An international Case Study of AP automation in the Telecom Industry

Increased document processing scales and streamlined international Accounts Payable automation

To have 25 different account payable processes within one company group is inefficient. To find a remedy, a well-known provider of telecom solutions decided to centralize these processes with the help of Swiss Post Solutions. The results were overwhelming. 
Thanks to the consolidation and automation of global payable processes combined with the outsourcing of various process steps, the account payable process for this multinational telecommunications corporation was optimized significantly. 

About the customer

Operating technical networks for phone communication (mobile and fixed-line), data, and online services are the core business of our client, an international telecommunications company. The corporation holds its headquarters in Germany and has more than 200,000 employees in 25 countries through subsidiaries. 

The Challenge

Siloed business processes 

Operating in silos across 25 countries means 25 different IT solutions, 25 different report formats, 25 different monitoring mechanisms. Apart from process costs which were high as a result of these inefficiencies – corporation-wide comparison of the subsidiaries was challenging to clarify. 

Regional expectations

A standard process supporting all 25 countries could resolve this. However, country-specific aspects had to be taken into account to ensure the acceptance and satisfaction of employees and customers in many different regions. 

Besides a good price/performance ratio, SPS's experiences in international project and service management were a key reason for the telecom company’s decision to work with SPS.

Project Timelines

In spite of the substantial experience of the SPS project team, the project was still ambitious. SPS had seven months to conduct an initial analysis, recommendations, implementation, and ‘go live’ process. 

The new process had to work for all kinds of incoming invoices, independent of document format and type of invoice receipt. It had to be optimized – whether paper-based manual processes or electronic RPA – to achieve top results for each country as far as costs were concerned. 

The Solution

Unique AP processes 

For each country and subsidiary, it was evaluated whether invoice automation processing was to be handled by:

  • the company itself
  • a local provider of digitization services 
  • by one of SPS’ four scan centers
Important parameters such as document structures and volumes, payment conditions, tax regulations, and local labor costs had to be taken into account. 
Additionally, specifics, such as language-dependent fonts, were also modified to support Russian and Greek. Transaction-based pricing, with a fixed price per incoming invoice, was established between the different SPS scan centers with little variation. 
On 1.7.2014 the new account payable automation process went live. Afterward, the step-by-step rollout in all subsidiaries was launched. Initial hurdles in countries – typical for change processes like this – were managed well by the team, so the corporate-wide migration was finished successfully by the end of 2016. 

Global Accounts Payable automation process

In the new centralized account payable process, incoming documents are digitized in one of the four scan centers of SPS in Germany, Greece, Romania or Slovakia or are transferred electronically to SPS. 

In 2016, 1.6 million documents were processed. This included 60,000 documents that came in by email, which was not possible before the migration project. 
In Bamberg, Germany, all invoices are now indexed and categorized. Head and foot data such as order numbers, invoice data, or banking information are captured, and the documents classified accordingly. These documents are then transferred to SPS Vietnam, where all data is evaluated and corrections applied if necessary. 
After another final quality check in Bamberg, the data is transferred to the central ERP system of the customer, and the electronic documents are prepared for archiving and transferred. If archiving of the paper version of the documents is mandatory for regulatory reasons, these are sent to the customer's headquarters by mail. 
A monthly phone-based status meeting and regular onsite meetings between SPS and the customer ensures the defined quality level is met and the processing of invoices in the countries is being constantly improved. 

The Benefits

Reduced costs 

Economic transaction-based pricing of the country-specific standard process led to a visible reduction of end-to-end process costs – which are still reducing. 

As more and more suppliers migrate to electronic billing, digitization is no longer necessary, which leads to reduced transaction prices. There is a significant potential for cost reduction, given less than 4% of the invoices currently come in by email. However, this will change, as the suppliers benefit as well: no mail costs, no paper and less effort.

Faster processing 

24-hour turnaround time at SPS ensures the fastest possible process for suppliers. From digitization to data input, quality assurance, up to the transfer of data to the ERP system is an ambitious timeframe and one that is guaranteed by SPS’ excellent quality. 

Guaranteed quality 

A maximum of 2% errors is allowed on the field level, as well as on-time; very impressive considering 19 languages are involved. 

Learn more about Accounts Payable Digitalization solutions by SPS


SPS as an Accounts Payable Partner 

Swiss Post Solutions innovate automated accounts payable processes across a range of industries, both as concentrated projects and as part of larger partnerships. We are a global full-service provider of physical and digital document management and business process services. 

Our deep and unrivalled experience in Intelligent Automation (IA) technology and core business process experience allows us to design and implement world-class solutions for each stage of the digital journey. For any service needing pioneering solutions for document processing, document scanning or business process automation (BPA), SPS are the preferred vendor for hundreds of fortune 500 companies across the globe.

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