Expecting the unexpected

Can we ever be fully prepared when the unexpected happens?

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. The absence of the usual, every-day stuff is always most striking when it is taken away. For some of us, working from our homes and self-isolating, thankfully, doesn’t spell disaster for our businesses. We can stay afloat, adapt, and manage the situation. Unfortunately, that just isn’t true for every business. For some of us, this is a scary, uncertain, and stressful time.

In my last blog, I discussed the urgency of adopting e-invoicing and how indecision wasn’t an option anymore. I don’t think anyone could have imagined the circumstances that have unfolded since then, but I believe that the message feels incredibly relevant today.

Picture the Scene

From an invoicing perspective, think about some of the ways unexpected disruption can affect both buyers and suppliers:

• Predictability of invoice volumes will vary dramatically – some have come under pressure to produce faster – in the worst cases, productivity has ground to a halt. This means that the traditional split of invoice volumes across suppliers that businesses expected will no longer apply.

• Suppliers equally will not be able to send paper invoices when physical mailroom/billing staff are unavailable. PDF invoices can be produced but still doesn’t rectify many of the inefficiencies of the paper-based process.

• BPO/SSC operations are especially vulnerable to the outbreak as they are typically city-based and using shared office premises. These environments often use fixed terminal devices, making remote working hard to support.

We’re barely scratching the surface here. Working around these issues results in soaring costs and delays for a process. Invoicing is only one, admittedly critical, aspect of running a global business. Imagine all those other areas that will experience disruption, and you start to grasp the amount of adjustment required even to meet SLAs and maintain business continuity.

We often refer to and believe in being the foundation for world-class performance. For businesses who are still considering how to begin their digital transformations – which I think we can agree is a central piece of the journey – it’s times like these that expose the danger of aspiring to reach world-class without a foundation that can weather the storm.

Cash Flow is King

Well-managed, consistent cash flow is vital to all businesses in troubling times, especially for suppliers. Therefore, the pressure to process invoices quickly and pay to agreed terms or even earlier if discounts are available will be a huge opportunity for buyers.

We’ve noticed several Tungsten Network customers already using the Portal as an immediately available solution during the ongoing, current pandemic. By allowing suppliers access to send invoices on any device, the paper-based issues are wiped out. From a buyer perspective, access to quality invoice data with high rates of straight-through processing is accessible despite an unprecedented interference of normal working life. Automation is critical here – say you automated the billing process, allowing redistribution of AR resources to ensure a managed cash flow. Simply put, adopting technology puts you in a better position to navigate the kind of situations that manual methods just can’t.

It’s difficult to assess the length and impact of a global crisis. For a high-volume supplier, the necessity is to identify a solution that can support you from day one, with longer-term integration options. Equally, anything you implement can’t be complex – you need a remote access point, simple onboarding, and as flexible of a solution as possible. When things settle down, and they will, coming out of this stronger can and should be your goal.

The Bright Side

I want to finish on a positive note and ask you to think about humanity’s history. In times of adversity, we often see the best examples of innovation in solving the problems before us. Just like you, we are a business. We sing the praises of e-invoicing because we believe it can help you be the best you can be. However, the sense I get now is that our job is to support others to transition to a new normal. Being able to help you maintain business as usual, continue to grow and thrive, and weather the storm we find ourselves in – I don’t think there’s a better definition of a foundation than that.

Steps to Take Today

Please reach out to us if you need any help, advice on options, or if you have come up with a solution to your problems, we can pass onto our other customers. Sharing across our network will be a crucial way of tackling the issues we face in the next few months.