” says McDonald. “In the past, we had to go back to the paper files and dig out the invoice which was time consuming. A significant time and cost savings benefit was our ability to search by check number or the clearing document and instantaneously receive the information associated with the invoice.”
The improved metrics have also pinpointed any delays in the AP process. For example, the new process showed that many invoices are rejected because vendors don’t provide PO numbers on their invoices. Without the PO number, AP clerks were forced to try and find out which department and what purchase generated the invoice. By requesting that vendors provide the PO number on their invoices, the AP process has been streamlined even further.
According to Bodino, the county has become more efficient thanks to the new solution. “We have been able to fix and change processes that, while they worked, were cumbersome at best,” he says.
Dolphin’s SAP-certified solutions for Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Sales and Distribution, and Finance and Administration ensure that you get the innovative capabilities you need. Dolphin solutions let your business adapt quickly to new requirements and continue to benefit from running the world’s leading enterprise applications – SAP.
Tennant Company, a world-leading manufacturer of indoor and outdoor environmental cleaning solutions and specialty floor coatings, wanted to standardize its global accounts payable processes to provide the company with greater control and transparency into invoice processing in its three shared services centers in Minneapolis, Uden, and Shanghai.
The company, which processes up to 30,000 invoices each month, wanted a solution that would enable it to:
- Increase the efficiency, accuracy, and timeliness of invoice processing
- Enable consistent reporting on invoice status, productivity and cash flow, globally
- Enforce corporate controls and comply with local regulations
The solution had to be configurable and flexible enough to accommodate the statutory, regulatory, and cultural issues faced in different countries. To reduce complexity and minimize change management, Tennant wanted a single, centralized solution that could support the shared services centers with minimal impact on critical business and IT resources and would be easy to upgrade and extend in the future.
Tennant chose the Dolphin Process Tracking System for Accounts Payable (PTS-AP) solution, so it could leverage its existing investment in SAP applications. After reviewing the way Tennant processed invoices in all three shared services centers, Dolphin delivered a solution that included:
- Automated capture of highly unstructured invoice information using Optical Character Recognition (OCR).
- Intelligent validation of invoices against Vendor and PO information.
- Configurable business rules to determine how to route invoices for tax approval or exception handling.
- SAP workflows to automate invoice processing and integrate with Procurement, Finance, and Treasury department processes.
Centralized storage of invoice images for global access
- Real-time analytics and reporting on invoice processing metrics for productivity, cash flow, and status tracking.
Tennant-specific business rules were developed to improve the accuracy of tax determination and to manage European consignment transactions.
The solution was rolled out using a phased approach and achieved a high return on investment, paying for itself in less than one year. Key results include:
- 100% of invoices are captured using OCR, 60% of invoices are submitted electronically for direct OCR capture.
- Greater transparency into invoice status, productivity, and working capital across all services centers.
- Improved compliance with diverse fiscal and legal requirements in the US, Europe, and Asia Pacific.
- Easier support for services centers. Tennant was able to roll out the final phase of the solution to the Shanghai services center without consulting assistance.
The company plans to increase automation by moving from OCR to eInvoicing, and adding support for other invoice capture methods such as EDI and ERS.
The PTS Launchpad provides users with a graphical dashboard that acts as a centralized reporting hub for reporting on Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Sales and Distribution and Finance and Administration processes in SAP systems. Users can monitor business processes from start to finish with the vast library of reports and key performance indicators that are available out-of-the-box with the Dolphin Process Tracking System. The Launchpad enables users to view any Dolphin, SAP, or custom report; group reports by categories; and save personalized report variants so they always have access to the information they need.
Paytech Magazine, February 2015
The Heraclitus axiom, “change is constant,” is an absolute truth for businesses today. Change is important because, without it, businesses are at risk of serving customer needs with antiquated and inefficient approaches and technologies, losing an important competitive edge. One should look no further than organizations such as Blockbuster and Kodak as examples. These former titans are now nothing more than a memory of times gone by, when movies meant videotape and photography meant film.
Ushering in meaningful, institutional change is difficult. John Kotter, the well-known leadership scholar, states that 70% of all major change efforts in organizations fail. The primary reason, he says, is that organizations often don’t take the holistic approach necessary to see change through to the final results. Failed projects often lack vision, leadership, and engagement — all key traits of an effective change management approach that begins in the highest echelons of an organization.
Despite the difficulty of implementing change, high performance finance departments must be in a constant state of change. They must be fast and flexible, adapting to evolving economic and environmental conditions, to strategically keep cash flowing into and out of the organization. Optimizing financial processes such as near-cash processes like accounts payable and accounts receivable can help companies make more agile decisions and grow the bottom line. But, these areas are often ineffective, slow to make and collect payments.
Stuck in the mindset that “we’ve always done it this way,” implementing change can be especially challenging. However, an effective change management strategy—beginning, according to Kotter, with an engaged leader such as the CFO—will dramatically improve the success of financial projects. What else must that leader do and why is change needed?
SAPinsider, Jan/Feb/March 2015
Strong financial leadership means more than cost-cutting and performance management. Customers and vendors are looking for reasons to do business with your company — they are differentiating the good companies from the great. To find out where your organization falls on the spectrum, start with this question: Are your finance processes optimized for internal and external business drivers?
Successful finance organizations distinguish themselves in many ways, but the most strategic and successful start by improving service levels and transforming the business to adapt to changing market conditions. Let’s look at three ways companies can adopt a relentless approach to business transformation that drives results.
To read the full article click here
SAPinsider, Oct/Nov/Dec 2014
Risk is unavoidable in your business decisions and operations, but it can be managed with the right technology and the right strategy. SAP solutions for governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) enable organizations to manage risk and comply with highly complex financial, compliance, and regulatory audits. However, rapidly evolving audit requirements are changing the way that organizations do business, and merely implementing GRC solutions is not enough. By putting a comprehensive risk management strategy in place now, organizations can protect themselves from future risks. A successful risk management strategy incorporates three essential elements: roles and responsibilities, policies and procedures, and technology.
Food Manufacturing, August 2014
Many food manufacturers struggle to keep profits high amid thinning margins and must continuously seek new and innovative ways to reduce costs. Companies across the spectrum of food manufacturing, whether it be a purveyor of customized ingredients for the food and beverage industry, a leading spice manufacturer, or a multi-national food and beverage company, have all found a recipe for success and profitability by optimizing their near-cash processes.
Follow the Money
Near-cash processes, such as Accounts Payable (AP) and Accounts Receivable (AR), are responsible for moving cash through the enterprise and provide a very direct way to control the flow of cash and drive greater profitability. While many manufacturers are quick to introduce modern manufacturing techniques and advanced distribution systems in a bid to stay competitive, they often overlook the fact that near-cash processes require innovation too. Unlike other changes in manufacturing that can be very resource intensive, simple improvements to near-cash processes can make an immediate impact on the bottom line.
Align Process Changes with Corporate Objectives
Successful process optimization projects starts by aligning any process changes with current corporate objectives. If reducing costs is a corporate goal, it is important to find ways to leverage existing infrastructure investments and build simple, sustainable processes. Making optimal use of your human resources is also important. When processes are truly optimized, human resources provide the skills and critical thinking that is needed to support continuous process improvement and larger organizational goals.
To read the full article on Food Manufacturing click here.
Unwire the enterprise and improve invoice approval time by 40% with Dolphin’s Mobile Approvals App. The Dolphin Mobile Approvals App pushes critical or time-sensitive procure-to-pay transactions directly to managers’ smartphones or tablets so they can approve items or manage exceptions, anytime and anywhere.
SAPinsider, April/May/June 2014
Are your back-office processes cumbersome, error-prone, and lacking in corporate-wide visibility?
Perhaps the fundamental issue is that you refer to them as “back office,” affixing what could be considered a derogatory label to a staff of valuable contributors. Using such seemingly unimportant labels, you are also likely neglecting a potential area for improvement that could help your operation significantly reduce cost infrastructures, improve cash flows, and mitigate the risks inherent in such processes.
Tim Hortons, a food and beverage company with iconic brand status in Canada wanted to streamline and automate the company’s Accounts Payable process. When the company was rolling out a new Procure-to-Pay process using SAP, the company took the opportunity to ‘optimize’ the AP function as well.
The solution needed to integrate seamlessly with the Procurement, Finance and Treasury processes and constituents, and address the following goals:
- Control: with optimized business processes that are centralized and automated
- Cycle Time and Efficiency: with more transactions processed correctly, the first time, in a timely manner
- Visibility: with real-time invoice tracking and metrics to measure processing efficiency
- Risk Mitigation: with standardized processes and greater control over all invoice types
The company implemented Dolphin’s Accounts Payable solution and has been running on it successfully for more than five years. The solution includes the following components:
- Dolphin Process Tracking System for Accounts Payable (PTS-AP) with intelligence capture
- Taulia Vendor Portal for Dynamic Discounting
- e-Invoicing (Transcepta) for select group of vendors
The high-impact solution has positively supported the overall Procure-to-Pay implementation and was the runner-up in the Huntington Innovation Award from the Institute of Financial Operations in 2012. Key benefits include:
- Improved invoice approval cycle time with web-based approvals
- Increased invoice volume by more than 25% without adding additional headcount
- Reduced time to resolve vendor queries from over 1 hour to minutes.
- Increased electronic invoice capture to 40%, most of which post automatically without any manual effort.
- Automated workflows that efficiently routes and tracks the invoice processing and exception handling
- Instant tracking of invoice status and access to supporting documents
For more information watch the Tim Hortons Webcast.
Business Finance, May 2012
Change is constant, and it’s critical that financial organizations adapt to meet the needs of current economic conditions. This article will discuss how to become a catalyst for change by reinventing key processes within your finance organization, including accounts payable, accounts receivable and general ledger activities. It will demonstrate how optimizing back office functions like accounts payable and accounts receivable can deliver real value to an organization, and provide insight into how to effectively drive this change.
Click here to read the full article on Business Finance Magazine.