ERP systems have been around for several decades now. They have been evolving to automate, extend and integrate more and more business processes into a unified system that shares data and enables enterprises to run efficiently. The work, however, is not complete.

There are often additional efficiencies and cost savings to be gained right under our noses. For example let’s consider the mailroom of a large organization. Traditionally this is a small warehouse like room dedicated to the reception of packages and bags of mail that can be sorted, boxed and delivered throughout a large campus. Once the mail arrives at its final destination, it is opened, read and acted upon. It has never been considered a critical area for efficiency gain.

However, companies today are starting to take a serious look at the mailroom. There is a new category of solutions called digital mailrooms. Digital mailrooms often consist of: scanning equipment, OCR (optical character recognition) software, archiving, business process software and a central management dashboard. These solutions enable high volumes of inbound documents and mail to be processed in minutes, automatically imaged, recognized and routed to the appropriate department and function. Huge efficiencies are now recognized in the mailroom that impact departments throughout the enterprise.

Accounts payable optimization is another relatively new initiative in many companies. In many large enterprises it can take weeks or months to process a simple invoice. This may cause a series of frustrating emails and phone calls from suppliers looking for payment (I have been there!), and force the company to lose out on early payment discounts.

Many suppliers have early payment discounts they offer their large customers. The supplier may offer a 2% discount if the manufacturer pays within 7 days. If the order is $10 million, a 2% discount represents $200,000. That is real money! However, in many organizations the supplier’s invoice may be stuck in a pile of invoices in the mailroom or on someone’s desk.

AP optimization solutions, like digital mailrooms, are designed to automate many manual processes, and remove the friction and latency from the processes that cause delays and increase costs. AP optimization solutions involve mailroom solutions with high speed scanning equipment, imaging, recognition and AP business process software. It is designed to get the invoice from the mail carrier to the “approver” of the invoice within minutes so payments can be made quickly.

Even with the latest ERPs, digital mailrooms and AP optimization solutions there are still friction areas that cause business to stop. The human element is a key one. In each of the solutions above, huge investments have been made into designing optimal business processes, developing software solutions and utilizing the latest technology and hardware. However, if all of these systems depend on a decision maker to be sitting in a cubicle looking at their desktop computer screen in order to work, they fail.

Decision makers are not stationary. They are decision makers because of their experience and value to the company. They are mobile. If all of these optimized business processes assume a stationary decision maker, they fail to recognize reality. All business processes and IT solutions today must assume that the key human players in a business process are mobile. Decisions must be able to be made in mobile environments. Information necessary for good decision making must be available to the user in a mobile format that can be accessed through any of the popular mobile smartphones used today or in the future.

Mobility is no longer a luxury. It is a requirement in a world of mobile decision makers, multinational companies and global commerce.

Guest author: Kevin Benedict
Founder/Author/Mobile Guru Netcentrics