Caroline is a Director at Digital Print Management, a leading print management company specialising in providing print and mailing solutions.
Having spent 25 years in the transpromo industry she is one of the UK's leading expert's in print and mail solutions.
With COVID-19 effectively putting the UK on an unprecedented lock down businesses have been prepare themselves to maintain a business as usual standard.
Our print-2-mail or hybrid mail solution services is on the increase providing much needed printing and mailing of important customer letters and transactional documents.
The corona virus is forcing many to work from home.
The problem with that is how do businesses continue to maintain contact with their employees and customers?
Companies who are choose our Print-2-Mail service do so because it is significantly reducing their costs on mailings but they are optimising key staff who are creating critical customer documents, uploading them on to our Print-2-Mail portal saving a lot of time and worry.
After the recession in 2008, companies were forced to look for cheaper mailing alternatives.
And although there was a big swing to electronic mailings companies had to find an alternative to mailing out smaller volumes of letters.
Businesses continue to mail out letters.
The running costs of managing this in-house makes it expensive and it is one of the first areas a company looks at when streamlining its printing requirements.
Automating the process of print and mailing alongside digital gives companies the flexibility to send paper communications alongside digital.
Hybrid mail is ideal for emergency and ad hoc customer mailings from payslips, invoices, statements, remittances, newsletters and any other document.
Letters that are printed and posted make hybrid mail the perfect back up solution for your everyday needs.
Businesses have greater flexibility to upload letters any time of the day.
The current stay-at-home measure from the government gives key employees access to our hybrid mail portal which means you can still mail out important letters.
What are the 6 key benefits:-
No installation is required ( you will need to download a print driver) A username, password and an internet connection are all that is required to upload documents directly from your desktop and you can be up and running in a matter of minutes.
With no set up charges or licensing fees, hybrid mail can save upwards of 30% on office print and mailing costs. Hybrid mail costs less than a 2nd class stamp and includes the paper, envelope, printing folding, inserting and posting
Ease of use – Hybrid mail is simple to use there are four easy steps create the documents in word and hybrid mail does the rest.
Hybrid mail is ideal for comapnies that have branches located across the country. Departments can access specific documents and templates which means there is complete control over what is sent out and by whom.
Documents that are uploaded by 4pm on a working day are printed and mailed the same day this means you don’t have to panic about that forgotten mailing. Hybrid mail does the rest.
Hybrid mail allows you to store any number of document templates, you also benefit from post code validation, user and department spending caps, custom signatures and document archiving for future reference.
The important thing to consider with hybrid mail is that no matter the size of the organisation or how many documents you send out a day you WILL benefit from a hybrid mail solution.
Hybrid mail is a 21st century mailing solution designed to take care of those ad hoc letters – whether it is an accountancy business, a firm of solicitors, a dental practice, a fitness company or an organisation that sends most information electronically but still has residual letters and bills to send out, hybrid mail is a cost effective alternative to printing in-house.
There isn’t a day that goes by without reading the future of communications is digital and interactive, heck, I should know I am in the business of delivering communications in the form of payslips, letters, invoices, cheques, statements sent to customers either in digital or paper format.
Earlier this year I felt I had reached online overload. The internet, social media, blogging, Instagramming, Facebooking I felt overwhelmed and under so much pressure because being online is an important aspect of business marketing.
I needed a digital detox.
When the school summer holidays finally arrived I made the decision to go offline.
Oddly it wasn’t even a conscious decision more a case of I just couldn’t be bothered or see the point, I had lost all desire and I really wanted to get away from the falseness of social media and shut down.
I read dozens of articles about how too much time being online and in front of a screen are bad for you and so I thought I would share with you what I did as I tried to get off the so called social media treadmill and re-energise my life.
My eldest son and my husband noticed an improvement in their eyesight because they were spending more time outside rather than stuck in front of a screen for 8-10 hours’ a day.
My decision was vindicated when I happened to find Ofcom’s communications market report which in a nutshell described how internet users were becoming tired of being online.
This report validated my choice of staying offline during the summer holiday.
According to the report 15,000,000 of us have undertaken a ‘digital detox’ with the report highlighting the need for people to seek time away from the internet and spend time with friends and family.
One in three adult internet users (34%) has sought a period of time offline, 25% spent up to a day internet free, 20% took a week off and 5% went web free for almost a month.
According to the report many people had said that being offline was liberating.
I can certainly vouch for that after all, this isn’t world breaking news.
Our work and lifestyle means we are always on
Getting away from online digital distractions and having the opportunity of an extended summer holiday allowed me to get in touch with the real world.
I fell out of the everyday work routine and made a few changes which, had a huge beneficial impact on my mind and body.
Whether your are a director, manager of a business, overseeing a department of people, ensuring smooth operations, whatever the business or your job title does not give you the option of turning everything off. Customer emails and calls need to be responded too, a complete ‘digital detox’, in other words, turning everything off completely isn’t feasible.
Faster internet access enables us to be better connected than ever before, three in four of internet users (75%) consider the web intrinsic to their everyday lives and adult users in the UK spend an average of one day per week, approximately 25 hours online.
59% of internet users consider themselves compulsively connected to their devices and 34% find it difficult to disconnect.
I had unwittingly become one of those compulsive phone checkers, grabbing the phone every time it pinged.
Everything we do has an effect on us either physically, mentally and emotionally.
In Noel Janis-Norton’s book “Calmer, Easier, Happier Screen Time” she highlights the negative effects of screen time on children, she writes:
“Screen time is one aspect of our children’s lifestyle that parents worry about the most and often feels powerless to do anything about.
Children are affected by every aspect of electronics: how much screen time they have, what they are doing in front of the screen, when and where they do it and with whom. All of these factors will influence a child’s mood, her behaviour, what she thinks about herself and her family, her friends and her teachers.”
Although the book primarily talks about screen time for children; the same is applicable to adults. We are more likely to be in front of a screen and online for significantly longer periods during the working day than children.
Too much screen time means we are more sedate, we move less, we burn less calories and this has resulted in us being overweight and unfit than the last generation.
Nutrition is affected, screens are absorbing which leads to mindless eating of junk food. It is much easier to grab high sugar, high fat snacks rather than make a nutritious meal.
Being on the screen for longer than four hours results in lower levels of well being
Screen use affects the brain like a drug to the point where we are demotivated to do anything else other than stay in front of the screen
And I had fallen into the same additive, compulsive routine of being online from the moment I wake up ‘checking in’ to going to bed and ‘checking out’.
Omnipresent, but, in reality I wasn’t ‘there’ it took this summer vacation to make me realise how much I overuse technology.
Over use of the internet – reading my daily online newspaper, magazines, flitting through Pinterest, Facebook timelines, posting on Twitter and uploading photos to Instagram even going to the loo with my iPad in tow.
What made my internet overuse more evident was my children’s apparent lack of interest and attention because they too were absorbed with their devices.
Rather than switching everything off I developed a digital routine for the holidays which, has now become part of my working life habit.
Check emails first thing when rising in the morning, lunchtime and finally after the evening meal. I worked in the morning before heading to the beach between 1-2PM. Back at work I follow the same routine.
I chose to stay off social media altogether only posting fun things to Facebook and Instagram but allowed myself the occasional timed 15 minutes online(approximately 5 times in 6 weeks) when I would check notifications and respond to any conversation I thought was interesting or funny. Back at work I still haven’t gone back online fully but my intention is to do 20 minutes whilst I cook the evening meal. This routine does not disrupt my working day and ensures that I don’t get absorbed by social media wasting work time.
I muted the phone and set it on vibrate so I couldn’t hear the notification ping but would know if there was a call. This hasn’t changed other than when I am available I will turn the mute button off.
What changed for me?
I read four books, caught up on reading a whole host of other stuff, had many conversations on the beach with my family when we walked, I exercised daily, cleared my mind out fully, discovered and now use a great app called ‘Headspace’.
I had changed. I feel more calm and relaxed than I have done in a long time. I regrouped, reconnected with the real world, had face to face conversations and heated discussions, I telephoned customers and friends instead of emailing and saved a heap of time.
Digital detoxing is like being on a diet, you work hard to achieve your desired weight only to start back on the bad eating habits once you reach your goal.
Totally switching off from the internet and the online world is impractical, I would love to, permanently, save for ordering from Amazon.
There are more advantages to using the internet than there are disadvantages, the key is breaking the habit so it doesn’t seep into your life insidiously, like kicking a smoking habit, small steps that are sustainable and achievable.
Like many of you I thought that “I really didn’t use the internet that much, not really, but I did”.
Multichannel marketing is the ability to interact with customers on a number of different platforms giving the customer the choice.
Multichannel service works similarly allowing customers to simultaneously access their transactional information like invoices, statements and payslips online or being given the choice of receiving a physical printed document.
What makes multichannel so appealing is the fact that any of the above information can be accessed via a smartphone and I wrote about the benefits of it here.
In July, I reported on the Royal Mail’s findings following a survey they conducted into email and print marketing.
There is a genuine misconception that print is on the decline but the report found when used in conjunction with email marketing it is an effective marketing tool.
The point I’ve tried to convey during this year is that we don’t need to be solely in the digital world.
Like many of you, I live in the digital and physical world of online and print consuming content determined by where I am, what I’m doing and how much time I have.
Print has been doggedly fighting new digital technology and innovations, from email marketing campaigns to online banking there can be no disputing the fact that print dominance has gradually been eroded by new forms of media.
Why have the paper version when the mobile option makes it truly portable and flexible?
In spite of this there is a growing reluctance to admit that email marketing and online marketing never really reached its full potential, with many of us reaching saturation point with overflowing inboxes full of junk e-marketing.
Increased awareness of the environmental impact of technology, print is seeing a resurgence particularly in direct mail and a real desire for the printed word.
Why is print often perceived as the naughty boy?
I hear comments like oh, print is finished or we’ve cut right back on all our print and so forth.
Why not look at print differently?
By utilising the benefits of new technology and delivering all the advantages of traditional print but incorporating the latest digital innovations that take print from paper into the digital world.
Only 10 to 15 years ago print was seen as the traditional safe means of delivering communications.
But with consumer habits changing almost daily, using a wide range of devices to access information from apps, to social media to contactless and apple pay purchasing, how information is digested has become fragmented.
With an audience that switches anywhere between smartphone, tablet to PC to view and purchase this makes it difficult for the marketing manager to create campaigns that engage with their customers.
Technology has helped marketers and brands to understand better their audiences and target them with personalised information suitable for them.
We have become so reliant on mobile technology and there is a generation of young people who have little interaction with print and I think it is really important that we don’t lose print altogether.
The challenge for the print industry is to be able to reinvent itself through new innovations like augmented reality/layar technology and capitalise on these developments by making print truly interactive so in effect the printed word speaks to you.
In the past five years there have been significant developments in digital technology working with print.
AR (augmented reality) transforms print into interactive content with videos and more digital content.
Layar was one of the early mobile augmented reality browsers to come to market in 2009 providing augmented reality and interactive print bridging the gap between print and the digital world.
By scanning items with the Layar logo, items such as magazines, newspapers, movie posters and more, print is brought to life enriched with videos, web content, links to social media, websites and purchasing.
Layar is now part of the Blippar group and according to their website have had more than 46 million downloads by consumers who are keen to digest more content both from print and digital.
Video on demand gives marketing and brands the opportunity to deliver highly personalised advertising and content.
Think BMW or Mercedes Benz highly targeted and personalised print advertising with a AR allowing the user to scan and view how the car performs.
After you’ve visited the showroom, expressed an interest in a particular make and model, marketing then send you a highly interactive personalised piece of direct mail allowing you to scan and view the content.
Imagine how engaging that is for the recipient if combined with a limited discount offer or free servicing.
A badly designed print item will deliver a poor result much the same with interactive print, simply adding interactive content to a poorly designed print item won’t yield good results.
But create a great bit of print and then add an engaging interactive video or content will deliver great results.
The challenge for the print and marketing industry is not solely the creation of content to drive revenue but encouraging the adoption of interactive content as another touch point for the audience.
Educating marketers to use interactive print and digital that will link all their marketing channels and engage with an otherwise fragmented audience is the challenge to making print interactive and engaging in the long term.
Giving your employees and your customers choice to access documents online or view them in a physical format ensures they have choice.
When organisations deliver multichannel communications they are moving into a complex and bewildering world of ‘communications’ with the customer?
How do organisations decide what to send by email, print and mail?
How do you understand what your customers preferences are?
And, how do you integrate paper and digital so they work effectively?
How do you make sure that the document flow is secure and document storage available so the employee and the customer has a record of the document in both the paper and a digital format?
Business documents need to be accurate, timely and easy to digest, get it wrong and the invoice isn’t paid or the document is not responded to.
Get this wrong and you have an unhappy customer and a miserable workforce.
Communications is about making the working environment positive for its employees and this is then reflected forward to the customer.
Customers and employees want to be able to engage on the channels they prefer – SMS, mobile/smartphone, call centres, post, email and web.
Keeping this audience informed and happy is a tough ask for any business.
Factor in different work locations, UK and abroad and the language barrier, suddenly communication is a real business challenge.
Switching off offline communications and putting in place solely online is a surefire way of alienating much of your workforce and your customer base.
With employees and consumers often more comfortable on mobile devices it is important to be able to deliver both a paper and digital version of the same document.
65% of customers who prefer paper bills and statements would consider defecting to a competitor or would leave straightaway if a company removes that choice. 29% of customers who prefer to receive information electronically would consider moving if the option to receive paper statements was removed.
If data can be supplied for printing, that very same data can be also used to generate the digital version of the exact same document.
How does multichannel add value to your business?
New technology allows companies to deliver transactional documents both on and offline to meet different customer preferences – all from one data file.
Greater flexibility in page formats accommodates the needs of the audience – quick and easy to read or detailed and long depending on whether it is a financial portfolio or a statement
High quality colour printing means shorter runs can be personalised, targeted and relevant for the audience and in combination with online communications makes it cost effective and easier to manage
Transpromo messages can be embedded into online and offline communications promoting offers, discounts, services and reminders for customers
In a digital world your employees and customers want to access information, marketing messages, promotions, employee communications anytime, anywhere and on multiple devices.
MultiChannel delivers choice for your employees and customers allowing them to choose whether they want to be communicated to via paper or online making it critical to online business success
That was the theme of a conference I attended in London last week.
Is print finished?
It is transforming and is a crucial element of the digital media world we live in.
Print is the first touchpoint for the recipient to touch, feel, read and even smell before they join you in the digital world.
Surprisingly of the eleven speakers not one tried to bury print.
I was expecting at least one speaker to talk about the demise of print but whilst everyone in the audience and speakers agreed that print has declined in the newspaper sector, the opposite is happening in magazines, direct mail and print in general.
In 2015 £13.9 billion was spent on print, in 2010 it was 14 billion so print is holding its own over probably one of the most difficult economic periods we’ve experienced in the last thirty years.
Print continues to adapt and so are the manufacturers of print who recognise the need to provide a digital and physical version for people to consume content.
Producers of content need to be aware that it is the content that matters and not necessarily the medium it is consumed on.
Producing content means we really do need to think about where our audience is, are they solely mobile and internet based or do they like to receive the written word.
Measuring consumer engagement in other words, how long they spend reading the content is more relevant than where they actually read it whether it is print, digital, web or mobile.
Print is not necessarily better than digital it is simply another way of consuming information and is demographic dependent.
Deloitte undertook a survey and discovered that while we may perceive that books are on the decline the reverse was true 8% were in favour of physical books rather than E-books.
Whilst a tablet offers an immediate reader experience, print is a slow burner.
One of the main points to come out of the conference was the statistics demonstrating people’s desire to slow down.
Reading content on a phone or tablet is quick and responsive it also has distractions that can leave you feeling anxious and stressed.
Where print means you ‘make time’, tablets or smartphones is about ‘fill time’ and advertising messages tend not be be remembered because the mobile experience is faster and more stressful as we are constantly distracted.
Whether content is read on a tablet or in print the emotional reactions to the content tended to be similar but it is the actual content that determines how and where we consume it.
Platform VS content drives what is read, making it snackable or bite sized in a digital format makes it easier to digest. With print we find it easier to read more and for longer.
Digital technologies allow a brand to use more personal touch points to engage with the audience and in a ME world it is about building relationships making it personalised, targeted and individual.
Coke’s branded bottle campaign of 2014 was a great example of how by personalising individual bottles with christian names led to a 7% increase in consumption, 2.1% increase in sales and 18.3 million impressions.
Coke’s marketing goal was to engage with a younger audience and they achieved this by making it personal and individual.
The physical printing of names on the bottle created greater engagement, interaction and differentiation.
Digital brands notably Google, Net-A-Porter, Apple, Facebook, Linkedin and Airbnb are some of the large brands combining print with their digital marketing.
And whilst the above have been busy telling brands that the best way to reach consumers is through digital communications, they have learn’t that they too cannot do without print advertising to connect with audiences.
Google, in 2013 spent £5m on outdoor advertising and £3.5m on press ads, likewise LinkedIn created a direct mail pack in 2014 to announce it had reached 15 million UK subscribers and to promote the launch of its student hub after it emerged that students were one of its fastest growing groups.
Print is still meaningful, emotional and enhances the reading experience we spent £1.3 bn in 2014 on magazine media and 73% of the adult population subscribe to a monthly magazine, digital or in paper format.
Leading magazine brands are writing their exclusives in print and then delivering snippets of information via social media. Vogue magazine has an estimated viewing time online of 9.02 minutes but with an average 50 minute per issue readership.
Microsoft concluded from research that the changing nature of attention has now decreased from 10 to 8 seconds on a mobile device translated that means if the advert is irrelevant or doesn’t hit the spot then the reader is off.
It’s not about digital or paper it is about both and print along with digital is one of the many platforms available to get your message out there.
Having attended a very informative seminar on finding your audience on Facebook I asked myself do we really know where our target audience is?
Have we got it right?
You many think this is strange given that I’ve been in transactional printing and mailing or ‘transpromo’ for 20+ years but my point is sometimes you need to stand back and take a good look at the market place.
Is it the same as it was five years ago?
Facebook and I have a frustrating relationship.
Many of us manage personal and business profiles but what to post, when to post and how to keep the snippets of information coming are time consuming.
As a social media platform it doesn’t seem natural to me as twitter or Linkedin. I guess we all have our favourites!
Having said that most of yours and my target audience is likely to be on this platform but not necessarily in their work guise.
For example our target audience is HR, Payroll, Credit/Collection Managers and so forth, Linkedin is seemingly where you’ll find this very experienced and professional tribe.
But I also know that many are likely to be on Facebook keeping a personal page and updating it with status updates, but they will not necessarily have their job status or title and where they work advertised on their personal Facebook page.
The key to generating leads is knowing and understanding where your audience are and that’s why I thought I’d share with you how Digital Print Management is re-thinking it’s market and making sure we go back to basics.
Definitely not. Delivering your services to a big audience without knowing who they are and what they look like is like finding a needle in a haystack.
Who are our audience?
Where do we seek them out so our message gets heard?
Why should they even consider our services?
How will they benefit even if they do find us?
And what can we do to make it easier to find us?
Although this has been done before I’ve put my spin on it but more importantly it really got us thinking, checking and making sure we know where to find our audience.
My first thought was how do our customers benefit from our services and what problems did we solve for them?
Thinking about the range of services we deliver to our customers from Digital Print Management’s point of view I looked at our largest and smallest customers and came up with the following:-
What have they bought from us?
Why did they choose to work with us in the first place?
Why do they continue to work with us?
What problems did we solve for them which means they sleep easier at night?
This helped us then drill down and understand the type of customer that is attracted to our services.
That completed, where do we find these prospective customers and how do we get our message out there?
How did the customers that we currently serve, find us or hear about us?
This gave me the opportunity to sketch out an outline of a typical prospective customer that ‘feels the same pain’ our current customers experience prior to outsourcing their ‘problem’.
Which then led me to the type of customer that will gain from the value in our service offerings.
What problems are these Payroll/HR and Credit Managers having to deal with?
Do they perceive them as troublesome? Are they even aware they have problems?
What would the reputational damage be if the cost of not sorting out the problem is greater than the cost of leaving it?
Being niche certainly helps as we provide a very distinct service in the payroll and accounts area this makes it easier to identify our audience.
Aiming to be a big fish in a small pond means that we can be heard above the rest of noise and hopefully stand out from the crowd rather than the other way round.
By understanding our areas of expertise, the knowledge we’ve amassed over time and how we’ve helped our customers means we can understand our prospective customers better.
Also, knowing what areas we have been successful in and why helps us to maximise this further for more success in the future.
And finally, I asked these questions, why are we uniquely placed to solve our customer’s problem, and what makes us stand out from the crowd?
We are still working on re-defining our marketing and social media objectives but focussing on the above has really helped make us re-think and re-visit what we’ve been doing?
Whether it is data security, management of information or how to outsource a business function, one of the main questions or challenges I have to overcome is the secure management of customer data files in the form of payslips, cheques, statements and invoices.
When organisations consider outsourcing one of their business processes data security is the first area of concern that needs to be addressed and quickly.
Data, information security and privacy is an extensive topic in its own right too long to cover in one blog post but let’s start with a definition which I think wikipedia sums up very well:
Information privacy, or data privacy (or data protection), is the relationship between collection and dissemination of data, technology, the public expectation of privacy, and the legal and political issues surrounding them.
Privacy concerns exist wherever personally identifiable information or other sensitive information is collected and stored – in digital form or otherwise. Improper or non-existent disclosure control can be the root cause for privacy issues.
The issue with data privacy is to share data while protecting personally identifiable information.
There has been a seismic shift in how information is used, everyday we find ourselves either completing online forms, signing in and entering passwords or subscribing to newsletters and updates.
And whilst we were initially cautious about how and what our personal information is being used for we are, as consumers more comfortable with understanding how our data is being used.
But when it comes to a company outsourcing a process that involves handing over data files that contain sensitive information like an employee’s payslip this is a very different ball game because the company is responsible for how they manage their employees or customers information.
In 2014 there were over 1,800 incidents of mismanagement of information that was reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office leading to fines in excess of £5 million.
The DMA (Direct Marketing Association) conducted a study to understand how we, the customer view data privacy and what we think about it.
The infographic below summarises the findings:
Millions of data files are transmitted daily to third party providers from payroll, billing and cheque data.
From an organisation’s perspective looking to outsource that kind of information to third party for printing and mailing payslips through to electronic distribution of secure transactional documents there are some key points to consider.
Does the supplier hold the most up to date ISO 27001 Information Security standard – the latest version is 2013. This is the main standard for information security ensuring confidentiality and integrity of your data.
The service provider should be able to demonstrate compliance and guarantees in respect of the handling of your data files.
Are they on the Data Protection register?
This ensures personal data is processed in accordance with the rights of data subjects under the act and protects how your personal information is used.
What security infrastructure for receiving and sending data files is in place?
Do they have SFTP (secure file transfer protocol) which is more secure than FTP and allows for automated transmission of regular data files reducing the potential for
What audit procedures do they have to ensure the receipt and transfer of your data?
Do they have a comprehensive disaster recovery system that enables you to continue to forward your files?
And finally, how do they manage and store your data once the file has been processed, printed and despatched or electronically distributed?
For more information about data security and outsourcing feel free to ask a question here.
In this post I wanted to get to the heart of document management.
I talk about the benefits of paper, print and digital and, how it impacts our lives.
We continue to generate so much information daily and organisations are deluged with information from invoices, letters, reminders and so forth with all this information how does a company manage to stay above the paper flow?
That is where process automation comes in.
What is process automation?
It is the digitising of any manual process that collects and centralises information within an organisation.
For example an electronic filing system that reduces or replaces administrative tasks to a solution that can streamline whole departments.
Managing the lifecycle of documents and data within a business is the cornerstone to better control, greater visibility, security and efficiency.
Process automation can be broken down into four key areas each of which can be managed and improved independently of each other or improved as a whole.
Data capture – capturing important data is key to any business process. Manual capture or data entry can be time consuming and inaccurate. Automating the capturing of data is quick, efficient and error free. It involves taking the information and scanning documents, collecting key bits of information and then digitising the information.
Document management – this is the heart of process automation. Information and documents are stored in an electronic filing cabinet whereby it can be controlled in a secure and central location.
It is useful for freeing up physical space by storing electronic copies of historical documents and archiving for documents that have completed their life cycle.
Document management enables instant retrieval with indexed rich search ability, administrator based access for added document security, traceability for audit control, records management for lifecycle control and integration into other business systems as a central source of data.
Workflow – allowing key bits of information and documents to be routed around an organisation giving people accessibility to the documents and the information they need when they need it.
Workflows ensure that the users are updated with any up and coming tasks that need completing this may mean authorisation, payment due, documents missing, invoicing errors.
A simple workflow might be internal documents that are required to be printed routing around an office to a specific printer or copier thus reducing printing and copying costs.
A complex workflow might be creating a document electronically from the point of capture and fully automating it, removing the need for paper and resource required to manage it
Reporting – the final part of the process which creates and distributes information that give a visual representation of ‘live data’ giving a snapshot in time of that current process.
Collating accurate data in real time can be impossible when trying to gather information manually.
Reports take time to produce and once published they are quickly out of date.
Electronic reporting allows data to be collected from any source at any stage within a process.
This means with up to the minute accurate reports informed decisions can be made which could be critical for the day to day running of the business.
How can process automation benefit your business?
Understanding what information is being held and what documents are in the workflow ensures better control and visibility allowing the right people to access the information they need at anytime
Business functions can be simplified making it easier and more streamlined
Automation = being proactive = efficiency
Less reliance on paper and people
Data can be shared with anyone in your business
Compliance targets and government legislation are met
Disaster proof your business processes
That’s it in a nutshell. Process automation involves you taking a hard look at your key business processes, being critical and then looking at areas that can be improved by removing the manual effort and using automation.
As you are aware, I am a big advocate of offering the customer the option of choosing how they receive their bills in paper or electronic format.
Ask anyone in business what their biggest headache is and the answer usually is getting paid on time.
The second is the cost of processing and sending invoices.
As the cost of technology has reduced more businesses including SMEs have or are considering implementing electronic invoicing/e-billing to save invoice processing costs.
The advantages of e-billing include the speed and control you have over your financial documents; you decide when your customer is sent an e-bill.
You save staff time, postage and stationery costs.
But, trying to establish the true cost of billing is a lot harder than you think because most don’t consider all of the related costs.
Many assume that paper has to be more expensive because it involves staff time, stationery costs, processing and cost of postage.
Making electronic billing the obvious winner.
There have been many comparisons on paper versus electronic ranging from £8.17 to send out a paper invoice VS £3.31 to send it electronically.
Sending invoices as email attachments doesn’t constitute electronic billing.
E-billing may save on postage costs but this represents only a small percentage of the actual cost of processing an invoice.
How do you work out your invoicing costs?
What costs are associated with the invoicing process?
An organisation needs to be able to break down what the true costs are and these can be direct, indirect and those hidden costs that we tend to forget about.
What are the direct costs?
These include preparation of the invoice and are the most obvious costs to find in the process.
Inserting into envelopes – often a manual exercise this might also include a mailing machine
What are the indirect costs?
Although these costs are part of the invoice process they do not involve the preparation and sending of invoices and may or may not have a bearing on your invoice process.
Even so, they are often overlooked when working out the cost of invoicing and should be considered.
Queries and resolution – is the invoice accurate, does it have the required information. If it is wrong other functions in the organisation are involved including finance, credit control, operations, distribution and sales/customer service
Time spent on missing or undelivered invoices
Storage and archiving – how are invoices stored? As paper or electronically?
Credit notes – how long does it take for the company to generate a credit note, does it require hierarchical approval, time taken to issue, delay in payment until the credit note is issued
What are the hidden costs?
Although not necessarily related to the processing of invoices they should be considered as part of the process
Payment processing errors
External debt collection agency fees
Staff time addressing and reviewing invoice problems
Additional finance costs due to the length of time time taken to get paid
Invoice financing or factoring costs.
Most of the costs associated with the invoicing process involve the number of staff that are involved in what can be a labour intensive task.
Even if the invoice preparation is streamlined and automated, if the order processing, AP and AR are manually intensive then the invoice processing will cost more in staff time such as:-
Dealing with copy invoice requests
Chasing purchase orders
Chasing the sales team to solve pricing issues
Sending an invoice as an electronic attachment is not e-billing it is simply sending the customer an email with an invoice attached to it whilst it removes the postage and stationery element it is highly likely that your customer (the recipient) will print and allocate the invoice accordingly.
But it doesn’t take away the other costs associated with invoice processing like requests for copy invoices, misplaced invoices.
We never got your invoice, it never arrived in the post has been replaced with we never got your email.
Careful consideration of your invoice processing and understanding the true costs of the process can in the long term reduce the impact on the business.
Customers ultimately know they have to pay your bill the key is to making sure your bill is on time, consistent with the information they need to process the bill which in turn helps you gain visibility and enable better cash management and cash flow control.
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