5 Tips to Keep Business Flowing in Challenging Times

It might feel like the world has come to a stop. But businesses must keep moving, regardless of circumstance, to keep commerce flowing, economies afloat, and supply chains running. Read on for our top 5 tips on how you can keep your organisation operational amid challenging circumstances.​

1. Automate what and where you can

Manual processes require one thing – working hands. But if your workforce can’t be in the office to manually move business operations, then of course, during times of required isolation or limited face-to-face contact and meetings, business can come to a halt. But it doesn’t have to. Automation is just one way of saving force in keeping business flowing.

The most vital part of business is the exchange of cash for goods. So, if your invoice processing comes to a stop, so does your business. Suppliers must be paid. Supply chains must keep flowing. That’s where AP Automation comes in, taking slow paper-based and manual processes and turning them into digitised, electronic ones. Advanced automation can also bring about benefits including less margin for error.

E-invoicing, for instance, keeps business flowing by giving your suppliers a way to send invoices electronically, directly to you. It offers the opportunity to deepen collaborative efforts between suppliers and buyers by connecting those strategic suppliers to electronic invoicing. It also helps you easily connect the longtail suppliers with other flexible invoicing methods, requiring minimal change management. This means to send a PDF invoice, suppliers don’t even need to register necessarily. In times like these when sending a paper invoice via snail mail could result in further delays and holdups in keeping business flowing, electronic options are a saving grace.

2. Strive for on-time payments

Slow internal processes and a lack of automation are among the biggest challenges for businesses when it comes to paying their suppliers on time. Add a global epidemic to the mix and payments get even more complex. Sure, it’s easy for a company to try and save what they can by deferring payment after payment, but you’ve got to consider what that’s doing to the overall economic supply chain and your own cash flow down the line.

The key here is collaboration. We’ve stressed before how important it is to develop and sustain healthy and happy relationships with your suppliers. Afterall, from a business perspective, they have what you need to make your business a success. In your supply chain, suppliers and buyers depend on each other to keep business flowing. In stressful times, both sides need to be open and willing to encourage an open dialogue about what can be done to work through difficult times and make it work. It’s a collective effort to keep businesses moving. It’s important to do what you can to make timely payments so you can play your part in keeping business flowing.

One easy way to do this is by implementing payment plans. For regularly occurring invoices with consistent amounts, you can configure payment plans to automatically pay invoices on a schedule. This means payments won’t be late because of something like a lost invoice or slow processing and you can ensure suppliers are paid and commerce keeps flowing.

3. Get creative with technology

We’ve already seen some really great examples of business creativity to keep cash flowing even if it’s a portion of their usual revenue. Restaurants have dedicated their menus and workers to offering curbside pickup instead of dining in. Gyms have provided online, live workouts amidst having to close their doors temporarily. To not be creative is to potentially get left behind and it’s likely that those businesses who aren’t adapting will struggle to put all the pieces back together. However, those that faced the challenge with a new set of eyes and took the creative challenge head on will come out a few steps ahead. Agility mixed with consistency is key.

One way to be creative about your typical business processes is by introducing or integrating smart technologies. You may even have built-in technology as part of your current business solutions that you’re not aware of or not taking full advantage of. For instance:

SmartPDF: A technology unique to Basware, SmartPDF eliminates the manual work and risk of errors associated with handling paper invoices. No printing, scanning, or re-entering of invoice information is required because the invoice data is extracted directly from a readable PDF. From there, it’s automatically put into your AP or ERP system. The process is simple. Suppliers send you the same PDF invoice by e-mail as they do today. Basware SmartPDF uses artificial intelligence (AI) to determine if the PDF is a readable PDF or an image PDF. Readable PDFs are sent through the Basware Network, converting the attachment into an e-invoice in near real time, without OCR, data errors, or delay. The extracted invoice data is then delivered electronically into your AP or ERP system.

Smart Coding: Automated coding is one way that Basware takes the manual effort out of the hands of the AP team and puts it into the hands of data recognition and machine learning (ML). Smart coding eliminates the need for your AP team to manually code invoices if there’s no purchase order (PO) created to match to that invoice. Using a ML algorithm, smart coding technology automatically searches and analyses historical data to recommend the proper general ledger (GL) coding of non-PO invoices. By leveraging and learning from company financial data, smart coding continuously improves the accuracy of its recommendations – increasing efficiency, productivity and accuracy of invoice handling.

4. Plan for your future with analytics

Even though it’s difficult to think about the future when many organisations are hyper-focused on just getting by day-to-day, it’s important to consider how your business will face the future. But there’s no use guessing how you’ll come out in a few months—it’s better to use hard data to inform your future business strategy and develop a plan.

Built into our solutions, Basware Analytics gives our customers critical insights to empower their companies with actionable, easy-to-use, highly visual reporting. Basware Analytics offers visibility into four strategic AP KPIs. Using these, you can increase e-invoicing and matching rates while also improving efficiency, controlling spend, and drilling into details to reduce cycle times and analyse on-time payment performance.

Advanced analytics empowers your organisation with the insight, oversight, and foresight needed to:

  • prevent late payments,

  • increase e-invoice rates,

  • resolve process bottlenecks, and

  • improve supplier relationships.

5. Do what you can to enable remote working

Though we like to think we live in a digital world, not all organisations are equipped to take operations almost entirely off-premise and swap to online operations. And it’s understandable. If a business is used to performing all its operations in the office, it can take time to move it all online in the blink of an eye. Plus, while the company is hurriedly digitising operations, they’re wasting valuable time. Being digital-ready saves that time and keeps your organisation moving without interruption.

According to a recent EIU report, What’s now and next for procurement and finance?, 31% of respondents agree that recruiting employees with specialist digital skills will be critical to unlocking digital transformation in their organisations. Meanwhile, 25% of respondents have already recruited specialist talent.

Marceau Pasquier, chief financial officer of the Framatome’s installed base division, believes that forward-thinking organisations must find new ways of training employees. “Training for the tools and the new processes is not that difficult. People are smart everywhere and if we train them well there’s no reason that they can’t adapt,” he says. “We need to train our people to be used to change every two or three years and to be flexible and adapt themselves to this process.”

So, take a look at your processes, interrogate what could be done digitally or online, and take note of how to enable a strong remote workforce in the face of disruption. Basware can help you bring your operations online and keep business flowing through features such as mobile discussions—where users can virtually discuss information regarding individual purchase requisitions, orders, or invoices using a built-in messenger system. It also saves messages, so you can easily reference past conversations. Our cloud-based solutions are mobile-ready and can also be accessed anywhere, giving users access to financial processes on-the-go, putting an end to process bottlenecks, and keeping business flowing regardless of where users are located.

Learn more about keeping business flowing

Dig deeper into how AP Automation can help keep commerce moving in tumultuous times in​ our recent blog. And download our eBook to learn how AP Automation simplifies processes, provides clear visibility, and further develops in-depth analytics and cash flow optimisation.

VP of Purchase to Pay Product Management, Basware Sami Peltonen, is VP of P2P Product Management. Sami boasts more than two decades developing and delivering solutions that streamline procurement and finance professionals’ daily lives, enabling them to achieve greater efficiencies within their organisations. Sami currently leads Basware’s P2P Roadmap and Product strategy.