Is AI the future of shared services?

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AI has the potential to complement human activities in Shared Services, driving efficiency for organizations on a massive scale.

Currently being used to automate mundane tasks in this sector, the long term projection is that AI will become a critical tool for delivering innovation in Shared Services. In order to facilitate this movement, we need to go back to basics and focus on one crucial ingredient – data. Without accurate data, AI will fail to deliver on its promise.

What was ‘the buzz’ at SSOW 19?

We recently attended the annual Shared Services and Outsourcing Week’s Autumn event, held in Prague. It is one of Europe’s longest-running business services events, with over 200 attendees and 70 speakers coming together in talks and roundtable formats.

It was great to catch up with old friends and make some new ones, too. This year, the event aimed to explore intelligent automation and data-driven service innovation (amongst other things). This was an invaluable opportunity to listen to delegates, understand their needs and propose solutions that can complement the systems they have already invested in, as well as hear from thought leaders and experts in Shared Services from a variety of companies across Europe. 

At SSOW 19, efficiency remained the watchword for organisations seeking to grow their profitability in a mature and fiercely competitive market, whether that be with AI or with more established Shared Services technologies. 

Shared services – an evolution.

Shared Services aim to make data processing more efficient, saving organisations time and money. But they also yield other benefits, enabling managers to resource their people more strategically. By centralising and (where possible) automating mundane tasks, management can focus on adding real value to the business via human-centric activities such as sales and relationship management. And thanks to greater specialisation and oversight, Shared Services reduce costly errors that can harm the wider brand. 

Shared Services used to be cost centres, but over the years they’ve evolved into profit centres. They no longer fight fires for the business – they optimise processes that drive revenue and ultimately, growth. Those with spare capacity even provide services to other organisations. The imperative to generate net margin for the wider business had led to managers thinking more strategically, with longer-time horizons. And a critical piece of this puzzle is data acquisition.

Accurate data is everything

Traditionally, the focus in Shared Services has been on processing documents coming into the business, for obvious reasons. This was especially true when technology was in its infancy, but in recent years, the focus has shifted to data analysis of documents such as orders as well as invoices, to optimise the wider supply chain ecosystem. Truth be told, as all of these processes are interrelated, organisations need to be holistic in how they address them – a siloed approach is ineffective when pursuing optimisation. 

We’ve seen successful management teams adopt tactical and strategic approaches in order to capitalise on short-term opportunities, whilst driving sustainable growth over the long term. But in order for decision makers to adopt this holistic approach, forecasting, target setting and ongoing monitoring are imperative, particularly when it comes to cash flow and tax considerations.

All of this is impossible without accurate data. And the impact of bad data downstream can be huge. For example, the true cost of processing invoices is much higher than most people think, because of the overheads associated with acquiring and passing through accurate data. Invoices processed with old technologies like OCR often require augmentation using human labour, with staff manually correcting the errors in the data. Even then, keystroke errors are inevitable, meaning that costs pile up further. The bottom line is that relying on old technologies like OCR and human labour is a false economy.

Looking to the future

At SSOW 19, we heard that Shared Services are changing, something we at CloudTrade knew already. Who knows what this dynamic and competitive field will look like in ten years, or even five years time? AI promises to reshape the industry, but it should be focused on addressing mundane and repetitive tasks and complementing value added human activities, rather than replacing them. Furthermore, data analytics raises questions over data privacy and ethics if used for purposes other than those for which it was intended.

What we do know is that all innovation, all growth, will be built upon the quality of data that managers can leverage in order to drive improved customer acquisition and retention. AI promises to cross boundaries and connect business ecosystems – for example, by connecting buyers with suppliers, and then connecting with sellers’ manufacturing processes and supply chains. 

To benefit from the long term promise of AI, companies should first focus on the quality of their data acquisition, so that any investment in machine learning further down the line is built on solid foundations – and solid data. Bad inputs render AI worse than useless. A lack of accurate data risks turning huge opportunities into huge risks, by giving management an inaccurate picture of how the business is performing and where it’s headed, making it impossible to deliver the required business outcomes.

CloudTrade can help businesses large and small to get their data acquisition 100% accurate. Our stand at SSOW was inundated with enquiries from delegates (as experienced at the recent Ariba Live conference). One potential partner told us that data capture with 100% accuracy was exactly what he was looking for, but that he simply didn’t believe we could deliver. He quickly changed his disbelief after a demo with our team.

If you’re active in Shared Services and keen to explore ways to future-proof your business and benefit from 100% data acquisition to support the long term promise of AI, get in touch to discuss further.

The current state of the capture market

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I can remember a time when microfilm was still king. Remarkably, it’s a technology that was first used in the 1870’s and, after a great run, it died away gracefully as scanning and OCR took over. Of course, it continues to be used today for long term retention of certain documents, but it’s now considered a technology of the past.

Data capture has moved on. 

As is common during most periods of technological evolution, there’s currently a lot of hype and hyperbole surrounding the future of data capture. Reflecting on this hype got me thinking about how the industry has changed during the 25 years I’ve worked in it. It also brought to mind how much further we still have to go, and the way that substance always trumps style. 

In recent months, I’ve seen data capture vendors using spin and semantics to try and hide the fact that they still use OCR. They use phrases such as cognitive capture, machine learning and robotic capture to wage war on each other, seeking one-upmanship rather than collaboration. It’s a sad state of affairs and it sounds like the last desperate wails of a dying industry. 

As we know, slowly but surely, the OCR market is consolidating, shrinking and dying as vendors acquire each other. In some cases, we’ve seen firms buying a handful of competitors before letting the solution languish with no further thought for technological development. Sadly, this always damages the end customer, leaving them to search out an alternative solution.

Fortunately, there is an alternative. As OCR declines, the rise in the number of businesses who can receive and process data-rich application generated documents (AGD) is heartening. Now customers can question the continued use of outdated and error-prone OCR-based technology on their own terms. They are no longer a slave to one type of technology. And it’s about time.

9 years ago, CloudTrade identified this shift towards AGD and started to develop a truly scalable solution that has become the undisputed industry leader. Roughly 90% of all business documents are now application generated. This means that senders now easily interact with each other without the need for long and costly setup and integration.

The adoption of AGD-led technology now presents significant opportunities for businesses to drive operational efficiencies and reduce costs. It also provides control compliance and visibility of their processes. AGD’s popularity, coupled with CloudTrade’s deep experience gained over the last decade helping clients, means we can now solve problems for companies globally.

This isn’t anecdotal. Evidence for this shift is supported by CloudTrade’s growth. In July, we processed more documents in a month than ever before. The longest had over 1,500 pages! This volume continues to grow, proving how far we’ve come since the days of microfilm and my arrival in the industry 25 years ago. Excitingly, it also feels as if we’re only just getting started. In order to find out more about these exciting changes and how CloudTrade can help your business, why not join one of our weekly Webinars?

To learn how 100% accurate data capture can change your business, contact us today.

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The long term value of accurate data capture

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In my role at CloudTrade, I’m fortunate to work with our partner organisations who provide technology solutions spanning many sectors and geographies. In recent years, topics of discussion have included Business Process Improvements and digital transformation to Robotic Process Automation, data mining and more recently, process mining.

Regardless of the latest technology, one thing has remained constant – the need for high quality data. Inputs are absolutely critical and yet, they are often overlooked in favour of outputs.

Data is everything

Get data capture right, and organisations are empowered to gain actionable insights and provide an improved service to their clients. Get it wrong, and technology upgrades can cause more harm than good. 

It sounds obvious, but organisations seeking to leverage cutting-edge technology need data. That’s why it’s so important that organisations prioritise the capturing of data that is accurate and accessible in a structured format. This enables data elements to be linked and insights gained. And it provides opportunities to leverage exciting new technologies like AI.

The interoperability challenge 

Traditionally, organisations looking to capture unstructured data to fuel process mining and insight projects have relied on traditional capture technologies like EDI, data ‘flip’, outsourcing or even OCR.

These technologies have much to offer if implemented correctly, but this isn’t always the case. Another challenge is uneven adoption amongst suppliers and buyers, leading to a lack of interoperability. So, it makes sense to focus on connecting different parts of the supply chain through technologies that are accessible, affordable and ubiquitous. Application generated documents, like PDF’s, are a perfect example.

Why “good” is the enemy of “great”

As Jim Collins has observed, “Good is the enemy of great”. 

Often, organisations adopt technology solutions with sub-optimal outcomes because they believe they don’t have the time, money or resources to change their approach. As we have pointed out previously, many organisations are unsure how best to integrate the technology into their existing workflows. Or they choose to ignore implementation, believing it’s too complicated and expensive.

Instead, they introduce workarounds or simply accept that technology can only deliver a certain level of performance due to technical, financial and operational barriers. The result is that data quality suffers and people are basing decisions on flawed or incomplete data.

We all know how fast technology is moving. The potential that RPA, machine learning and AI have on our everyday lives is huge and exciting. To deliver on their promise, we need to ensure that the data we feed into the top of funnel is as clean and complete as possible. And that means a laser sharp focus on ensuring data capture is 100% accurate. 

Think of it as an investment in the future of your business – one that will reap dividends once technologies like machine learning become truly accessible and affordable.

The right capture technology for the right source

CloudTrade’s partners use our patented service to ensure they’re able to accurately capture data from semi-structured and unstructured sources – including application generated PDF invoices – and turn them into structured formats, including Excel. In this way, we’re accelerating the adoption of new technologies by providing the underlying data that powers them. 

We’re conscious that many organisations are investing heavily in digital transformation. These projects come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re to be greatly encouraged. By adopting the right capture technology for the right source, outcomes are always more accurate and complete.

CloudTrade’s offering has been designed to slot into existing processes and technological infrastructures, enabling organisations to fill in any gaps when it comes to information capture. Now you can leverage the power of high quality data, however you choose to use it.

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How to get started with eOrdering and drive revenues for businesses of all shapes and sizes

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How to get started with eOrdering

One of my first roles in the industry was at one of the world’s largest document management providers (Xerox). I was tasked with persuading businesses to use digital for order processing. 

Open-minded prospects – ‘low hanging fruit’ as I called them – saw the benefits of e-ordering and converted to digital. However, a large percentage refused. Problems inherent with digital meant that many decided to stick with tried and tested methods, such as fax and telephone. Nearly 20 years on, many of those problems remain. And many businesses still ignore digital. 

E-orders need to be processed with 100% accuracy. Once an order is received, a supplier needs to ship the order quickly. Errors and delays equal costs, so e-ordering is directly linked to revenue. If e-ordering fails to deliver fast, accurate, line-level data, the bottom line suffers. 

When it comes to e-ordering, businesses have options:

  • EDI satisfies high volume clients, but it’s costly and timely to implement. 
  • OCR might be used for smaller clients for back-office functions, such as finance, but it’s not accurate enough for eOrdering 
  • E-commerce businesses have built B2C-style portals for their B2B websites. These satisfy some customers, but they don’t scale. 

With over 50% of all inbound orders still non-digital, the challenge is the same as the one I faced in 2001: beyond ‘low hanging fruit’, how can a business convert more customers to e-ordering? 

Businesses need to find an answer and fast. B2B buyers today demand digital. A generation of millennials in key buying positions expect automated solutions. They browse online, tap-to-pay and receive next-day delivery. Anything less is unacceptable. 

These buyers might demand digital, but they don’t want to lose time keying in purchase orders. And they don’t want banter with a salesperson. They just want to send an order, knowing it will be accurately processed. Ideally, most want to send an application generated PDF via email.

Over 90% of buyers prefer this method of sending orders as their purchasing system can send them with no technical development needed.

CloudTrade offers an e-ordering solution for businesses of all shapes and sizes, providing 100% accuracy from PDFs. Additional features, such as address lookups, auto code swaps and unit of measure checks mirror the traditional role of call centres. It’s the perfect solution for a new generation of tech-savvy buyers.

CloudTrade also gives buyers control and visibility. This lowers operating costs and increases customer satisfaction levels, leading to repeat business and higher revenues. What’s more, our focus on accuracy leads to time savings for call centre teams. They can then focus on value adding tasks, such as cross-selling and up-selling. E-ordering does all the hard work for them.

The demands of buyers today are different from those that I encountered when I set out in the industry. Today, a new generation demands instant, fast, accurate solutions at the touch of a button. Surprisingly, the problems with e-ordering that buyers encounter are the same as those faced by my prospects. Fortunately, PDFs offer a solution, and it’s one I wish had at my disposal when I was starting out. 

New to eOrdering? Contact us today for a short eOrdering demo

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Is digital transformation a technology issue?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

We are all immersed in the digital world.

In our private lives we interact daily with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp. At work, it’s applications for communicating with colleagues and clients; email, LinkedIn and Skype. There’s also Microsoft Office, document and content repositories, PMO and finance applications that power the practicalities of everyday business.

Increasingly, the information we share is digital. If we are to survive and thrive, we must figure out efficient ways to send, consume and interpret this data. So it’s alarming that a recent survey conducted by KPMG found only half of executives say their company has a digital transformation strategy, and only a quarter know what their next steps will be. The issue here is that most people think of digital transformation as part of IT development, rather than a corporate or personal strategy. As a result, they often end up relying on crude technology and just making do.

On a daily basis, I’m sure you’re bombarded with buzzword ladened marketing pitches about disruptive technologies, cognitive machine learning, artificial intelligence, blockchain and robotic process automation. Information overload and the multitude of suppliers peddling ‘world class’ solutions has become a cliché.

Yet, success stories still make it through the noise and the fear of standing still galvanises people into embracing change. We all recall what happened to the likes of Kodak and Nokia when they ignored technological innovation. We also hear IT horror stories, where the shiny (and expensive) new system fails to deliver the promised business gains.

The wood from the trees

Digital transformation is a strategy. For it to work, it needs to be accepted across the entire supply chain, providing benefits to senders and receivers. There is no point in embracing a technology like Blockchain if the majority of your clients are using a different strategy. Betamax and VHS spring to mind, for those old enough to remember. And talking of the future, it’s millennials who will be inheriting these decisions.

The benefits of a digital economy are obvious – repetitive, mundane tasks can be automated, human error removed and transaction data communicated instantly, reducing costs and allowing humans to add value to the process where it matters.

So, we need to make digital transformation easy for everyone to embrace. It’s a journey, and businesses need to take everyone they interact with along with them, rather than leave them behind. At home or at work, we have many modes of content creation and communication, so any digital transformation strategy must consider the target audience.

If businesses put unnecessary barriers between them and their counter-parties, the result will always be resistance and noncompliance. The buyer of a product or service simply wants to receive what they’ve ordered on time, at the agreed price, and this means a simple non-disruptive way of paying and recording transactions.

Technology can enable Digital Transformation

For example, a restaurant ordering flour for baking cakes, making pizzas and bread needs three different types of flour, detailing these as separate line items on the order. But, if the invoice has the total price and simply says “flour”, how do I know what has been delivered and in-turn manage my inventory?

The signed delivery note might have the correct information, but the restaurateur would have to manually enter the delivery note and invoice information into their finance and stock systems. They could just match at header level to save data entry tasks, but they would then have lost compliance with data integrity.

Technology alone can’t deliver digital transformation. But it can help to enable digital transformation. In the case of the above example, the buyer needs to communicate with the supplier electronically and include information on the order that the supplier can recognise and process automatically.

Similarly, the supplier needs to acknowledge the order, make recommended changes, receive final confirmation of the order and arrange delivery and invoicing inline with the order. That way, they can complete the transaction.

In the real world this rarely happens. So how do we leverage technology to deliver an end-to-end digital transaction?

The importance of interoperability

What the sender and receiver both need, is a common communication platform where data is recorded, encrypted and freely exchanged. Email is the most obvious candidate, since everyone uses it on a daily basis.

Communications need to contain information that can be clearly understood or interpreted with validation, ensuring the detail enables both parties to complete the transaction with commonly available technology. This interoperability is crucial.

To see how to works in practice, take the processing of a purchase order. If a buyer sends an order by email as a digitally created PDF, the buyer can leverage the native PDF capability contained in their ordering or finance application. Email is secure and provides an audit trail, which is critically important. This is a great start, as the record of purchase adds no additional cost to the buyer, no stationery, ink or postage. And crucially, the supplier has a digital record of the order.

An application-generated document can be processed automatically without the need for scanning and OCR, which tries to convert an image into a machine-readable format, but unfortunately cannot eliminate character recognition errors. With an application-generated document, the supplier is able to read the header and line information on the order for processing. This is the first step in the journey to digital transformation, but there is more work to be done if businesses want to achieve end-to-end automation.

There are many confusions and challenges when it comes to e-invoicing and to realise maximum benefit it is important to understand those differences and select the right one for your business. 

Read our e-invoicing to help make better e-invoicing decisions for your business. 

Read a review of different E-Invoicing Methods

Data is everything

We have heard much about the potential of Blockchain, Cognitive AI or RPA to automate business processes. But the one thing this digital transformation journey needs in order to succeed is data. An RPA process without content or context gives us a dumb robot, and a blockchain with missing data has no integrity. So how do we overcome these issues?

At CloudTrade we have developed a simple-to-use service that acquires transactional data from any application-generated document with 100% accuracy. The data is then interpreted and validated to ensure content and context meets the requirements of the receiving system, providing end-to-end automation. It’s simple but highly effective, as it allows the sender to email their instruction at no additional cost, which is then acknowledged and automatically processed.

Take the order example. The buyer creates their purchase order in PDF format via their finance or ERP application, and they email this to the supplier’s email address for processing. CloudTrade acts on the data contained in the email body and attachments, extracting header and line information with 100% accuracy. The line level data can contain SKUs, unit prices, tax amounts etc.

The line level detail then allows the buyer to automatically process the invoice for payment, again by using CloudTrade for invoice processing.

Line level detail opens a whole new world for spend analytics (how much Type-0 flour did I use last year and from which supplier etc) data governance, compliance and trade finance options.

The digital transformation journey is not just a technology issue. All parties need to participate, and that means adopting systems that leverage ubiquitous technologies like email and PDFs. CloudTrade can be deployed to remove barriers to entry, ensuring critical line level detail is captured and correctly interpreted to allow end-to-end process automation.

By doing this, we can drive adoption amongst buyers and suppliers, helping businesses everywhere to embrace the digital revolution with confidence.

Book an exploration call with our sales team to understand how CloudTrade can help automate your e-invoicing and e-order processes. 


Digital Transformation

Higher education embraces digital transformation

Reading Time: 2 minutes

As we’ve discussed on the blog before, digital transformation doesn’t have to be all or nothing. For many organisations, the best way to enact meaningful digital change is to take small steps towards big digital goals. Slow and steady wins the race.

This is true across every industry. At CloudTrade, our technology is designed to be flexible so it can help a range of organisations, whatever their size or expertise.

One industry we’ve been engaging with recently is higher education. A number of higher education institutions are embarking on digital transformation projects. They’re actively looking to change how they run operations, manage their workforce and engage with students. Digital technology is prompting industry-wide change.

This is being driven by a number of key factors:

  1. Higher education institutions recognise that technology can help them build for the long term. Technology is a good way of future-proofing operations.
  2. Higher education is highly competitive, with institutions striving to attract the best teaching and student talent. Digital proficiency is a way that institutions can get ahead. Transformation, if done right, can provide a real reputational boost.
  3. Forward-thinking institutions know they need to enact digital transformation or risk being left behind. This is especially true of machine learning and AI which rely on large, high quality data sets. The sooner digital projects like electronic data capture begin, the sooner benefits can be realised.

Higher education institutions are adopting technology across departments. Digital transformation doesn’t have to benefit a single back office function, such as finance. It can also enhance the operations of an entire institution, from how it presents itself online, to how it communicates with students.

Digital transformation can also act as an enabler. If back office functions correctly, speed and accuracy increases and costs go down. What starts in operations with electronic data capture realises benefits in other parts of an organisation. All that’s required is an initial action, which is why most projects can be undertaken by using “nudge” techniques to make small incremental changes.

Our approach at CloudTrade shows how small scale projects can affect change. It’s why we’re working with a number of higher education institutions to provide 100% accurate data capture for their back-office functions. Our service is commonly associated with finance-related documents, but our technology can automate data capture across a range of documents. This lowers back-office costs at higher education institutions, drives stronger analytics and enables automation in downstream systems.

Higher education is a great example of an industry embracing digital transformation. It’s a sector that also illustrates the flexibility of CloudTrade’s technology, showing how we help all organisations, whatever their industry, whatever their requirements. If you’re interested to find out how CloudTrade can help your organisation, click the button below to book a call with our sales team.

The Big Benefits of Supply Chain Finance

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Supply Chain Finance

We recently wrote about the issue of late payments. But it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, the rise of supply chain finance offers suppliers a neat solution to the critical problem of getting paid on time – and offers buyers a chance to improve their cash flow, too.

No wonder then that adoption is skyrocketing, with tonnes of providers launching to target specific market niches. But how does supply chain finance work? And how can you make it work for your business?

What is supply chain finance?

Supply chain finance – otherwise known as “reverse factoring” – has exploded in popularity in recent years, as businesses have recognised the positive impact it can have on cash flow and relationships across the supply chain.

It performs something akin to a magic trick, enabling businesses to lengthen their payment terms to suppliers, whilst helping suppliers to get paid early. Supply chain finance comes in many different forms, but perhaps the simplest variation is when a supplier sells eligible invoices at a small discount to a finance provider, who is then paid by the ultimate buyer of the goods or services covered by the invoice.

Who benefits?

Everyone benefits from supply chain finance:

  • The supplier gets paid early by a creditworthy counterparty
  • The buyer of the goods or services enjoys the benefit of extended timelines for payment
  • The finance provider makes a margin between the price it paid for the invoice from the supplier and the price it will receive from the company upon settlement

For suppliers and buyers, this is a great way to improve liquidity management. But it’s not as easy to achieve as it sounds. To make supply chain finance work for your business, you need to look under the hood of your finance system to ensure that you have the correct document processing infrastructure in place. Without it, frankly, it won’t work.

Speed is everything

What is the key to successful supply chain management? Speed, the quicker you can get an invoice authorised and ready to be paid, the better for all parties. Unfortunately, this is a formidable challenge for many businesses, who take an age to process documents.

CloudTrade slashes the time it takes to get invoices authorised:

Application-generated documents are validated and data is extracted. It can also be augmented and enriched if necessary, before being ingested into the finance system and used in other areas of the business, facilitating greater visibility and control.

The invoice is posted to the target system, ready to be paid – without being so much as touched by the buyer.

Typically, invoices arriving into Accounts Payable take between 10 and 30 days to be authorised for payment. With CloudTrade it takes less than 24 hours.


Cash is king

On a practical level, the speed and accuracy of this process means that buyers have much more negotiating power when it comes to paying invoices.

If an invoice due for payment within 60 days can be authorised for payment within 1 day of being received, that leaves 59 days to play with. To press home this advantage, a notification can go out to the supplier informing them that the invoice is ready to be paid – and the buyer can ask for a healthy discount for early payment.

This is a great example of how increasing the velocity of document processing can create new opportunities for your business. CloudTrade’s unique Intelligent Data Capture[2]technology enables organisations to exploit supply chain finance to get more visibility and control over cash flow.

Give back to your business

In recent years, the focus amongst UK companies large and small has shifted away from cost reduction towards cash management and compliance. Companies are already pretty efficient, and there isn’t much wood left to chop in order to improve profitability. Rather than saving hours by cutting headcount, our clients and prospects tend to be focused on giving hours back to the business.

Supply chain management is the perfect way to achieve this. CloudTrade’s technology creates opportunities to improve the way companies manage cash flow, whilst keeping suppliers happy and countering the late payment epidemic.

The value of this is not to be underestimated. No man is an island, and no business exists in a vacuum. By investing in faster document processing, you’re investing in your relationships across the supply chain. And in the long run, there’s no better way to grow a business.

CloudTrade helps you and your suppliers save time and money. Book a discovery call today.

A practical solution to late payments

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Late payments

The latest press release from the Chartered Institute of Credit Management (CICM) on the Prompt Payment Code (PPC) makes for grim reading. 17 companies have been removed or suspended from the Code during the past quarter, with some household names being very publicly named and shamed.

Despite best intentions, late payments are a feature of business and companies responsible for them shouldn’t be portrayed as villains. The narrative of evil behemoths stitching up independent businesses is simplistic and unhelpful. In fact, the problem tends to stem from under investment in technology rather than a conscious decision to pay suppliers late.

Keeping the lights on

Let’s face it, accounts payable departments are the “Cinderellas” of large organisations. Since they’re cost centres that pay out money rather than revenue generators that process orders (we’ll cover this in more depth in a future blog post on automated order processing, so make sure to subscribe to our blog), accounts payable tends to be under-resourced relative to accounts receivable. Furthermore, many large enterprises operating across geographies lack a central repository for invoices and it takes time to assimilate documents in a processing centre.

In our conversations with accounts payable managers and Financial Directors at large organisations, we often hear it’s simply too difficult and expensive to overhaul long-established operational practices. Management is stretched across multiple business areas and imperatives, leading to paralysis when it comes to document processing. There are not enough hours in the day.



The risks are more than financial

In the long run, under investment inevitably leads to backlogs, with delays in getting suppliers paid spiralling. And for those organisations that do choose to invest in full-scale digital transformation, it can take months (often years) to see material improvements in processing times.

Small suppliers get hit particularly hard, because they lack the necessary clout to ensure prompt payment. The reputational risks for large businesses have never been higher, with those responsible for late payments outed by the CICM in quarterly announcements, not to mention the prospect of brands being admonished by members of the public on social media.

But there is a silver lining for small suppliers, and for large organisations too. Whilst paper invoicing is definitely still prevalent and isn’t going to go away overnight, a meaningful proportion of suppliers now use cloud-based accounting platforms. It’s not just large organisations on Oracle, Microsoft or SAP Ariba – the majority of SMEs use the cloud with packages like Xero and Quickbooks to issue application-generated invoices, which can be emailed to customers and processed 100% accurately and digitally by CloudTrade.

This enables large enterprises to automate documents from small suppliers with lower invoicing volumes, which make up the bulk of their document processing needs. It means adoption is rapid and large scale, with application-generated PDFs received same day as an email attachment and processed within terms, removing paper from the process entirely. Indeed, CloudTrade had over 6,000 organisations send in documents last month alone.

Behind the doom and gloom of recent headlines lies a solution. We need to start talking constructively about how we can help large companies reduce instances of late payment and pay suppliers on time. More often than not, both sides want the same thing.

Book a demonstration today to understand how CloudTrade can help you business.

How Intelligent Data Capture Drives Profitability

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Last week on the blog we talked about how regulation and new technologies, such as intelligent data capture, are helping large companies to pay small suppliers on time. In turn, this is enabling large companies to move towards an automated, paperless future. This is good news for both the environment and for company bottom lines.

Empowering Businesses with Data

At CloudTrade, we know that technology is improving the quality and accuracy of data capture across the payments cycle. We’re proud of the way our technology sits at the heart of this evolution, enabling our customers to implemnt intelligent data capture to harness granular data. Which they’re already using to make better-informed business decisions.

Intelligent data capture means, being able to go deeper than header-level has a host of benefits, especially when it comes to processing and paying invoices. Streamlining this process benefits both the company being paid and the company making the payment.

Want to understand how we can help with data capture?


A Stable Base to Build

The primary benefit is obvious – electronically processing invoices is more cost efficient than relying on a human, who should be focusing their intellect and time on higher value tasks. This is especially true in the public sector, where budgets are being squeezed, meaning that stable cash flow within the supplier base is critical to the ongoing sustainability of the sector. Efficient invoice processing can save public sector entities money by replacing manual processes with technology.

Across local government, councils are increasingly recognising the potential of emerging technologies to transform their back-office functions and change working practices to deliver real value. Early payment programmes, provided by CloudTrade partner, Oxygen Finance, demonstrate how effective use of technology, alongside process and change consultancy, can help organisations drive efficiencies within existing purchase to pay (P2P) processes, delivering multiple benefits for both buyer and supplier

There are two ways to make money

So, how does this process work? Using a combination of technology, process re-engineering and supplier on-boarding, Oxygen enables local authorities to pay their suppliers early. An early payment rebate is agreed with the supplier, relating to the amount of acceleration achieved on each invoice, creating an income stream for the council from its existing spend and injecting liquidity directly into the supply chain.

“Suppliers who choose to join our early payment programmes benefit from improved cashflow, freeing credit lines for investment in growing and developing their business. The robust digital audit trail that tracks invoice payment means that suppliers spend less time chasing payments too,”

said Marianne Betts, Oxygen Finance’s Deputy CEO, highlighting how their technology is helping customers on a number of different levels.

“At the same time, the buying organisation improves relationships with its suppliers, as well as securing the supply chain and gaining improved operational effectiveness from digitising back-office functions and optimising P2P processes.”

Marianne also highlighted the crucial role that CloudTrade’s technology plays in this process:

“CloudTrade facilitates the rapid and accurate capture of invoice detail at line-level which maximises the efficiencies available.”

In business, there are two primary ways to make money. You can either save it by reducing costs or you can earn it by being paid earnings, payments or rebates. We’re proud to say that our work at CloudTrade alongside our partner, Oxygen Finance, is helping our customers to do both.

Here’s how we apply intelligent data capture to your business documents

Why Intelligent Data Capture is a Stepping Stone Towards Machine Learning

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Stepping stone to machine learning

As you’ve likely noticed, an increasing number of small and medium-sized businesses are assessing how they can adopt machine learning, artificial intelligence and RPA.

The Future is Here

It’s becoming widely accepted that the various forms of AI, like machine learning, will continue to grow in importance in the coming years. A recent survey conducted by Brother UK and The Telegraph found that almost half of IT decision makers (45%) believe that AI will drive the biggest innovations of the next three years.

But many organisations are unsure how best to integrate the technology into their existing workflows. This uncertainty can lead to paralysis as managers choose to ignore implementation, believing that it’s too complicated for them to implement today. Many also believe the tech is to expensive and won’t lead to returns at this relatively early stage in its development.

The spark that lights the fire

It’s important to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. As we discussed on the blog a couple of weeks ago, the best time to start any digital transformation is now, even if starting means starting small. This is especially true when it comes to AI and machine learning.

One necessary ingredient for any machine learning project, is clean data. But many businesses don’t have the sufficient quantity of data that the algorithms require to produce a reliable prediction. If you don’t have massive silos of clean data then you need to consider intelligent data capture.

Act now, or get left behind…

Last week on the blog we spoke about how extracting line level data gives companies greater insights into their bottom lines. If your business is going to leverage AI at some point in the future, then you’re not going to be able to do it without data. If you’re only capturing small amounts of basic information, you will only be able to make basic assumptions.

In short, we firmly believe that intelligent data capture is a crucial stepping stone towards the implementation of machine learning. Implementing intelligent data capture technology today will give your business a long term advantage over your competitors. And companies must act with a sense of urgency, recognising how information and data that’s flowing through systems on a daily basis is currently being lost. For example, once an invoice has been processed, without intelligent data capture, that data is lost forever.

Prepare for tomorrow

Intelligent data capture is not only a solution that can help you and your business today. Perhaps more importantly, it’s also an investment in the future of your business, creating opportunities that can be realised further down the line when machine learning and AI become truly ubiquitous and affordable.

As machine learning capabilities improve, it will no longer be a question of whether a company can afford its implementation. It will be whether a company can afford to be without it.CloudTrade can help you and your company begin to successfully implement technology that can be the first stepping stone towards the implementation of machine learning. If you want to find out more, get in touch.