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In Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, the slow character Dogberry has no idea what “tedious” means when the governor of Messina applies the label to him.[1]  Ask your P2P staff, however, and they’ll tell you what “tedious” means: Answering “Has our invoice been paid?” for the hundredth time this month! A central challenge in providing good “customer service” to your vendors includes managing the volume of inquiries. The bulk of those inquiries, upwards of 80 percent, are the same few, straightforward questions. They are about invoice receipt, approval, or payment status—easy enough questions to answer with a quick look in the system. But of course, stopping what you are doing to look it up can be a frustrating interruption. While setting aside a block of hours each week to do nothing but look up and reply can be, well, tedious. Despite Dogberry’s good intention, no one particularly enjoys such tediousness bestowed upon them. In the book The AI Advantage, Thomas Davenport writes, "Many human employees don't really enjoy answering the same questions over and over, so they might not mind losing this responsibility." He's talking about applying technology to handle repetitive tasks in the realm of customer interaction. The same applies to P2P-vendor interactions....

Dealing with Vendor Inquiries Has your vendor master file decreased in size? Chances are, the answer to that question is no. Not only because it's been a while since you cleansed the vendor master file, but because your organization keeps adding new vendors. With new vendors come the same problems—inquiries about getting paid. Vendor calls and emails may be creeping up, especially as the overall economic outlook is brighter as vaccinations increase. The company has to keep up with those calls and emails to keep vendors happy. But it’s interrupting your procurement staff or keeping accounts payable staff away from actually getting the bills paid! Responding to vendor inquires takes time, which costs money and opportunity. Answering questions and solving problems is part of the process, but not all questions involve problems to be solved. Most vendor inquiries are of a more straightforward kind. Surveys show that a vast majority of vendor inquiries comprise about a half dozen common questions, such as “Did you receive our invoice?” and “When will it be paid?” These are questions that are easy to answer, but they still take time. Meanwhile, the vendor’s AR personnel are busy too. And they’re not crazy about leaving voicemails nor necessarily even...

Hackers continue a relentless barrage Last December, the U.S. government announced a major cyber breach by Russian hackers. Before we even have fully understood the impact of that attack on 18,000 organizations and government agencies, we learn “holes” in Microsoft’s email software have led to the compromise of 30,000 U.S. organizations. This latest attack is by Hafnium, a group operating from China. But cyberattacks are not all by foreign actors, nor about espionage. Financial gain is the motive in 86 percent of breaches, according to the 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report by Verizon1. And in the majority of cybercrime, the perpetrator and victim are located in the same country. Further, due to error and “privilege misuse,” 30 percent of cyber breaches in North America stemmed from people inside an organization. That 30 percent includes inadvertently "leaving the door open" as well as malicious intent. Hackers of all kinds continue a relentless barrage of attacks on everyone. According to a University of Maryland study2, hackers attack computers connected to the internet every 39 seconds. On average, your computers are under attack 2,244 times a day. In the first half of 2020, data breaches exposed 36 billion records. It seems there’s nowhere to hide. Do you doubt...

Your vendor master file constitutes a critical set of dynamic data. It continually changes through additions, modifications and expiration of active records. Safe practices include getting complete information from a new vendor and adhering to internal controls on access and changes to the vendor master. Because vendor master files are ever-growing, like a garden, they need pruning and weeding. Safe practices also include search and elimination of duplicate and deactivation of unused records. Smart companies manage their vendor master files ongoing as one part of their financial operations. Regular maintenance keeps the file under control. However, if an organization neglects the vendor master file, it exposes itself to the risk of mistakes and fraud. There are two common problems. One is having duplicate records in the file. Adherence to policies and procedures combined with regular maintenance should prevent most and catch any duplicates. But if you have not cleansed your file in a while, unnoticed duplicate records set you up for duplicate payments. The other problem is that vendors “age out” – you no longer need or use them. Besides cluttering things up, having unused but active records is dangerous. With a quick change to an address or bank information, a perpetrator can execute...

We may not be out of the pandemic woods, but the way forward is clear. In the upheavals of the Coronavirus, financial officers regret not having invested more in automation, AI and robotics a few years ago, according to a survey by AppZen. Within weeks of shelter-in-place orders last year, experts forecast that automation would accelerate out of the pandemic. Mark Maurer in the Wall Street Journal wrote, “Finance chiefs are considering hastening investments in automation initiatives to better manage their companies’ finances and operations despite facing revenue declines.” Arun Shastri wrote in Forbes, “Lost revenue means leaner workforces. Lean workforces drive the need for automation so that smaller teams can accomplish more with fewer people.” He added that as the economy comes back from the COVID-19 recession, companies will find that automation technology is mature and “ripe for deployment.” Where are we now as we close in on a year of living remotely? The long-term impact of the pandemic remains uncertain. Some predict that work-from-home will continue, despite the challenges and acknowledgment of missing the serendipitous collaboration of the live coffee break. Companies are at least rethinking the physical location of workers. One notable organization has already announced a radical plan. Ninety-six percent...

Vendor Fraud Risk Scientists have detected mutations of the Coronavirus in the U.K., South Africa, Nigeria and Brazil. These mutations can change how rapidly the disease spreads. So far, it does not appear to increase its virulence. For the finance personnel, there's a parallel in the arena of financial fraud. In the realm of business email compromise, or BEC, a new variant has emerged from a criminal group in West Africa: vendor email compromise (VEC). In this case, the potential virulence is greater. The VEC variant of BEC is insidious. It is sophisticated, its perpetrators are patient, and the payoff is worth it. How does it work? As with BEC, email vulnerability provides the initial entry point. But this time, it starts with the email of one of your vendors. And VEC is different from the urgent requests for action common in "spoofing" attacks. Once perpetrators get access to your vendor's email, they patiently and quietly begin gathering information. They take time to learn about the vendor and the vendor's customers. Unnoticed, they quietly study the vendor’s communication about invoices with you, learning invoice amounts and timing. How does the vendor usually follow up with you? What language does the vendor use in an...

Unfilled expectations lead to disappointment. Smart companies and individuals work to manage expectations. You can control some expectations but not all. Where do expectations come from? Some we set ourselves. Our organizations claim or promise certain things. Sales & Marketing set expectations of customers all the time. (Then companies work to meet them!) Contracts are supposed to delineate what we actually commit to. In P2P, the purchasing group may set vendors' expectations about interaction with the company. Purchasing, though, might be more focused on their own expectations of vendors. Accounts payable faces expectations that it does not set and often is not prepared to meet. The expectations may spring from a vendor's hopes rather than anything found in an SLA. Some expectations come subconsciously from the vendor's wider experience. Vendors, like everyone, are affected by their personal as well as business experience. As a consequence, they have become accustomed to certain levels of service. Automated self-service has spread to become a part of the service economy. The “prime” example is Amazon. It has set the bar very high. Leaving aside the mastery of managing inventory and logistic systems, Amazon understands the value of convenience, ease and speed. But while we love Amazon, we hate the...

“Business travel … will take a long time to return to previous levels after the COVID-19 pandemic.” So said McKinsey last August. In December, Bill Gates said he expects 50 percent of business travel "will go away." Heads of major airlines do not expect a return to former levels for several years. By last April, business travel plunged. Business air travel in 2020 was down by 80 percent. McKinsey forecasts a slow recovery for business travel, and in phases. The first phase is likely to see regional travel involving personal vehicles or rental cars for face-to-face sales or client meetings and essential business operations, primarily in manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and construction. In the second phase, domestic air travel improves. Travel purposes begin to include internal meetings, training and other small group gatherings. International travel will not rebound until the third phase, tempered by government regulations and restrictions. This will coincide with a return to industry trade shows, conferences, exhibitions and large-scale events. These phases are not tied to dates--or to 2021--in McKinsey's discussion. McKinsey says that travel managers and directors tell them they closely monitor local indicators of public health and government regulations, plus employees' willingness to travel and vendors' health and safety policies. Several...

Vendor Information To do business with a vendor, you must have information. Vendor onboarding is the time to gather and validate the particular information you need. All organizations require the same basic information. Likewise, everyone must do certain validations. But some information requirements and validations depend on your organization type and perhaps even on your customer type. What is your charter? Commerce? Health care? Education? Government? There may be particular information needs you have or validations you must do those others don't. If you are in health care, for example, and receive funds from federal health care programs, you must check vendors against the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE) of the Department of Health and Human Services. You may be a private company doing business with the government. If so, in addition to the basics, you may need to know if your vendors have certain business statuses. Maybe your organization is small—your information item list might be smaller too. Following is a comprehensive list of items of vendor information that includes the basics along with some that are specific to certain types of organizations: Vendor name Business name if different (DBA) Parent/subsidiary relationship(s) Ownership, principal owner Address: street, city, state, zip, country ...

A Refresher What is a non-U.S. person? You need to know the answer to that in the context of payment reporting to the IRS. What income of a non-U.S. person do you have to report? These are just two of the many questions that arise when you gather tax IDs and classifications in preparation for 1099 and 1042-S reporting. Did you know the U.S. tax code does not explicitly define non-U.S. persons? Rather, the code defines them by exclusion. The code defines a U.S. person. If one is not a U.S. person, then by definition of exclusion, they are a non-U.S. person. Easy! We should point out here that “person” has a broad definition that includes entities as well as individuals. Entities are corporations, trusts, partnerships and estates, as well as individuals. Any entity formed under U.S. laws is considered a U.S. person, and for our purposes here, is subject to 1099 reporting. (Said persons should submit a W-9 to your organization.) Oh, and one more thing. Resident aliens are considered U.S. persons too. Those persons and entities that do not fall within those are non-U.S. persons. You report the payments you make to them on a 1042-S. They should submit their tax information and...

Stop Calls and Emails, Enhance
Service and Increase Profit!

InvoiceInfo saves labor hours and cost by helping suppliers and internal staff easily and instantly get answers online to their invoice-payment questions.

If you are like many finance leaders today, you are being challenged to reduce costs more quickly. InvoiceInfo delivers real bottom-line results almost immediately, allowing you to deploy your customer service staff to focus on more productive, bottom-line oriented tasks.

Let us show you how InvoiceInfo's vendor self-service portal can help your organization eliminate invoice inquiry emails and calls while enhancing service to your accounts payable customers.

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Get Up and Running Quickly and Seamlessly

InvoiceInfo and VendorInfo are standalone applications that can be up and running in as little as two weeks, with little or no IT resources required.

The faster your online portal is up and running, the sooner you will start reaping the benefits. InvoiceInfo and VendorInfo are dedicated solely to helping AP and procurement departments slash the time and expense of servicing vendors, while improving customer service for their suppliers.

InvoiceInfo and VendorInfo are simple solutions with big results. They are easy to implement and easy to use. Here’s how one customer described the process: “You give vendors a URL, provide instructions about what they need to know and tell them to go use it.” It really is that easy.

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Improve Productivity with a Self-Service Solution

For most organizations, deploying a technology solution is a significant investment, and like most investments, the decision point ultimately comes down to the expected return on that investment.

According to a recent benchmark study by The Accounts Payable Network, 60% of AP customer service calls are from vendors while 40% are from internal customers. Vendor issues actually make up even more of the AP call volume than the 60% identified. Many times when a vendor has an issue, the vendor contacts their buyer or purchasing representative, who in turn contacts AP. Even though the call comes from an internal customer, the question originated with the vendor.

Vendor calls affect productivity in your organization exponentially. When vendors call the requisitioner, they are affecting that person’s productivity. Your internal customer’s productivity shrinks when fielding the vendor’s call and again when making the follow up call to AP and getting back to the vendor. Finally, AP’s productivity suffers as a result of the internal customer’s call, the payment status research and the follow-up communication.

With a minimal investment of IT time and talent, you can start reducing customer service calls and expense in a matter of weeks. In addition, you improve vendor relations since you are giving your vendors what they want — answers to their questions immediately — a win-win for everyone involved!

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Easy and Economical Solution to Serve Vendors Around the World

InvoiceInfo can help you provide best-in-class customer service to your vendors around the world at a fraction of the cost.

Many organizations today have offices and operations throughout the world and are dealing with many time zones, different languages, and in some cases multiple ERP systems. InvoiceInfo currently supports different languages and can easily work with multiple ERP systems in different locations.

The key to good customer service is to provide the information that the customer wants when they want it. Whether your customer is a vendor waiting for a payment or a colleague that needs information on payment status, they want their information right away. If your organization has vendors and offices in other countries, they can be challenging and expensive to serve. But, with InvoiceInfo, your international vendors and internal customers can access the information they need when they need it.

With InvoiceInfo, you won’t have to staff your customer service team with 24-hour coverage in multiple languages to provide high-quality customer service around the world.

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Enhance AP’s Role As a Strategic Partner

Learn how InvoiceInfo can help AP do more with less while continuously improving productivity and bottom-line results.

Many automation technologies such as scanning, workflow, e-invoicing, ACH, and electronic invoicing require significant investments of money, time and talent, making it difficult to get buy-in from upper management. Not InvoiceInfo!

If your goal for your AP department is to reduce costs quickly, call or email us today to learn more about how InvoiceInfo can help you achieve this goal through a quick, inexpensive and easy implementation of a vendor self-service portal.

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Enhance Vendor Relationships

InvoiceInfo helps suppliers’ AR departments with simple and convenient access to invoice payment status online at a cost savings for all involved.

It may seem that the organization paying the vendor should hold all the cards in the relationship. But sometimes the opposite is true. Past-due payments and customer service perceptions can harm supplier relationships and disrupt the supply chain.

Your vendors and vendor relationship managers are living in a dynamic, fast-paced environment, so when invoice information is required, it is needed quickly and expected to be of high quality. With InvoiceInfo, your suppliers get answers to invoice inquiries real time, 24/7 with no need to leave messages and wait for responses. Studies show that confidence in data increases when suppliers access invoice and payment information themselves.

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Give Procurement and Buyers the Tool They
Need to Respond to Vendors Quickly

Not only can InvoiceInfo be used by suppliers to learn the status of invoice payments, it can also be used internally within your organization.

In addition to reducing calls from vendors regarding invoice status, you can also reduce internal emails and calls from co-workers wanting to learn the status of invoice payment, and save time and effort and boost efficiency and productivity across the organization. Studies show that 40% of AP customer service calls are from internal customers. Many of these are from requisitioners who have received calls or emails from the supplier checking on payment status. These calls are often more expensive for the company because the internal staff member has taken the call or received an email from the supplier, contacted AP for the payment status and had to return the call or email the supplier.

By providing the vendor with a convenient and credible online option to get the answers it needs regarding payment status, you can eliminate multiple calls/emails between the vendor and the requisitioner saving time and money.

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Eliminate Difficult Vendor Calls and See
Productivity and Staff Morale Soar

Reduce invoice payment inquiries and “promote” your vendor service team to more satisfying and profit-producing tasks.

By sharply reducing inbound calls and emails regarding receipt and payment status that your AP staff must handle individually, your staff can focus their efforts on more productive, cost-saving activities, learn new tasks, feel more confident and boost their careers.

According to a recent American Express survey on customer service, more than one-third of consumers have lost their temper with a customer service professional in the past year. Of those who lost their temper, three in ten “hung up the phone.” Your staff will no longer have to deal with difficult collectors who can be upsetting and disruptive. Your staff will feel that their time and talents are being put to better use and will feel better about themselves, their jobs and their organization. Reducing these calls can be a real productivity and morale booster for your AP department!

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Simplify and Streamline Vendor Onboarding

According to Price Waterhouse Coopers, the average organization spends about $20 in labor to file each paper document, approximately $120 in labor searching for each misfiled document and $220 in re-creation of a document.

Wouldn’t it be great to have all your W-9’s, W-8’s and other registration documents completed online and instantly filed online for easy access when needed? With Vendor Self-Service Onboarding Module, VendorInfo, you can onboard your new vendors in one convenient location and eliminate paperwork and hassles.

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Verify the Accuracy of Vendor Information and Stay in Compliance with IRS and Treasury Department Regulations

Government regulators are increasing the complexity of regulations and penalties associated with vendor-related non-compliance.

Penalties for incorrect 1099’s have more than doubled in recent years. Over the last several years, OFAC has levied more than $1 billion in fines against American companies or subsidiaries that did business with restricted businesses, organizations and individuals on its SDN list. In addition to fining these companies, the Treasury Department posts the names of infringing organizations along with fines paid.

VendorInfo Onboarding Module verifies the accuracy of vendor information and helps protect your organization by avoiding embarrassing penalties and fines.

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