May 2020 | Commentary | IT Matters: Logistics & Supply Chain Technology

It's Time to Digitize Your Back Office

Tags: Technology

Upgrading back-office functions may not be the sexiest subject when it comes to artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and business automation but, according to IDC research, it goes the furthest.

Bruce Orcutt, Vice President of Product Marketing, ABBYY, 408-457-9777

Digitizing, automating, and optimizing document workflows reduces costs by more than 35%, say respondents to IDC's Content Intelligence: For the Future of Work report. They reduced the time spent on document-related tasks by 17% and reduced errors by almost 52%.

To accelerate growth and profitability, shippers need to eliminate manual back-office functions and integrate processing across the entire supply chain with carriers and other trading partners. However, knowing which processes to start with, and deciding what technology to use to automate, is often a challenge.

Intelligent process automation (IPA) can help organizations quickly ramp up digital transformation projects, according to IDC. IPA is a group of AI-enabling technologies, including content intelligence, that manages, automates, and integrates processes. This includes intelligent capture, optical character recognition, machine learning, and natural language processing.

Any content-centric process is a high-value target for automation. However, many executives make the costly mistake of embarking on a project based on assumptions, bias, or opinion rather than facts. Many organizations think they know how their systems operate, when in fact, it is far from reality.

Before digitally transforming a business process, I highly recommend using a process intelligence tool that analyzes your systems in real time. The tool uses AI technologies to understand a process as a dynamic flow of interrelated events and measures, analyzes, and monitors time intervals and repeated actions. This will help you determine which processes to transform, why, and the expected ROI.

Priority Processes

The common processes that return the most immediate value for shippers are:

Accounts payable (AP). While it is important to digitize invoices, purchase orders, and sales orders to streamline the AP department, simple digitization is not where the real benefits lie. It is important to use content intelligence solutions that leverage machine learning to automatically extract, classify, and learn what to do with the data within structured and unstructured documents such as invoices. Only after this information has been gathered and properly understood can it be sent to the next step within the AP automation process.

Customs forms. Rather than having staff manually review customs forms and transfer the data to your system, the technology can automatically extract tariff and product information for every line item in a shipment, thus saving time and eliminating errors.

Additionally, you'll be able to export any process documents automatically to electronic systems for filing via the automated broker interface.

Scheduling and logistics. Automation is crucial to optimize global sourcing, outsourcing, and subcontracting while managing complex, multisite operations and maximizing profits. This includes capturing and submitting proof-of-delivery documents with delivery receipts and signed bills of lading via mobile phones.

To ensure a solid start to digital transformation projects, create a center of excellence (COE) consisting of staff from the C-suite, IT, and business users. COEs evaluate which processes to target first, and typically leverage process intelligence, robotic process automation, IPA, and content intelligence. COEs deliver digital intelligence across the enterprise.

The path of digital transformation is not an easy one and must be carefully executed to ensure maximum ROI.






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