Self isolation? No problem – keep your business running 24/7

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Remote Working

With the world slowly putting itself into self-isolation, never has it been more evident that digitisation of your business practices enables increased flexibility in where your team works and helping to keep it ‘open as usual’. Here, David Cocks, CloudTrade CEO, discusses how the move towards digitisation and automation can not only help keep your business running during times of crisis such as these, but can also benefit your business in the long run.

In the modern world, customers have come to expect services 24/7. Companies like Amazon have set the bar very high when it feels like that drone delivering the next brown parcel is already overhead before you have even clicked “proceed to checkout”. However, not every company has the luxury of scale to ensure they always have staff ready to complete the onsite business processes, whatever the peaks in demand.

Some companies now incorporate flexible working strategies to encourage home working where it fits with the business needs, but many tasks remain dependent on the physical presence of staff within the business office. This often includes the need for access to paper documents or the use of on-premise technology, be that computers, printers or even scanners.

In these difficult times, we are also forced to accept the real possibility of large numbers of staff not being able to travel to the physical business office through actual illness or community health protection necessities. The more we modernise our business so our staff can work from anywhere, the more we are resilient to the threats of massive disruption.

The state-of-the-art way to ensure your business meets scalability and business continuity demands is to automate fully the critical processes. Persisting with manual, repetitive tasks in the spirit of “it ain’t broke, why fix it” will not work when faced with a global crisis that is emptying streets, offices and leaves the commuter train ghost-like. Also, your customers will not tolerate whatever reasons  as to why you’re unable to deliver the goods and services promised, especially if these business critical – they will look to others who have identified the risks of reliance on outdate manual processes and have taken actions to mitigate these issues.

What do I mean by ‘automating the critical processes’?

Firstly, look at your internal processes and understand why things are done manually. This is often because of external factors, notably data not available in a form or quality that is consistent with the requirements for straight through processing (STP).

Just think of a sales order arriving by email. The customer service team have to open the email, save the attachment, scan the PDF, correct the OCR (scanned data) and finally upload the data into the fulfilment system. One person can process maybe 10 orders an hour – max! If staff are not available or not on-site, then there are no orders in your system, unhappy customers and loss of revenue. All you really need is the correct data in a machine-readable form without the reliance of scanning equipment, and you can go straight through to fulfilment. Your order is shipped in minutes, and not days.

Second is to use the right technology, designed to automate and deliver touch-free processing. I don’t mean systems designed to make a manual process more efficient, where you still need elusive staff to complete routine tasks. Systems that are designed to achieve guaranteed high levels of automation and accuracy are essential for the true, scalable, high-volume straight-through process. A system that can guarantee quality must be deterministic. That is, it must be clear how it works, why it works and (probably just as important) when it fails, why it has failed. If your business systems are non-deterministic, the output cannot be predicted and you don’t know how it works, then you can’t drive for full automation. Perhaps you already have an invoice scanning/OCR service – think how annoying it is when sometimes it gets the data correct, and other times it corrupts or misses information that appears clearly on the original document. The result is you need to check manually each document. It is only when the mechanisms of automation are transparent that you can achieve continuous improvement. A system that is best endeavours and (maybe) improves in an obscure way can never deliver the straight-through processes you should strive for.

So, business leaders think automation and think STP. Modernising your business is not vanity, or even just a way of improving margins, it is a necessity to survival.

I wouldn’t want you to be the next Kodak, Blockbuster, or more recently, Thomas Cook.

CloudTrade specialises in automating traditionally manual business processes

such as invoice processing.

Want to know more about electronic invoicing and the different methods available?

The problem with Brexit, and the future of e-invoicing

Reading Time: 2 minutes
The UK deadline for leaving the EU currently stands at 31st January

Big changes are coming to the e-invoicing market, thanks to EU directive 2014/55/EU. Public sector organisations in Europe must be able to receive and process EU compliant einvoices from their suppliers by April 18th 2020, at the latest. The objective is to standardise invoice content, making it easier and cheaper for local government and central government to process them.

Assuming Brexit doesn’t lead to the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal, public sector entities in the UK will be compelled to receive EU compliant electronic invoices by April 2020. Scotland has already transposed this into law after consultation with various trade and government organisations, including the NHS, and it has yielded an overwhelmingly positive response. This move is long overdue in order to deliver automation and efficiencies in today’s supply chains.

In fact, much progress has already been made, with dozens of NHS organisations in the UK adopting Pan European Public Procurement Online (PEPPOL), an implementation of the EU directive which relies on the 4 corner model mandated by the Department Of Health. Adoption is accelerating in the healthcare sector, with 60 NHS Trusts now in a position to receive PEPPOL Invoices, up from only 7 at the start of the year. We expect this to rise to 250 by the summer. You can find a full list of these organisations here. 

But PEPPOL is just one implementation of the wider EU directive. In 2018, nearly £50 billion was spent on UK public sector contracts, and the number of contracts awarded grew by around 21% to 40,130. The number of private companies selling to the public sector is growing and we know from case studies in other countries that when the public sector starts to mandate einvoicing and etrading standards, the private sector follows. So, the adoption of PEPPOL in the public sector bodes well for automation of supply chains in the private sector.

Interested in becoming a PEPPOL supplier?


Clearly the Brexit situation is very fluid, but many still see a deal as the most likely outcome. This means that public sector organisations in the UK who are already upgrading their einvoicing operations should continue to do so. For those still on the fence, it would be prudent to take action.

An orderly Brexit, facilitated by some sort of deal with the EU, will be a hugely positive development for einvoicing in the UK. Compelling public sector entities to take action and join the einvoicing revolution. It’s not just about invoicing in the NHS – the directive is starting the process of digital transformation of the purchase-to-pay process across both public and private sectors.

The future of electronic invoicing in the UK is in the hands of our politicians. We live in chaotic and confusing times, so to get a better understanding of where you stand as an organisation with regards to PEPPOL and einvoicing, contact CloudTrade today.