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Nick Sprau, MetaViewer Paperless Automation for Microsoft Dynamics

Speeding the Payables Process for Multi-Location Organizations

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Any business with multiple locations faces a considerable and constant challenge: how to round up invoices from far-flung branches in a timely way to ensure that accounting projections are accurate and late-payment penalties are avoided. Paper invoices float everywhere within outlets and between headquarters and remote sites. Each store manager may have his or her own methods and schedules for handling these invoices and shipping them on to headquarters, and that can cause chronic headaches for accounting staff.

Franchise organizations are especially vulnerable to these challenges. The franchising landscape has changed considerably over the past decade, and the result has been a difficult situation for some franchise owners trying to keep their books straight and current. Traditionally, a franchise owner was an individual entrepreneur who approached the franchisor, seeking to open one or two locations. More recently, however, individual owners have been selling to a master franchisee to gain economies of scale through consolidation. Now, many franchisees who began with a few stores find themselves with dozens or even hundreds of sites to manage across multiple geographic locations.

Like any multi-location enterprise, as master franchises have grown, so have their expenses, as well as the number of staff required to manage invoices. For example, one master franchisee with hundreds of outlets approached our firm for assistance after its UPS costs had risen to more than $1 million dollars a year just to transport invoices from local franchises to the master franchisee’s accounts payable department. At franchise headquarters, 15 to 20 people worked every week to record and code the invoices in a tedious, error-prone and endless effort.

With paper invoices like these—which are received locally from each franchise but paid centrally—the accounting department may be blindsided. Hundreds of bills are likely sitting on the desks of store managers, and accounting has no idea that this significant financial burden is out there. Furthermore, delays inherent in transferring paper from distant franchises mean headquarters has little negotiation power with vendors and often misses the opportunity for discounts granted for on-time payments, while they often sustain penalties for delayed payments.

A 2012 study by Metafile and the Institute of Financial Operations found that two-thirds of 150 corporate, government, and nonprofit financial operations professionals surveyed indicated their organizations did not know the exact dollar amount of their unprocessed invoices. Moreover, 15 percent of them indicated that at least a quarter of their budget is tied up waiting on unprocessed invoices  in an average month.

Fortunately, the combination of Microsoft Dynamics, and Metafile’s MetaViewer software, has provided a solution that is slashing the cost of invoice processing for savvy operators of multi-location businesses. Even better, the only skills the individual outlet managers require to use this advanced technology are the abilities to scan and email an invoice. This Web-based service allows the accounting department at headquarters to receive electronic versions of paper invoices with equal ease from franchises located across town or those across the globe. Here’s how it works:

When a local store receives a shipment, the manager places the accompanying invoice in a scanner and emails it to the accounts payable department at headquarters, where the invoice automatically loads into a Web-based solution. Now, by logging into a website, the store manager can view the electronic invoice and verify it, enter data, and code and approve it. If any delays occur in this process, the system issues automatic alerts and reminders.

With the online approach, accounts payable knows every invoice that is in the franchise’s system—no more surprises when they arrive at headquarters. MetaViewer technology can integrate with the enterprise’s Microsoft Dynamics platform and provide the kind of insights needed to better predict cash flow. And for some companies, the cost of processing an invoice in this centralized fashion has dropped to just a fourth of the original expense.

For master franchisees and other companies with remote offices, the Web is a great equalizer and eliminates many of the challenges inherent with multiple locations in multiple geographies with multiple people responsible for the different stages of the accounts receivable and accounts payable process.

Nick Sprau is VP of sales and marketing at Metafile Information Systems, a paperless ERP solutions provider for accounts payable, accounts receivable and human resources document management and workflow technology.

by Metafile Information Systems

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