Monthly Archives: December 2011

e-Invoicing for SMEs and Lack of Awareness As Key Barrier According to ACCA

With over 147,000 members and 424,000 students in 170 countries, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, or ACCA as it is more commonly known, has recently published a report titled ‘A digital agenda for European SMEs.’

This a comprehensive report based on an extensive member survey and presents key findings on the European Commission’s digital agenda for Europe and in particular, in four key areas: cloud computing, e-Invoicing, social lending and e-commerce.

The survey respondents replied to a number of questions that ascertained the barriers or impediments to the uptake of cloud computing, e-Invoicing, social lending and e-commerce. The answers were grouped in the following categories:

  • Too expensiveACCA logo
  • Lack of awareness
  • Lack of support from banks
  • Lack of access to appropriate specialists
  • No need, customers don’t require this
  • Lack of government initiatives
  • Perceived security risk
  • Too complex
  • Lack of government action
  • Lack of access to fast internet
  • Lack of universal platforms

The most notable statistic is that ‘lack of awareness’ is noted as by far the most important barrier to each of the four key areas that the report surveys on.

To quote directly from the report, “The report finds some important gaps in awareness and confidence levels among the SME sector, and calls on the European Commission, member state governments and the IT industry to actively engage with the advisory community if a critical mass of SMEs is going to be reached.”

The findings of the ACCA correlate very closely to Celtrino’s long held views that the lack of awareness needs to be addressed at both a European and governmental level. The European Union, to be fair, has been actively promoting e-Invoicing for some years and there are several projects on the go to help realise a pan-European e-Invoicing landscape.

But nothing raises awareness more than a legal requirement to act in a certain way. To this end, the Fins are leading by example and there is a new requirement for state agencies and institutions to receive only e-Invoices from their suppliers. Considering that close on 50% of the entire European SME base trades with its respective public sectors, the issue of awareness will not be a problem for long in Finland.

This report is a positive addition to the digital business agenda discussion for Europe and adds credence to the Celtrino’s recent white paper ‘Ireland is About to Become a Whole Lot Smarter.’

You can download a copy of the ACCA report here.

e-Invoicing, Beyond PDF – Part 1

At the most simple level, electronic invoicing is replacing a physical, paper invoice, with an electronic equivalent. For most businesses, their e-Invoicing process is to create a PDF version of the invoice document which is then emailed to their customer. Although this system works well in principle, it can still be improved upon.

Firewall Failure

One of the basic problems that has plagued email since it became a major business tool, is its vulnerability to misuse. The most common way to distribute viruses and malware is via an email attachment which is opened unwittingly by the recipient.

Modern network security techniques and antivirus software reduce the risk of viral infection, but at the same time are notorious for detecting ‘false positives’ and archiving or deleting genuine messages as well as those that are infected. Should your invoice be one of those messages incorrectly identified as a virus or spam, there will be a natural delay in payment of your bill.e-Invoicing: Beyond PDF

Valuable time and effort will be spent emailing additional copies of the original invoice or negotiating with IT departments to have the message released from quarantine. Such delays cost in terms of duplicated effort, time spent chasing up missing invoices and increased costs associated with late payments.

The Solution

The obvious way to prevent an electronic invoice from being incorrectly deleted is to completely bypass traditional email mechanisms completely. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) technologies already exist to perform these transactions, but they tend to be both costly and difficult to implement.

Enter the hosted e-Invoicing platform. These systems, exemplified by Celtrino’s Smart Admin service, require no onsite EDI installation and are capable of traversing corporate firewalls and anti-malware systems quickly and efficiently. An electronic invoice submitted via Smart Admin leaves your accounts system and is entered automatically into your client’s accounts system without any delay or manual intervention.

PDF invoicing is a step towards greater efficiency, but Smart Admin invoicing will revolutionise your billing and payments system for the better. Watch out for the second part of this article about life beyond the PDF on Dumping Double Entry.

e-Invoicing and Supply Chain Costs Reduction for Private and Public Sector – White Paper

On 17th November the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform published the Public Sector Reform plan and a number of its recommendations made headline news: the reduction in headcount and the end of decentralisation.

However, the report contains more far reaching objectives which the reporting media simply did not and do not understand.

In effect, the public sector in Ireland is set to change the way it processes its day-to-day business activities. This change is transformative, it will impact the entire island and profoundly change the way all businesses process business transactions.

This reform plan signifies major change even if you do not deal directly with the public sector. As has been demonstrated in other countries that have embarked on such projects, the change sweeps across the both the private and public sectors. It is irrevocable and to be absolutely clear, it is hugely positive.

The proposed change will give you reason to question:
1. How will my supply chain be affected and what do I need to do to prepare?
2. Is my ERP or back office system(s) fit for purpose?
3. What does e-Invoicing entail?

The appropriately titles white paper ‘Ireland is About to Become a Whole Lot Smarter’ presents a detailed overview of the opportunity at hand for both the private and public sectors in Ireland.

The economic circumstances have to a large extent forced the governments hand on this reform and we must take this opportunity as the benefits are significant and far reaching. Our Nordic neighbours are well down the e-Business journey and derive significant cost savings, and now have a solid e-Business infrastructure that is a competitive trading advantage.

No journey of this nature is exempt from challenges and obstacles.

So, download a copy of the white paper and please remember, here at Celtrino our door is always open and we are more than willing to help you plan to take advantage of this opportunity.


Are you Over Complicating e-Invoicing?

The rush for the paperless office and associated riches available through efficiencies and cost-savings is a compelling argument for many businesses. They then rush through the initial planning only to discover that the complexity of such a deployment is far greater than they had initially anticipated.  Discontent is quickly followed by despair and can even result in the new system being ditched altogether.Over-complicated e-Invoicing?

What goes wrong? Many businesses are simply not prepared for the culture shock associated with the changes required to their processes and cannot adjust to the more rigid structures required. Although “touchless” systems promise the greatest returns on investment, the fact that they also affect every part of an organisation means the greatest disruption, even if it is only short-lived.

And here lies the nub of the problem. The deployment of an e-Procurement system is all or nothing; it must be implemented across the entire company simultaneously, or not at all. There are no piecemeal implementation options.

Contrast this with e-Invoicing which is the process of replacing paper-based invoice documentation with its electronic equivalent. In this scenario, all of the benefits of a touchless system are still available (reduced staff burden, reduced time to payment, ongoing reduced costs), but the impact is borne by the accounts department alone.

The implementation of an e-Invoicing system for many companies provides the perfect opportunity to test out a single paperless department and solve the common deployment problems on a smaller scale. These lessons can then be carried forward, once the business benefits have been properly recognized, and a wider deployment authorised.

The implementation of any electronic platform will always require changes to business processes, but much of the complication can be reduced by taking on a smaller challenge first. Although e-Procurement may be your company’s eventual target, an e-Invoicing roll out may provide the practice you need to get the process right.

The rise of “social” ERP

In the same way that email revolutionised the way we do business from the mid-90s onwards, social networking is set to me the next major game changer. Previously regarded as a novelty, or consumer communication method, provisions by major ERP and CRM vendors, such as Salesforce’s Chatter product, have seen the concept embraced by businesses across the world.

Admittedly social networking is still normally used as an additional communications channel between the brand and its consumers, but deployment of private social networks are also changing the way business ‘talk’ internally. Many businesses using internal social networking have begun supplanting the traditional corporate intranet with short messaging systems.

Social ERPWhere company announcements may have been posted on internal bulletin boards, forums, intranet pages or even disseminated by mass email, some businesses are now broadcasting the same information using social networking. On the ERP front, social collaboration tools allow departments to stay abreast of relevant information or to pass on specific project-related data to ensure all staff are fully informed. A quick ‘tweet’ like message can inform all stakeholders of production delays, sales figures or performance data quickly and simply.

Social collaboration tools allow for quick and easy communication both within businesses and with each member of the supply chain without having to rely on integrated messaging systems or email. The immediacy of communication via social networking allows for instant updates to be transmitted to relevant parties effortlessly. Corporate social networking tools also allow for archive and retrieval of messages, ensuring an accurate audit trail of communications can be created and referred to at a later date, or in the event of a dispute.

Social networking for business, particularly within the ERP arena, remains something of a curiosity at present. Those companies already using such tools swear by the efficiencies created by instant communications, whilst others are somewhat suspicious of mixing business with informal communications techniques. Regardless of an individual business’ position on the debate however, enough ERP vendors are getting behind the technique to ensure its future in the workplace.


Electronic Purchase Order: Eradicate Manual Process and Increase Profit

Hear how you can reduce the manual process in your supply chain and increase profit margins by using Electronic Purchase Order solution.

ERP Automation

ERP – It’s all about automation

Regarded by many as a must-have application for the modern business, Enterprise Resource Planning systems have become ever more common, helping companies to assume control of their day-to-day operations with a high degree of accuracy. Whether deployed at a single site organisation or a multi-national corporation, ERP has become an essential part of those businesses.

Despite the prevalence of ERP however, the major benefit of such systems is often missed. Much is made of potential cost savings, but few understand that these savings are not based on methodology or concepts, but on a reduction of duplicated effort and automation of common tasks. A business’ greatest cost is always its workforce, which is ultimately where the greatest cost savings are found.

Automate for savings

ERP automationMost business processes contain inherent inefficiencies, but it is only during analysis and benchmarking that they come to light. Unfortunately many businesses only carry out process analysis exercises during major projects. At these times resources to address such issues are often unavailable. An ERP implementation provides the ideal opportunity to not only identify inefficiencies, but also implement changes to reduce or minimise them.

ERP systems have the added benefit of not only highlighting inefficiencies, but also providing a way by which automation can completely negate them. Legacy systems typically involve the same information to be entered and manually updated several times throughout the manufacturing or production procedure. ERP platforms can reduce much of this manual data entry, progressing virtual paperwork through the production chain automatically.

This use of automation immediately reduces the amount of time spent by employees on administration, allowing them to focus on carrying out their core duties without worrying about burdensome paperwork. Eventually automation of enough common tasks will create efficiencies sufficient to allow for workforce redeployment and/or reduction. It is at this point that cost savings increase from minimal to significant, finally realising the cost savings promised by ERP vendors.

As an addendum, it is also at this point that we must delineate between those tasks that the ERP system is best placed to automate and those tasks that are best automated outside the ERP – the tasks associated with supply chain management. A common failing of many ERP projects is loading the ERP system with tasks that it was not designed to automate.


ERP and the SME

Once regarded as the preserve of enterprise-level organisation, the advent of cloud-based computing and the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business model has made powerful, and previously expensive, enterprise resource planning platforms available and accessible to smaller businesses. Known by some as “democratisation”, outsourced ERP has made enterprise functionality available to companies as small as sole traders.

Great idea, but why bother?

Your business is unique, and so too are the processes underpinning it; no one knows your business like you do. That said, an ERP outsourcer knows enterprise resource planning better than most, allowing their customers to rely on their expertise. Using an outsourced ERP provider also removes the need for employing an in-house ERP expert. The SaaS provider assumes responsibility for hosting the ERP application, maintaining and managing it, and providing support to the end user.
Outsourced ERP allows smaller businesses to enjoy all the benefits of an enterprise class system without having to pay traditional enterprise-level license costs or for the staff traditionally required to maintain and support such a system. Outsourced ERP allows SMEs to focus on running their business, without worrying about the underlying software.

But wait, there’s more!ERP and SME

Traditional Enterprise Resource Planning systems certainly create cost-savings and efficiencies but often only over a significant period of time. By outsourcing ERP SMEs can significantly reduce the time usually associated with such a deployment; the outsourcer assumes responsibility for the implementation, leaving the buyer with a fully functional ERP system from day one.
SMEs using outsourced ERP systems also stand to gain from fringe benefits such as free-of-charge software upgrades, and bundled support services all of which would potentially be very expensive. These additional benefits contribute to reducing the on-going running costs which can be incurred when running ERP software in-house.
Outsourcing has therefore made ERP not only available to the small or medium business, but also affordable. As a result, businesses failing to take advantage of ERP functionality and its associated efficiencies stand to lose out to their competitors in the long run.

Electronic Ledger Alignment and Cash Flow Management – via Cloud Computing

The below describes an original, cost effective way to improve your organisation’s cash flow by implementing electronic general ledger accounting software in the cloud.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to drop us an comment, tweet or e-mail and we’ll be sure to get back to you.


Apple’s Obsessive attention to Supply Chain Management pays off

For the fourth year in a row, market analyst Gartner has rated Apple as having the world’s best supply chain. In their annual breakdown, Gartner examine the discipline, execution and value-added capacities of each of the 25 largest global corporations to produce the list which is now in its seventh year.

So how did Apple attain this latest accolade? The Cupertino-based computer giant is well known for its cut-throat pricing negotiations and obsessive supplier secrecy, which allows them to exert a high degree of control over the entire manufacturing process. Although they sell their own hardware, Apple manufacture very little themselves, choosing instead to outsource as much as possible.

Apple logo in AcesOne of the major tools used by Apple to ensure supply chain success is a willingness to invest heavily in every aspect of it; reports from Apple suggest that supply chain expenditure will almost double this year to $7.1 billion. Apple has found that massive expenditure on supply chain management is not only good for their business, but provides a significant advantage over their competitors too.

Back in 1997 when the original coloured iMac was released, Apple took the unusual step of buying up all of the available air freight around the Christmas period to ensure stores would be able to stock the computer. The move cost $50 million dollars, but it also hamstrung the opposition including Compaq, who were unable to secure any air transportation for their goods over the crucial holiday period. So successful was the move that Apple moved into ‘drop-shipping’ when the iPod was released, delivering goods to the customer directly from the factory and reducing lead times (and costs) yet further.

Since that time, Apple have managed to stay ahead of the opposition by taking a similar approach to every aspect of their supply chain. If a new manufacturing technique is identified, Apple sign exclusive supply contracts and invest further with the supplier to keep competitors playing catch up.  Similarly Apple have the reserves to offer significant pre-payments to suppliers, obligating them to fulfil Apple’s product orders first. Because of this the lead time on certain parts increases, again delaying production and release of competitor’s offerings.

This attention to supply chain efficiency, ruthless negotiation and an awareness of the effects of their business actions on the competition are a significant part of what has allowed Apple to become the world’s most successful company. Apple invest heavily ensuring that their supply chain does exactly what they need, how they want it and in time to fulfil their customers’ orders proving that obsessive control does pay off.

The Gartner Supply Chain Top 25 for 2011 is the seventh year of their annual Supply Chain Top 25 Report. You can download a copy of the report from the Gartner website.