InContext Magazine

your source for solving the unstructured information challenge

Welcome, Jennifer | Log Out

retail-tech

Wholesale efficiency for paperless retail

Automation offers retailers greater financial control and visibility

Things are going great for your retail business. You’ve doubled revenues and locations in just a few short years, and now you’re looking to take things internationally. That’s terrific, but it also creates complications.

The more you grow, the more challenges you’ll encounter in terms of keeping finances in order, knowing where your cash is, knowing which stores are lagging and which are all-stars, and so on.

Don’t tell me you’re still counting on paper to keep things together. This is 2015, and the technology available to help your business grow and sustain itself has never been more up to that challenge.

There are four key reasons you should use automation—which is to say, replacing manual routines with a combination of intelligent print management solutions, capture and content management, tailored to fit your unique processing needs—for financial operations:

  • The intrinsic benefits of paperless documents
  • Processing efficiency
  • Ease of compliance (with legal regulations, internal policies, accepted best practices, audits; you name it)
  • Improved oversight of individual locations

Paper-free = hassle-free

Minimize the need to manage paper, and maximize the speed and efficiency of any operation. Adding intelligent capture to the mix means you can import sales orders into your systems quickly, with little or no need for manual data entry. Electronically managing paper-based routines automates traditionally manual processes and gets your documents to the right systems and people, quickly.

Paperless operations also make it simpler to find that one important document you need. You’re not sifting through file cabinets or making copies and snail-mailing information anymore. With capable content management and enterprise search applications, you’ll pinpoint vendor contracts, terms of sales and expenditure approvals with ease, regardless of where they are.

Faster, simpler and more efficient processes

Centralizing accounts payable to a shared services center is sound business advice, but gathering invoices from every retail outlet can pose a challenge. If every location uses a capture-enabled printer, invoice data can be scanned directly where it’s received, extracted, validated and pushed through the proper workflows. No manual data entry, no waiting for the mail, no backlogs—instant AP gratification.

Efficient accounts payable also yields better vendor relations. When services have been rendered and vendors are expecting payment, the process is simplified. Fill out internal payment/check requests and capture them directly into an electronic form that passes them into the AP process. These payments are routed for approval, with no need for further data entry or scanning.

Extend this efficiency to accounts receivable, improving cash flow. With remittance processing, you can capture customer remittance information from paper, your lockbox or a bank feed. Connect it seamlessly to your accounts receivable process, and you have better, faster visibility to—and accounting for—incoming revenues.

Get compliant

You have stores in several states, and now you’re adding foreign jurisdictions to the equation. Each has different tax laws, so juggling your compliance needs just became a greater concern.

With seamless processes in place, the correct tax coding can automatically be applied to invoices when they’re scanned, and you control the rules for ensuring sales and exchange taxes are handled or applied correctly. The system detects errors and discrepancies for you, routing those troublemakers directly to your tax department for review.

Stores need flexibility to handle on-site services, but this presents a prime opportunity for fraud and overspending. Standardizing the supplier set-up process lets you protect your business while getting vendors into the system quickly. Capture technology automatically validates vendor information against your table in ERP and connects invoice workflow to purchasing functions. Identify irregular buying and limit the use of unauthorized vendors without keeping stores from handling immediate needs.

Finally, improved visibility and accessibility simplifies audit proceedings. With automated financial operations, tracking down support documents and approval emails is easy. Audits become less of a headache, and more of a routine.

Eyes on the front lines

With intelligent automation, you can access information faster for immediate insight into store metrics. See which stores are performing better than others and use that information to make strategic decisions. Reward some, incentivize others—whatever the situation demands.

Before implementing automation technology, one Lexmark customer reported a mere 70 percent of supplies purchased actually found their way to the retail locations; the remaining 30 percent were never seen, and represented an alarming waste of resources. Upon implementation, they gained the insight needed to better manage supplies and inventory.

Trust me on this: Lose the paper. Gain the efficiency and transparency your retail operation needs to compete in the digital world. Whatever you’re selling, and wherever you’re selling it, intelligent automation means a better experience for management, accountants, suppliers, in-store personnel and customers.