Driving innovation in document automation
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For procurement, automating operational processes relieves buyers and downstream departments of manual work. Relying on document processing tools is indispensable but finding the right solution and approach for a simple and effective automation project can be challenging. At Netfira, we are passionate about automating document flows and always try to find innovative ways to ensure our customers have a smooth implementation. We understand that each business faces unique challenges. However, while businesses, processes and people are always unique, there are certain trends that we have identified after years of analysis. One of these trends allows businesses to maximise return on investment (ROI) by prioritising key suppliers when undertaking an automation project.
Automation projects in procurement can be daunting. First of all, the process of selecting a software provider and choosing a software solution can be time-consuming and complex. Checklists for defining software requirements as well as software selection checklists can be useful to support and speed up the process. Secondly, it can be a lot of work to convince key stakeholders of the solution and of the benefits for procurement and the entire organisation. Thirdly, it is often hard to get the budget for the automation project guaranteed. However, having a clear roadmap for the automation project as well as an approach to achieve immediate ROI helps to make projects more feasible.
Having analysed the flow of documents between thousands of B2B connections, we were able to identify trends that help us ensure our business partners’ automation projects are effective. Unsurprisingly, most purchasing departments receive around 60-65% of documents from their 35-45 biggest suppliers. As a result, electronically connecting the key suppliers and automating the document exchange leads to massive operational efficiency gains and a rapid ROI.
Some companies use EDI technology to electronically connect their business partners. However, the complexity and cost of this technology limits the number of suppliers whose transactions can be automated this way. Onboarding is typically laborious and disruptive; in-house IT needs to be involved and EDI projects are time-consuming and costly to set up. On top of that, classic EDI solutions cannot be used for non-SAP systems. Since the implementation of EDI solutions is lengthy and complicated, procurement teams benefit from relying on alternatives to EDI.
Time is an essential resource for every company and in every automation project. Achieving a quick ROI in document automation projects by automating key suppliers means gaining valuable time. By connecting the top 30-40 suppliers and automating the flow of documents and data, procurement teams’ workload can be reduced by more than 50%. Because of the reduction of manual activities, buyers have more time to focus on strategic and value- adding tasks. To further benefit from time savings, procurement should rely on digital automation tools that facilitate a quick and uncomplicated supplier connection.
Of course, ultimately a complete solution is the goal. However, the insights gained from having analysed document flows between thousands of B2B connections have a profound impact on how we advise businesses to approach their automation activities.
Software solutions for automating operational procurement processes are typically rigid. The implementation requires the full range of functions to be set up from the outset and, as a result, the software lacks flexibility and offers functions users do not need.
Setting up the entire solution, as a lot of companies do, means a very long project and implementation time. As a result, resources are tied up in lengthy processes and it takes months until procurement can start to use the automation software and ultimately benefit from it.
Process automation and digitised information exchange rely on the electronic connection of suppliers and other business partners. Rigid solutions require companies to onboard all their suppliers at once. However, it might not always be possible or beneficial to connect all suppliers right from the beginning. The process of onboarding all business partners prior to the go live is time-consuming, error-prone and an inefficient use of resources.
With the approach based on our insights, by contrast, procurement teams can automate their key suppliers by volume quickly and easily. Given the fact that 30-40 suppliers often account for 60 or more percent of document volume, focusing on automating the top suppliers means gaining massive operational efficiency and a fast ROI. Once the initial ROI is achieved, users can scale the application and continue to automate the remaining suppliers over time.
SaaS solutions operated in the cloud enable procurement teams to realise a quick ROI by first automating the most important suppliers before connecting and automating the remaining suppliers and document flows step by step. SaaS solutions are flexible, cost-effective and easy to scale. Modular end-to-end solutions can be deployed in a matter of weeks. Implementing a ready-to-use cloud solution adds value right away and helps to avoid costly delays by long-running projects. Moreover, modular solutions can be deployed and customised for specific project requirements and business needs. Choosing a comprehensive SaaS solution allows users to add functionality over time as they need it and ultimately automate all their business partners and all document flows.
Our focus is on helping our clients automate their workflows. Netfira not only offers a complete, end-to-end and scalable solution with in-depth functionality that has been designed to provide broad capabilities for many business needs, but also constantly explores ways how it can be implemented more efficiently. In this way, Netfira is your automation partner. We want our customers to succeed and strive to help businesses find the right approach to their automation project. That is why we suggest focusing on automating top suppliers first, allowing clients to benefit from the efficiency gained while they onboard the remaining suppliers.