To successfully implement a supply chain finance program, a smooth and efficient integration of the supply chain finance (SCF) platform with the existing purchase-to-pay (P2P) process of the buyer is quintessential. Since most companies apply ERP systems to manage their P2P process, it is this ERP integration that among other factors determines the success or the failure of the program. We have identified the below 5 key aspects that we believe have the most substantial impact for the successful integration of customers’ ERP systems with any SCF platform:
(1) Technical integration: Minimize customers’ implementation effort to achieve secure transmission of data
(2) Scalability: Support financing of huge number of invoices without manual intervention
(3) Process integration: Address and correctly solve the less obvious hurdles of a supply chain finance program in the financial accounting realm
(4) Transition: Ensure a smooth transition from the project to the in-production phase
(5) Robustness: Ensure maximum system stability and provide recovery mechanisms in case of failures
Typically, a SCF platform offers very specific interfaces to ERP systems to upload invoices but also to modify invoice data: Depending on the solution discounts must be set, payees exchanged, due dates modified, corrective invoices created, etc. It is an obvious benefit of a solution when the technical implementation effort to integrate customers’ ERP systems with an SCF platform can be reduced to a bare minimum. Ideally, the technical integration stream of a customer onboarding project is completed prior to the completion of other project streams.
To minimize the necessary implementation effort for our customers, we have chosen to implement most business logic on the SCF platform. The platform offers web services that must be called by a client which resides in customers’ ERP systems. The platform manages the lifecycle of all uploaded invoices and takes all financing related decisions (e.g., determining invoices that are eligible for financing considering all other factors such as provided liquidity, demand, available purchasers, financing prices and max accepted costs of funding). The client periodically fetches the states of uploaded invoices and executes commands provided by the platform to change invoice data in the ERP system. Thus, the client must correctly interpret and execute the commands but remains thin and simple in complexity.
For SAP systems, we offer such client an SAP Add-On. This reduces the technical integration effort to transporting the Add-On to the SAP target system and to establishing a secure connection from this system to the SCF platform. No implementation effort is required at all. This mechanism has been extensively tested and has been proven to work for host-to-host connections as for connections with various middleware technologies alike.
Companies without SAP or direct ERP integration upload invoices manually to the CRX platform via an Excel spreadsheet. All other processes remain in place.
Successful SCF programs must be able to operate on thousands of open invoices at any point in time. Under such circumstances, we are convinced that an SCF program is only accepted within your organization and your business partners alike, if no manual activity is required on a day-by-day basis to run and manage the program.
Typically, when presenting our solution to potential customers, accountants are very curious on the required manual interventions and are very surprised once they understand that no such intervention is required. That is, because for most operations, the customer can schedule jobs in his ERP that run on a regular frequency and execute programs provided by the client to upload and fetch status updates. The commands provided in response to status update requests are executed automatically and change invoice data in the ERP accordingly. Data integrity is ensured by additional measures that prevent critical modifications or reversals on uploaded invoices.
Another factor is load: You must feel confident that the solution manages the expected load considering acceptable processing or response times. Best you plan and execute load tests with your SCF platform provider before rolling out the program to production – at least in case your business requires multi-thousand invoices uploaded and financed per day.
Process integration: Address and correctly solve the less obvious hurdles of a supply chain finance program in the financial accounting realm You should take precaution that your SCF partner correctly understands how the SCF program impacts your financial accounting processes. Bring your accountants to the table and make sure that all their questions are answered. Below a collection of obvious questions on which your team must have clarity early on:
At CRX Markets, we always start the technical integration stream with a process analysis during which we aim to understand the core business of our customers. Having identified potential gaps of our solution early on allows to deal with them with caution. Identifying such gaps late during final acceptance tests – maybe only after having already announced the program start to the public – can only result in less-than-optimal compromises implemented and tested under time-pressure.
The start of production is a sensitive phase in the project. The first months in production determine whether your program is accepted within your organization but also by your business partners or not. You should be prepared for this phase by having trained your internal staff and having communicated to your business partners on how the program works. Your SCF partner should support you for this phase with targeted measures outlined below:
Obviously, the system should rarely fail. It is also your responsibility to ensure the same. Furthermore, you should have the foresight to prepare for such error scenarios by building and maintaining a support organization that knows how to cope with potential production incidents. The below measures help you to minimize the potential of error scenarios and to quickly react if they occur despite all precautions:
While your SCF partner can hardly support you by implementing the above measures, he can make sure that the solution provides sufficient logging, tracing and troubleshooting mechanisms. We have implemented many such measures in the SAP Add-On and in the SCF platform alike. Among others, each web service request and response can be retrieved at no cost, each data modification in the ERP system is documented and all technical errors are logged.
Obviously, a technical ERP integration can be considered smooth when little to no implementation effort is required. But there is more that needs your consideration: The solution must be scalable to further develop your SCF program as intended, it must support your business and your teams must feel comfortable using it. The transition from project to in-production phase must be smooth and effortless because well prepared and incidents that occur later on in production must be managed with highest professionalism. At CRX Markets, we have developed an onboarding process that guides you efficiently through the project phase – addressing all mentioned aspects. Once in production, our support organization makes sure that your staff and your business partners alike feel comfortable with and satisfied by the solution.