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How SBS streamlined our client’s AP process to achieve a 330% increase in productivity

January 15th, 2019

The role of Finance has drastically evolved in companies over the years. It acts in coherence with the organisation’s objectives to create value for the company. The accounts payable process, while often considered to play a basic role in the functioning of the finance team,  can affect the profitability and productivity of the department as a whole. Therefore, it only makes sense for companies to automate the AP process to achieve maximum productivity. Having the right people, process and technology in place will help a company function more smoothly.

The following case study explores the role of the accounts payable process in a leading Asset Management Company in India. It outlines how Sundaram helped modify the current ERP process to make the Accounts Payable function more efficient and versatile.

Where were they?

Technology

The primary accounts payable process flow in place was very dependent on the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. Any customisations that the company wanted to make to the AP process to increase its efficiency were very expensive. This made it very difficult for the client to improve the functionality of the process.

Moreover, the company recorded transactions manually which brought numerous challenges. For one, the accounts payable process is very time-consuming and there is a high chance for human error. In addition to this, retrieval of a certain invoice at any time becomes a challenge as the department would need to sort through each invoice individually. Therefore, recording invoices manually were time-consuming, ineffective and incredibly laborious.

Process Drawbacks

The Asset Management Company faced numerous disadvantages with a manual AP process. The invoice process was cluttered and there was often little attention to detail, with no focus on the receipt date, due date and priority of invoice. Retrieval of invoices at a certain point in time often became difficult due to the lack of precision. Hence the company had no visibility on their accounts payable process and could not identify the high priority invoice payments.

Furthermore, if there was an error in the payment or recording of invoices, it is hard to identify the root cause of the problem due to the lack of detail associated with the invoice. This also made it had to sort through invoices for an audit trail.

People

The company also faced high employee turnover and absenteeism. A lot of time was wasted in systematic knowledge while replenishing the talent pool. The organisation needed to have employee practices in place and follow a standard labour policy. Moreover, there were no policies to measure the productivity and efficiency of the employees. This made it harder to identify the reasons for employee attrition.

How did SBS drive results?

In order to overcome the problems the client faced with the laborious Accounts Payable process, they partnered with Sundaram Business Services to outsource and streamline their AP process more effectively. Sundaram Business Services helped the client improve processes and achieve efficiency in the following ways.

Technology

In terms of the current technological process in place, SBS helped the client explore their workflow process and recommended new ways to streamline the ERP system to increase productivity and save costs.

We recommended the installation of a high configuration scanner. Scanning invoices would help save time and reduce human error in comparison to a manual entry process. The high configuration scanner means that employees no longer need to waste time manually scanning each invoice, allowing them to spend more time on something productive instead.

Another recommendation by SBS to the client was to trigger the procurement of a PDF to Excel converter to improve the efficiency of the invoice approval process. Earlier, content such as the transaction history of the client was received in a PDF format and had to be entered manually into the system on an Excel document. The information was then uploaded from Excel to the application. However, with a PDF converter, the information from the PDF is extracted and stored in Excel and can be uploaded into the application directly. This helps save the time spent on manual entry of information and also improves accuracy.

Process Improvements

The accounts payable process is now completely driven by the ‘Standards Operating Procedure’ and any deviations from the process needs to be approved. Prior to the introduction of the SOP, all the steps and procedures in the accounts payable process were passed on as word of mouth with no proper documentation maintained. This led to a lot of miscommunication and misinterpretation.

The SOP is a document that clearly outlines all the steps and procedures of the process from start to finish and serves as a backup of all the processes implemented, should any questions arise in the future. Any exceptions made to the process have to be approved by the client and other stakeholders first.

In addition to streamlining the accounts payable process, the client has also implemented procedures to measure the productivity and efficiency of all its employees. This could help them identify the reasons for high employee turnover. Along with measuring employee productivity, periodic training was conducted on GST and TDS accounting policies with evaluations on the learning.

In order to help streamline the process better, an error detection procedure was executed as well. This involved conducting a root cause analysis and having corrective and preventative measures for all errors spotted. Furthermore, SBS assisted the company in defining metrics for the turnaround time which ensured timeliness and completeness of the process. Strict quality measures were put in place to ensure that the AP process functioned in the most efficient way possible.

People

In order to expand their skills and improve the versatility of the employees, cross-training programs were introduced. Members were trained across different activities in the accounts payable process, thereby stretching their learning curve.

Accounting practices are constantly evolving so training and evaluation programs were organised to keep up with the latest industry practices. This helps employees update their skills and improve efficiency.

A dedicated quality control team was put in place to ensure there is no dip in the productivity of workers or a decrease in efficiency at any point in the process. The team will provide immediate feedback on any issues encountered so errors can be rectified with no delay. In addition to a quality control team, a buffer team was maintained as well to address issues related to absenteeism and attrition.

What have we achieved through our service delivery model?

The main goal of our service delivery model is to bridge the gap between the current state of the client’s process and the more efficient process they hope to attain.

The expectations of the client act as a major driver for the process and provided perspective on what they hope to achieve with the model. Improvements to the current process were made periodically and any issues encountered were proactively communicated. A standard process is implemented and documents are created to streamline the accounts payable function to meet the client’s expectations. Over a period of eleven years, Sundaram Business Services has achieved a 330% increase in productivity for the client with improvements to the technology, process and people.

Sundaram Business Services strives to meet client needs and exceed expectations. As seen in our case study, our experienced team of professionals helps customers achieve higher efficiency in controlling costs and reducing risk with improvements to the technology, process and people. 

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