Why shared services should be talking ECM at #SSOWeek

Woman and man discussing about business strategy

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications are the heart of accounts payable (AP) processes and operations. They serve as the systems of record for critical data like invoice and order information, general ledger tables, payment terms and policies, supplier information and other sensitive financial data no one wants to lose track of.

With a job like that, it’s no surprise that ERPs are the core technology solutions most organizations – especially large organizations – can’t live without. Finance and accounting departments continue to invest significant dollars, time and resources into maintaining and upgrading these systems.

Sadly, if the ERP is the heart, then the surrounding processes that feed information into those core systems are the clogged, atherosclerotic arteries putting the whole operation in jeopardy – and I’m not talking about the Alex Trebek kind.

What is… You are not getting the most out of your ERP investment?

Despite how important the ERP is to financial operations like AP, most systems are not fully optimized because the processes before and after data hits the ERP are manual, paper-based and disorganized. This includes steps like capturing and indexing invoice data into the ERP, validating that information, routing invoices to multiple people for approval and reporting on invoice status and cash requirements.

The inefficiencies created by staff manually keying in data and shuffling paper, emails and spreadsheets through channels no one can track or see are substantial. Not to mention the risks they expose your organization to when these messy processes leave you with delayed, incorrect or incomplete information in the ERP.

It’s even worse for shared services organizations

The challenges are even greater for AP teams operating within a regional or global shared services organization, which is why we’re so excited to join the conversation next week at the Shared Services and Outsourcing Week conference in Orlando, Florida. Booth #210!

In a shared services model, AP teams have to contend with multiple submission channels, currencies, tax regulations, languages and even multiple ERP systems, which are typically the result of mergers or acquisitions.

If organizations rely on manual, paper-based front- and back-end processes in this kind of environment, then it’s nearly impossible for staff to link to invoices, purchase orders and other related AP documents they need to make informed decisions and efficiently handle exceptions.

And forget about audits! Trying to consolidate information from multiple financial systems (which might even be linked to different databases or operating systems), while also trying to match it with supporting documentation is the time-consuming and error-prone specter of accounting nightmares.

Can it really be that bad?

Sadly, for many shared services AP teams, yes. For example:

  • One in five businesses surveyed by the Institute of Financial Operations said operating as part of a shared services organization is the biggest reason for increasing AP complexity
  • Nearly 40 percent of businesses operate multiple ERPs in one or multiple locations across regions or even worldwide, according to the Institute of Finance and Management
  • Two-thirds of businesses admit that purchase orders, supplier correspondence, contracts and other supporting AP documentation are difficult to find, according to a recent AIIM survey

But there’s hope. You can become the returning champion. (Another Jeopardy joke!)

Get more from your ERP investment with the addition of ECM

Disconnected information and fragmented processes prevent staff from turning that information into meaningful action. It also costs the organization additional time and resources beyond what it has already invested in its ERP(s). This is why many shared services organizations have automated their accounts payable processes with enterprise content management (ECM) platforms that integrate with their existing ERP applications.

ECM solutions provide one platform for: digitizing and archiving paper documents; extracting, validating and sharing key data with other systems; and automating invoice approval and exception workflows. They give AP and non-AP staff alike one system to access for invoice approval workflow processes and one centralized location to retrieve related AP documentation.

And perhaps most importantly for shared services centers, ECM solutions can provide the sweet, sweet simplicity of a single platform for managing and syncing data between systems, including multiple ERP solutions and other core applications.

ECM is a fast and cost-effective way for shared services organizations to add efficiency-boosting functionality to their accounts payable processes and compliment the investments already made in their existing ERP technology.

If you want to learn more about how ECM can help shared services – stop by and see us at booth #210 at #SSOWeek. But if you can’t make it to Orlando this year, this helpful whitepaper further outlines the benefits of an ECM and ERP integration.

Danielle Simer

Danielle Simer

Danielle Simer is a marketing portfolio manager at Hyland. Her mission is to share best practices and evangelize the power of enterprise content management (ECM) as a tool to automate paper-based processes and improve operations across accounting and finance, human resources, and contract management. Danielle joined Hyland after more than six years with a research and advisory firm devoted to helping senior executives manage their departments and teams more effectively. She received her bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University and her MBA from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.

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