As finance and accounting organizations wrestle with achieving globalization, driving revenue growth, and complying with new and changing regulations, they also struggle to drive costs out of organizational processes. In most companies, the CFO has already led the drive to implement financial management software to automate payables, receivables, general ledger, and more—and ensured that automated financial processes are well documented, repeatable, and reportable.
But where do enterprises go from there? In many companies, ad hoc or "fringe" processes—those existing outside the realm of financial systems—remain manual or paper-based. Not only are these processes inefficient, error-prone, and environmentally unfriendly; they also create financial strain and legal risk.
With Oracle's 2006 acquisition of content management leader Stellent, and the integration of Stellent's best-of-breed content management capabilities into Oracle Fusion Middleware—including prebuilt integrations for document imaging and process management with Oracle E-Business Suite, Oracle's JD Edwards, and Oracle's PeopleSoft applications—Oracle's customers can not only achieve increased productivity, better compliance, and a lower cost of doing business; they can also gain an entry point today into Oracle Fusion technology through Oracle Fusion Middleware.
But how do you make a business case for these kinds of changes in your enterprise? Here are the four steps you can take to develop a business and technology strategy that will make it clear how you can accelerate the speed of money in your finance organization.
STEP 1: Identify Fringe Processes and Quick Wins—Accounts Payable, Paper Cuts, and More
For Oracle Applications customers that have already implemented Oracle E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, or JD Edwards to manage financial processes such as order-to-cash or procure-to-pay, the baseline metrics should be easy to find. Information such as number of invoices or expense reports processed or number of people performing these tasks is readily available. Chances are, you already have more-advanced metrics in your budgeting plans to help you build a business case—for example, median cost per invoice or median cost per expense report.
Having implemented a financial management solution for any of these areas, you also have a good idea of what's automated and what's not. You know where staff members are keying in information from paper documents and how they flow into your automated processes. Understanding where exceptions are occurring and having a quantifiable metric to support this area of the process will be important in establishing your business case. Having pre-established goals from your management team—as part of your annual objectives or quarterly goals—should feed directly into this process.
Additionally, depending on the process you're evaluating, a relatively easy metric to capture is departmental spending on paper. While many organizations have come to the conclusion that a paperless office is still a dream, countless copies, duplicates, and routing copies add up in the maintenance, repair, and operations procurement budget for finance. If you are successful in building a business case behind employee productivity, error handling, and overall cost reduction, the ability to reduce paper costs by hundreds or even thousands of dollars can't hurt.
STEP 2: Evaluate Near- and Long-Term Impact—Imaging and Your Existing Financial Systems
A moderate level of automation can reduce the cost of a process such as accounts payable by up to 40 percent. If you have implemented one of Oracle's financial suites, you are probably already seeing some gains. But organizations that are implementing additional levels of automation—like imaging and process management to streamline payables, receivables, and expenses as they flow into Oracle E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, and JD Edwards financial applications—could see up to an additional 20 percent reduction in process costs. That's a big reason to consider imaging on top of what you've already accomplished.
However, as your business and financial applications evolve you should keep in mind the impact that imaging and process management technologies will have on your Oracle Applications financial processes. While organizations may have different approaches to financial applications and imaging, the relationship between the two should be established upfront.
Hard-coded integrations and bolt-on processes just outside of Oracle E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, or JD Edwards financials can have an adverse impact on upgrade paths. Risks are significantly reduced for companies that are evaluating imaging solutions for the first time. Those with established and brittle integrations between existing, third-party imaging solutions and financial solutions might encounter difficulties if they don't consider the challenges early.
The good news: the addition of imaging to Oracle Fusion Middleware, via the acquisition of Stellent, has resulted in collaborative requirements gathering with existing Oracle customers and collaborative development and integration efforts. According to Stephen Schleifer, product manager of Oracle's content management solutions, "Since the Stellent acquisition, we've made a special effort to reach out to financials customers from each of the Oracle Applications product families to better understand their needs, in addition to working with Oracle's financials product strategy to collaborate on a one-stop solution for our customers. And to see it all come together at Oracle OpenWorld in November was just amazing. I can't begin to tell you how many of our customers were interested in hearing more."