Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing

Barry Finlay

In 2009, I was charged with the responsibility of automating Ranbaxy’s existing manual invoice processing systems. The manual invoice processing was inefficient because it depended on the physical movement of invoices across departments and locations making it nearly impossible to monitor and track the function.

This project took over three years and was completed in May 2014. In leading the automation of Ranbaxy’s entire Accounts Payable Function, I embarked upon a transformation journey introducing strategic and incremental initiatives across focused areas, to automate, integrate and optimize the Accounts Payable process. The Automation and Integration initiatives were majorly aimed at simplifying and optimization to improve vendor engagements and satisfaction levels.

Technology driven AP transformation

Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand.

Putts Law

When I had started my discussions with the AP team regarding the existing processes, the AP department put out a disclaimer – This is how we do it, and that is how we want it. As a fresh graduate in Mechanical Engineering, with limited exposure to financial nuances, it seemed to be a tough task with a lot of challenges. But, as they say “Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.” So, I decided this project is one that I will complete.

However, every time I reached a project milestone; new milestones would emerge or be drafted. While at the outset this reads as a case of poor project management, it had more to do with the growing reliance and interdependence between the AP department and the Business Solutions Group BSG of which I was a part.

A transformation journey for redefining AP began with aligning technological initiatives with the strategic ones. A steering committee was formed with members from both AP department and BSG and was made responsible to identify a technology partner to help unleash the technological initiatives. Following a comprehensive market evaluation, we selected Newgen Software for capturing the SSCs business needs and challenges and offer an AP solution which was scalable and future ready.

Human Engineering – Empowering people to drive Excellence

Around half way down the journey, I realized that the Management needed to be apprised of certain day to day problems that the AP team was facing such as non-ergonomic workstations, machines with slow processing speed and no appreciation for performance.

After drafting a comprehensive list of initiatives, the concerns were presented along with a roadmap to manage these challenges. The idea was to make the management realize that AP Excellence could only be achieved through a cohesive and result oriented team.

We were able to convince the management and soon we had machines with latest processors along with 21 inch LEDs which were placed at the processing floors to ensure visibility and performance. Everyone in the human resources team and the IT infrastructure team were given additional responsibilities and they were exceeding expectations. As a result of these initiatives we were also able to introduce a performance based Rewards and Recognition program.

Change management was easy and now the team had one common motive: “Standardization”.

Consolidating key employee data

We had successfully completed the roll out of a real time SAP Integrated Solution based on an SOA methodology, seamlessly streamlining the payables process, right from the time invoices are received till the ERP postings. I had an idea of implementing an OCR(Optical Character Recognition) as well. But unlike regular AP engine we implemented a Virtual Character Reader (VCR).

During our celebratory meet for the AP project success, I began making mind maps for all of my company’s source systems as far as the Shared Services (AP) department is concerned.

I asked my SSC head: What if I make Employees enter all accounting data? He wanted to know if that was possible. I only had one response for him. “Yes it is”

We have developed a web interface that links our AP system to any employee related portal. We are currently in the process of linking 5,000 field force employees. With faster integration based on SAP Journal entries and mapping, our AP system can speak to any other system.

A simple example is of employees entering their travel claims. An automatic G/I line identification occurs based on the nature of expense and a corresponding AP work item is created. The employee then takes a print out of the travel acknowledgement sheet with the barcode and submits the same to the SSC with his/her bills. Once the barcode is scanned and bills are reviewed, the data is posted to the ERP.

The journey of Ranbaxy’s SSC transformation, for me was an experience of turning challenges into opportunities with a healthy degree of optimism, self-confidence and openness, along with an adventurous spirit. We are in the process of looking into optimizing various other processes in the near future, with the right initiatives and technology investments.

Thanks to my company Ranbaxy and our technology partner Newgen for believing in my ideas.