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Expert opinion

Strategic approaches to B2B e-communication optimization: regional or local?

Monday 12 June 2017 | 10:19 AM CET

Bartlomiej Wojtowicz, Comarch EDI: There is a growing number of companies implementing electronic communication to improve data quality and relationship with their partners

E-collaboration supports the supply chain optimization

Nowadays, companies insist on operations that may result in the cost reduction and process automation. One area of possible improvement is a holistic approach to the supply chain processes. The enterprises dealing with hundreds or even thousands of partners re-design their approach to B2B collaboration and find the competitive advantage in this area. There is a growing number of companies implementing electronic communication to improve data quality and relationship with their partners. Additionally, a significant majority of enterprises currently cooperates with foreign business partners. Moreover, an increasing number of organisations have been changing their document flow from paper to digital formats to optimise processes in the supply chain. Therefore, there has been a growing demand for solutions enabling onboarding of partners worldwide, exchanging the whole set of messages in the supply chain (order-to-cash / procure-to-pay) and guaranteeing legal compliance, project management and local support. Let’s explore the electronic invoicing process in particular, since it is an essential part of the efficient B2B collaboration.

Organization structure vs. project scope

Multinational companies tend to aggregate and unify operations in each country. The way they do this is by moving the IT systems to the common versions (plan the extension of functionalities in all the countries) and re-organize their structure to focus on core operations. However, each organization is different and has various decision-making processes. For instance, in the case of multinational FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) companies, there might be various scenarios of the B2B e-collaboration project realization.

One of the possible scenario is when each subsidiary has its own independent decision-making process. Then the producer is looking for the solution provider that will be compliant with corporate policy and standards. In this case, most important would be the stability, experience and penetration on the local market, the ability to onboard and provide solutions notwithstanding the technical maturity of the vendors and maintenance of the service desk.

Another possible scenario is when the producer has a central organization structure and the integration would thus take place centrally. Then the tender only includes a few countries and, in this case, some of the solution providers (those operating on the country level) are not considered. The short list will comprise the providers with the most experience on the considered markets with established interoperability with other providers, while also containing providers that assure legal compliance (in case of e-invoicing), provide scalable functionality and support in local languages.

And the reality

Considering the benefits, the central approach gives the scale effect yet companies are made aware that running the businesses on different regions/continents may be different as providers specialize in particular areas. Therefore, there are plenty of projects in which only particular regions are high priority and have the most potential. The general conditions are agreed centrally with possible slight adjustments country by country.

To summarise, it is more beneficial to choose a provider who covers a few countries assuming its ability of onboarding the majority of clients and providing high service level. From the organizational point of view there is one person managing the project holistically. Most of the producers have already launched e-invoicing with their customers (e.g. retailers) but, regarding accounts payable, they still use unstructured documents exchanged in a non-secure way.

e-Invoicing – what’s next

For an efficient automation, it is not enough to only implement e-invoicing and adjust the investment in the project to the size of the company and the amount of processed invoices. The process is more complicated and sometimes requires integration with numerous IT systems, e.g. the so-called ‘three-way match’, which means matching the invoice data with the purchase order and delivery. This type of concept enables the smooth processing of invoices and makes the process easier, while also requiring integration, at least with ERP.

The quality of master data is one of the most important success factors in accounts payable projects. Only well-managed data enables matching the invoices with appropriate partners and related documents.

Prepare for future

Additionally, the more operations are covered within the project the better the optimization of processes. Although the company may not be planning to implement full processes automation in the procure-to-pay process (i.e. e-sourcing, contract management, analytics), it will prove to be a sound strategy to choose a solution which considers launching such functionalities within a short time scale.

For similar stories, please check out our B2B Fintech: Payments, Supply Chain Finance & E-invoicing Guide 2017 to get access to an insightful outline of the global transaction banking, B2B payments, supply chain finance & e-invoicing market.

About Bartłomiej Wójtowicz

He has over 10 years of experience in the field of B2B communication in the supply chain. Initially responsible for the EDI market development in Southern and Central Europe, he is currently responsible for the development of Comarch EDI portfolio.

 

About Comarch EDI

Comarch EDI is a B2B platform, which provides a competitive advantage by a fast and secure data exchange with business partners. The solution provides the automation of data processing throughout the supply chain: from the procurement process, through the logistics, to invoicing and payment processing.

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