In 2004, the company went to market seeking a very particular solution: it needed scanning technology that would serve various areas of its business and replace an outdated microfilm system. But it also needed to move non-merchandise invoices around its business in a more efficient manner, recognising that its existing system of distributing paper invoices via internal mail was unsustainable.
“We looked at a substantial number of solutions, and SoftCo fitted the Argos requirements most effectively,” said Sharon Bessell, Overheads Controller, Central Finance of Argos.
The challenge, Sharon explains, was connected to the authorisation process for non-merchandise invoices. When these invoices came into the central office at Argos, Accounts Payable staff needed to route the invoices to the right part of the business for approval, but this process could sometimes take many days, especially if the invoice needed to be sent to a number of people for query or authorisation. What's more, AP staff couldn't view paper invoices while they were out for approval, hindering their ability to effectively answer supplier queries about payments.
“From the time when the paper invoice left the office to when it would be received back authorised, we had little visibility of its status, or whereabouts,” Sharon says. “Now that we have the SoftCo solution, it is much easier to handle supplier queries.” The new system means that AP staff can now pinpoint any supplier invoice and see what stage it is at in the approval process.
The integrated solution from SoftCo allows Argos AP staff to scan all supplier invoices on receipt. In the case of non-merchandise invoices, the document can now be sent electronically to the appropriate cost centre manager or budget holder so that they can approve it. If that budget holder chooses to query the invoice or forward it to somebody else in the organisation, that activity is visible from a central perspective, giving AP staff the bird's eye view they need in order to answer supplier queries.
In total Argos vetted no less than 23 companies before it settled on the SoftCo solution, examining criteria that ranged from usability of the system and technical expertise of the team to the management of the company and the costs involved. SoftCo fit the bill on all counts, and Sharon says she has found the team helpful and responsive to Argos's needs.
The SoftCo system went live earlier this summer, and for Argos the benefits are already evident. “We would expect to be able to pay our suppliers quicker and give more accurate explanations to suppliers with any queries they may have,” Sharon says. “Feedback from all users has been extremely positive and approvers are saying that they spend less time approving invoices now and more time engaged in value-added activity.”
Sharon Bessell Overheads Controller, Central Finance.