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ECM: Managing invoices pays off

This article appears in the issue March 2007 (100 Companies) [Volume 16, Issue 3]
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Edwards World, and eBusiness Suite. "The basic process is to make all supporting unstructured content available in the repository, and then initiate workflow around it to manage the routing and approval process," Sarno explains.

Open Text introduced an A/P application called Vendor Invoice Management (VIM) for SAP in 2005, which is designed to automate the routing of invoices, including handling exceptions such as missing receipts, incorrect pricing and other errors. Because the Open Text collaboration software is integrated with its Livelink ECM, team workspaces are available that can show all documents associated with a project, from reports to invoices and process steps.

Integration of ECM with ERP offers extensibility both with respect to other applications and to other users. "The scope of workflow in ERP applications is restricted," explains Sarno. "Supporting documents may need to be metatagged, archived for seven months and then accessed to support audits and other compliance or regulatory requirements. These additional functions extend and enhance the ERP solution. It's all about creating a seamless, 360-degree view around specific business processes." In addition, partners such as customers and suppliers can be offered self-service access to the documents through an ECM system.

Another valuable purpose served by ECMs in managing invoices is to allow different ERP systems to function as a unit. "Companies are acquiring businesses that have different systems," says Toni Eddleman, senior marketing manager at EMC, which provides the Documentum ECM platform, "and they need to create processes that can access all of them." Invoices that are paid through different ERP systems can be viewed through a common repository. Companies that use ECMs to support that type of integration can improve their compliance and audit readiness, as well as speed up the A/P review process.

Easier auditing

The auditing benefits are likely to become increasingly important as new regulations take effect. "In the past, during audits, several employees might have to be assigned the task of pulling paper invoices," says Eddleman. "With Documentum, companies can seat the auditor at a terminal where all the necessary documents can be retrieved."

Although companies that use ECM to store and retrieve invoices often use the ECM interface as the front end, others may opt to view them through the ERP interface. "In cases where the customer wants to access an electronic image through the ERP system," says Eddleman, "a link or button can be set up in the application to bring up the image from the ECM repository and display it on the desktop

Content 2.0

Web 2.0 to many people means blogs, wikis, social software and podcasts … but, really, it's about a whole range of new technologies and approaches for providing information over the Internet. The new options offer an alternative to the strategy of developing a monolithic "sticky" Web site, but the changes also mean managing more content and more ways of delivering content.

"Reuse of content used to mean to present the same content as either a PDF or as a Web page in HTML," says Vernon Imrich, CTO of Percussion, maker of the content management product Rhythmyx. "Now it means to use the content as a Web page, an RSS feed or to manage the content so it is a downloadable MP3 file from the Web page, but also available as a podcast if the user has subscribed that way."

No longer are organizations relying solely on their own Web sites to deliver content. "The strategy now is to reach out through many channels," Imrich continues. The new channels are becoming a part of the fabric of everyday life, and not just in high-tech circles. Imrich says, "Fans of horseracing can go to the Churchill Downs Web site, join the Twin Spires Club, and receive news and information from the site in a variety of formats." A site that aggregates and delivers information about many different sports may pick up the Churchill Downs RSS feed, and the consumer could receive it without ever having gone to the Churchill Downs site.

Key to storing, finding and delivering information is good metadata. "The better the content is tagged, the more likely the desired recipient will see it," Imrich says. "A big part of what Rhythmyx does is to help handle metadata and provide descriptive information about the content." Search engine optimization is also related to effective use of metadata.

"It's almost more of an art than a science," Imrich explains, "to balance aggregation of content, to make it more compelling, with componentizing content through use of metadata, to make it more targeted."

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