Financial Operations Network | Articles
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[vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][vc_column_text] It may be the season of giving, but we’re guessing a "gift" to the U.S. Department of Treasury is not on your list. Whatever the season, though, beware. OFAC happens! Most recently it has happened to Apple. On November 25th, the technology giant entered an agreement with the Treasury Department to pay a civil penalty of $466,912. The fine is to settle Apple’s violations of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions involving interactions with a Slovenian company SIS and its owner Savo Stjepanovic, both on the SDN list. (We’re not making this OFAC stuff up.) According to Compliance Week, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) called Apple’s violation a “reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions requirements,” though the publication points out that the settlement was not too hefty. Another account, by financial news site Benzinga, relates that the violation was due to a failure of Apples’ compliance screening tool. Apple had done business with SIS d.o.o. (“d.o.o. is a standard corporate suffix equivalent to “LLC”) starting in 2008. In 2015 SIS and its owner were added to the SDN list. But Apple continued to do business with SIS for two years. It did not catch that SIS...

November is the gratitude month in the U.S. A little over a week into it comes Veterans Day, when we remember and thank those who have served or are serving in the military for their service and sacrifice on our behalf. Then towards the end, of course, comes Thanksgiving, when we take time off to reflect on the good things in life we enjoy. Psychologists and doctors tell us that gratitude is good for our physical and psychological health. In terms of body chemistry, acknowledging and expressing gratitude has the opposite effect that stress has on us, and who couldn’t benefit from countering that once in a while! It’s also good for relationships. And that applies not only to individual and personal relationships but business relationships as well. Before doctors started studying the virtues of gratitude, poets told us gratitude is a virtue. “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others,” wrote Cicero. Closer to our own time, G.K. Chesterton wrote, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” Being grateful is good. Expressing that gratitude is better. It’s the next logical step, though it...

The latest vendor service survey by InvoiceInfo asks: Can an online vendor self-service portal provide the same or better vendor service answering invoice inquiries as manually responding to calls, emails and faxes? For some, this question requires conjecture. If you do not have experience with a vendor portal, then you must speculate. Others — 12 percent of organizations, according to the survey — actually have a vendor self-service portal, so they can answer based on actual experience. So what did the responses look like? Better than two-thirds say yes, an online vendor self-service portal provides the same or better service than “manual” responses by AP to phone calls, emails or faxes. Still, 32 percent say no. That’s almost one in three that thinks not. Why not? Perhaps they’re thinking about the importance of the “personal touch.” That sounds like a reasonable concern. But personal touch may not always be preferable. For certain medical checkup procedures, one might wish for an alternative to a personal touch, but let’s not go there! Consider your personal banking instead. Sometimes you may have a need or want to do something and you really want to handle it in person. But most of the time you...

[vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][vc_column_text] The General Electric Company, e.l.f. Cosmetics, Expedia, Atradius Trade Credit Insurance and Stanley Black and Decker are in a special club. All of these organizations have paid civil penalties in 2019 for sanctions violations. Individual settlements ranged from $325,000 to $2.7 million are all part of $1.28 billion in civil penalties levied by OFAC so far this year. So no. You do not want to join that club. (And you don’t even want to know about the club of criminal violators.) How do you avoid the club? Well, for help, in June of 2019 the Department of the Treasury issued guidance on how to create a framework for an effective sanctions compliance program. (See InvoiceInfo’s OFAC Publishes Guidance for Sanctions Compliance Framework.) Now attorney and compliance expert Thomas Fox has written a series of articles providing additional guidance in setting up a good compliance program. Fox, who is a “compliance evangelist,” has published The OFAC Compliance Framework in three parts (plus an introduction that includes a tribute to legendary drummer Ginger Baker — check it out!) through JD Supra. The three parts, or elements, are: [unordered_list style="circle"] The OFAC Compliance Framework: Element 1 – Management Commitment The OFAC...

Dealing with vendors can be difficult. An unhappy vendor’s call can ruin your day. Complaints from purchasing just make it worse! If those people had any idea of the volume you’re dealing with! And their calls just interrupt your efforts to find the invoices and get them paid. Half the time you never got the invoice! Or the invoice is held up because there is no PO number on it (again). Or you are still awaiting approval from purchasing! If they would just do it right — putting the PO on the invoice, sending the invoice to the right place and trying a little patience. Just because payment was late last month (okay the last couple months) doesn’t mean they have to call every day this month. And if purchasing would just shut up… “Well, but have you tried explaining…?” It’s no use! You don’t know what that guy at X Industries is like; and that crazy person at Y company! And Sally, in purchasing, is just so difficult. There’s no talking to her. According to InvoiceInfo’s 4th Annual Customer Service Survey, the challenges of customer service uncovered a number of challenging issues. There’s the difficulty of handling customer service queries while keeping up...

Passwords. Can’t live without them. Now that we have moved our personal and professional lives online, passwords are an essential part of life. And the line between personal and professional applications is often blurred (think Dropbox, Google, Evernote …). The problem is there are so many passwords! There’s way more to IT and cyber security (two different things, the latter really being a subcategory of the former) than just passwords, but passwords are often where security starts with us daily. So do you use the same password in more than one place? In both personal and business applications and email systems? Stop! It should be no surprise by now that “hacks” are a fact of life. Revelations of huge data breaches are so common we hardly notice anymore. Chances are some of your data — including your password — has been part of at least one, maybe several such breaches. If not, it’s only a matter of time. A Password Expose study by LastPass, cited by DarkReading.com (part of Information Week) found that employees use an average of 27 passwords. The number of personal passwords people use is similar. That’s a lot of unique passwords to remember, particularly given the nature of password protocols...

You know what a vendor self-service portal is. But are you aware of all that a vendor portal can do? The forthcoming 2019 Financial Operations Networks survey on Accounts Payable Customer Service asked that question among many others. The result of that particular question revealed that while the most common functions of — and good reasons for — a vendor portal are fairly well known, people are less aware of other very useful functions. It is common knowledge that a vendor self-service portal can deliver invoice payment status to an inquiring vendor — 90 percent of participants know that much about portals. And after all, for most of us, this is probably the most important and valuable function of a portal. It is the aspect that promises a significant return on investment in a vendor self-service portal — eliminating a majority of phone and email interruptions to the AP staff by vendors asking if they’ve received the invoice and when it will be paid. A portal can answer many questions quickly with a few clicks, when the vendor wants to know it, “no lines, no waiting.” Invoice submission is another function of which 71 percent are aware — it may be the primary...

For more than a decade-and-a-half, the business press has touted automation for accounts payable. It’s been going on so long that many AP managers quietly assume theirs is the only AP department on earth that is still shuffling paper. The truth? It ain’t necessarily so. Now tipping points may have been reached for some kinds of solutions, particularly for large organizations. But even if your organization is one of those that has not gotten very far, you are not alone. Proof? A 2018 study by Accounting Today looked at digital workflow tools and found that 71 percent of large firms have already implemented such tools. For mid-size companies, it was 51 percent, and for small firms, 38 percent. That’s 29 percent of large firms that have NOT implemented digital workflow; half of mid-sized firms have not, and 62 percent of small firms have not! Now it did also find plans to implement digital workflow among 10 percent of large companies, 18 percent of mid-sized and 16 percent of small ones. But just for a minute, count “plan to implement” and “implemented” as one group. That still leaves almost 20 percent or one in five large companies without digital workflow, along...

[vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][vc_column_text] The IRS has released a draft of a “new” tax reporting form that’s not so new: the 1099-NEC. Take care claiming, “I remember that one” or someone might suggest it’s time to retire! When the form was last used, Ronald Reagan was president, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was released, E.T. wanted to phone home, and the 21-year-old Princess Diana was perhaps the most famous person in America. (The original Top Gun movie was still four years away from release.) The IRS draft form release brings to mind the Carole Bayer Sager/Peter Allen song: “Don't throw the past away, You might need it some rainy day, Dreams can come true again, When everything old is new again!” The 1099-NEC – NEC standing for Non-Employee Compensation – was replaced after 1982 with the catchall 1099-MISC. So has someone at the IRS gone nostalgic? Nah. The agency is trying to fix some of the unintended consequences of the PATH Act. Passed in 2015, among other things the PATH Act changed the reporting deadline for Box 7 of the 1099-MISC for reporting non-employee compensation to January 31st. We all remember that! That resulted in different filing deadlines for different parts of the...

As every consultant can (and probably will) tell you, process metrics are “invaluable for monitoring, evaluating and improving operational performance (blah blah blah)." Yet most companies carry on without them. What? You thought you were the only one? Well rest assured you’re not. It is common enough to believe your organization is behind everyone else in almost anything—best practices, process automation, compliance. But it’s a big world and wherever you may be on the spectrum of any of the above areas, you have plenty of company. There is good news: If you are reading this, you are probably in the top 20 percent of all organizations—in the group that bothers to search out and read information, because you are engaged in thinking about improvement and looking for ways to do things better. And that’s even if the daily workload, lack of support and an insufficient budget prevent you from following through on many ideas. So it is with metrics. Despite countless reasoned articles, reports and conference presentations, a lot of P2P and AP departments do not measure their processes. Yet metrics actually can help process change and improvement. Metrics provide you a view into what’s going on. Measuring can confirm or counter what...

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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