Business Process Outsourcing
July 22nd, 2013
By Joe Mullich, freelance writer
Finance and accounting (F&A) was one of the first processes that companies outsourced, and the practice continues to boom: Ed Thomas, an analyst for Ovum research, found the number of F&A outsourcing projects valued at $1 million or more increased in 2012 compared to the year before.
As the market matures, companies contracting for outcomes are exploring fresh ideas and seeking new answers to streamline F&A processes. They are expanding outsourcing to new areas of finance and accounting, new industries, and new sizes of companies than in the past.
Driving efficiency is a high priority for CFOs who want to outsource F&A processes, according to an Ovum study of 150 large companies in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada. Most survey respondents saw the main strategic aim of the accounting department as delivering efficiencies, whether that is within the department itself or across the company as a whole.
“This is a wider trend in outsourcing as a whole,” Thomas explains. “Cost reductions are the table stakes, and companies want to know what else their outsourcers can do to make their processes and technology run more efficiently.”
The most commonly outsourced services within accounting are payroll accounting, accounts payable, and accounts receivable. The Ovum study found companies are “moving up the value chain” in the types of F&A functions they outsource.
“They are looking to move from relatively basic transactional processes, such as accounts payable to more strategic functions, like budgets, forecasts and internal audits,” Thomas says. “More than a third of respondents had outsourced internal auditing, which is a high-level function.”
Simplifying and standardizing F&A processes is a key characteristic of well-run companies, and by instilling good F&A processes these companies can achieve a variety of good outcomes—such as more information, more service and more cash. By simplifying their F&A processes, companies have found they can reduce the cycle it takes to close books, and they can develop better benchmark and baseline financial processes to help them meet regulatory requirements.
Expanding the scope of outsourcing can multiply such benefits, some experts say. “One simple example is accounts payable and receivables,” says Jag Dalal, managing director of thought leadership at the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP). “If you outsource only one function, you limit your benefits. If you outsource both, you get a value beyond improving the transactional component because the outsourcer can see when cash comes in and goes out. That can help the company take best advantage of the cash on-hand and optimize internal processes.”
As companies look to leverage the power of their data, they are turning to outsourcers with greater expertise and technology resources than they have in-house. “An outsourcer is going to have access to state-of-the-art technology, and experts who use those software packages every day,” says Greg LaFollette, a spokesperson for American Institute of CPAs.
More and more, companies are looking for end-to-end F&A capabilities from outsourcers. Consider how outsourcing can help a company get a better handle on its pay-to-procure process. Powerful analytics can help a company better understand their spending through the entire supply chain in order to control budgets and standardize procedures company-wide.
This approach allows companies to identify cost savings through supplier consolidation and duplicate payment analysis. Automating the process can improve policy compliance and reduce order errors by ensuring employees around the world can order what they need when they need it, while enforcing business rules and limits that prevent employees from making costly mistakes.
While CFOs of large companies are focused on outsourcing to improve far-flung global operations, smaller companies, who have typically eschewed outsourcing of F&A, are beginning to embrace it as well. Outsourcers have expanded their offerings to the small- and mid-size company segments and developed solutions targeted toward specific vertical industries.
A recent report from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) found that companies using F&A outsourcing believe they will reduce costs but lose control. However, as they realize those cost advantages, they see that quality is rising because benchmarks are being applied to their performance. In the end, the report concludes, companies could see control was improving, too.
“Many companies don’t realize going in that they manage an outsourced provider more stringently than their in-house resources were managed,” Dalal says. Outsourcing outcomes are more likely to use clear metrics, such as savings and service-level achievement. That allows a company to have continuous improvement in their accounting and finance operation, while the company itself can focus on its core competencies.”
This post originally appeared on Forbes.
June 14th, 2013
By James O’Brien, freelance writer
The days of horrible hold music may not be entirely gone, but they are on life-support if you ask customer support experts.
“Technology is taking us further away from the phone,” said Christina Morris, a managing director for Xerox. “I think that self-service is where people want to get to. Customer service — we can’t just say it’s what happens in a call center. It has to happen at every touchpoint.”
In the past, you bought a product, took it out of a box, plugged it in and used it. Then came the onslaught of increasingly complex user experiences. With that, said Morris, customer-support call centers veered into expensive territory. Representatives had to be trained at higher levels. All the while, customer expectations remained the same: quick and effective responses to their questions.
Some key tools that Morris suggests will drive the future of customer support can be distilled to a shortlist:
—App-Based Customer Support: One wave of the future is app development. In the same way consumers can snap a photo of a check to securely deposit money in the bank, Morris suggested businesses can now rely on apps.
“Say I’m a small-business owner and I buy this application,” she said. “I can use it to communicate securely and in real-time with customers and partners.”
The future is about access, tapping into customer support from any location, via the ubiquitous mobile device.
—Interactive Voice Response: The phone won’t vanish from customer support completely. It should, however, become more automated and sophisticated. Interactive voice response (IVR) has already been around for a long time, but not always to great effect.
“The failure in the past is that it hasn’t always been robust enough and it’s led to a lot of frustration,” said Morris of the typical automated menu-driven support call. “It really kind of comes back to it has to be simple and it has to work. The options have to be very clear … if you’re going to do voice recognition, it has to be with a high degree of accuracy.”
That is, nobody wants to say “yes” seven times on the phone. But IVR is evolving, and Morris expects that what we learn from the best examples of it, now and in the future, will actually inform best practices on every platform. Reps won’t go away altogether, she said, but the human on the phone will become a professional trained to take on only the most intricate and nuanced of problems, with online and automated support absorbing all of the lower-tier tasks beneath those.
—Virtual Device Interventions: Device-specific diagnosis websites, similar to what customers might experience on a site such as WebMD are the next generation of online customer support that will replace old-school FAQs.
Laptop problems? Imagine if you could network with a virtual device that actually diagnosed and pushed solutions through to your machine. That’s the next step in online customer support that Morris predicts will gain in strength and popularity.
Perhaps most exciting is what Morris said these new approaches can do to the bottom line. Innovation is driving the cost of traditional live agent customer support down, to the tune of some 80 percent in savings through use of advanced tools and technologies. That’s the kind of future businesses can bank on.
This post originally appeared on Forbes.
April 2nd, 2012
Here’s one way to think about it: If you’re looking for a company to paint your house, your top priority is that they do good work. But in order to stay in business that house painting company has to be good at many things, some that have nothing to do with painting—such as making sure the bills get paid on time. In that case, it’s best to get an accountant to help out. The result? The business runs smoother and can focus on what it does best – painting and keeping customers happy.
It’s the same for governments. People want government agencies to be good at the core services they rely on every day.
Xerox works with government agencies in all 50 states, using our expertise to improve services that aren’t core to running a government. There are dozens of services I could tell you about, everything from managing Medicaid claims systems, administering child support payment programs, information technology services, even helping people recover unclaimed property.
There are many success stories. For example, we’re working with the state of Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services to administer its state-funded daycare program. With our eChildcare solution, the state is saving $15 million annually, and state payments made to daycare providers are more accurate and timely, thanks to the updated technology. You can read more here. We’re also helping the state of Ohio run a similar successful program.
By working with Xerox, government agencies save money and focus on what they do best and citizens have access to the most up-to-date technology and improved services. It’s a partnership that works. You can go here for more examples.
December 14th, 2011
When you drive through an E-ZPass lane or read a book in a graffiti-free park, it’s unlikely that you take a moment to think, “Wow, I’m really enjoying the services provided by my government today.” You may not stop and reflect on it, but a lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into the services provided by government agencies like transportation, healthcare, law enforcement and human services.
ACS, A Xerox Company helps power many of the processes that help governments operate smoothly and focus on their core task: delivering services to citizens. We are partners with 1,700 government agencies and provide services in all 50 states and around the world.
This graphic shows only a very small slice of what we do, but it’s a great representation of the cost savings and efficiencies our customers are achieving. In Indianapolis, for example, ACS is updating the city’s parking system with modernized technology and services that’s making parking easier for drivers and increasing net revenue for the city. We’re helping states across the country to use a debit card instead of paper checks to deliver benefits and payments, which is saving millions in postage and printing, not to mention increasing convenience and security for citizens. And speaking of printing, cities using managed print services are cutting costs by nearly 20 percent and reducing time spent by employees on print-related activities.
We’re playing a role in building the government of the future, one city, one service at a time. Want to know even more about how we help government agencies? Find out here.
November 8th, 2011
We recently returned from the 18th ITS World Congress, a gathering of transportation and businesses leaders from sixty countries sharing new and cutting-edge technologies that can help solve transportation challenges around the globe.
While it’s has never been easier to travel all over the world, movement within cities can be very challenging. Problems caused by traffic congestion, the need for sustainable transportation solutions and keeping the economy moving were common themes we heard at the conference. And this was before our world added our seven billionth person.
But there are answers to help simplify the customer and commuter experience.
With ACS’ innovative mobility solutions, transit riders can board with the tap or wave of their credit or debit card in New Jersey, drivers in Los Angeles have an easier time finding a parking space and the transit authorities in Lima, Peru provide real time passenger information to eight million citizens.
Intrigued? Think these ideas can help your daily commute? Watch our videos on innovation with transportation experts on our virtual event to see what the future of transportation will be like, and in some places, is like today. We’re working to make your transportation experience simpler, and even enjoyable.
How about you? What do you believe are the toughest challenges facing the transportation planners who are helping 7 Billion people get to where they need to go?
October 6th, 2011
From helping people with shelter and refuge from natural disasters, to offering child care assistance programs for working, low-income families, state human services agencies can make a profound impact on many lives. That’s why organizations like the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) are not only staying one step ahead of citizens services programs – they are seeing impressive success as well.
Led by Secretary Ruth Johnson, the Louisiana DCFS has rejuvenated programs and improved workflow efficiencies to put a stronger focus on citizens. With help from the human services solutions offered by ACS, A Xerox Company, DCFS is simplifying the benefits application process by allowing citizens to enroll in programs in person, by mail or through calling a customer service center. The improved application process and centralized customer support system allows DCFS to focus on what’s most important – providing quality programs for citizens.
With the help of ACS, DCFS has implemented a standardized payment system for state-subsidized childcare. By improving security on the caregiver validation process through biometrics, they have been able to save $1.5 million each month. The paperless, web-based alternative eliminates a series of tedious processes and greatly increases payment accuracy for child care providers, reducing fraud and increasing program investment overall.
As a result of her forward-thinking approach to modernizing Louisiana’s technology policy agenda and in turn improving the state’s human services programs, Ruth has been recognized with the 2011 State Technology Innovator Award at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) Annual Conference in Denver, Colo. ACS would like to congratulate Ruth and everyone at DCFS for their dedication to citizen program improvement.
October 3rd, 2011
A good public transit system is essential for every major city. It’s the only real way to keep the city moving, avoid congestion and allow the city to continue to grow. The trains need to run on time and get people to where they need to be. But a great public transit system can anticipate changes, incorporate them and accurately predict the consequences of route changes, stop locations and frequency of service.
Sound far-fetched? Maybe – but it is possible, and we’re making it happen. By using a transit system’s own ticketing information, ACS’ expertise in fare collection and ticket processing and Xerox’s research capabilities – the building blocks for making it happen all fall into place.
Xerox has long been the leader in managed print services; managing approximately 1.5 million devices (printers, copiers, fax machines) from multiple vendors worldwide. To simplify our customers’ print operations, we’ve invested heavily in researching the way people interact with technology on a daily basis. And the same research principles can apply to folks taking mass transit. Now, we’ll apply the way we analyze behavior in the office, to create transit rider simulations and deliver tools transportation agencies need to provide passengers with a better and more predictable ride home.
Yeah, Xerox can do that.