Klaas Scheppink, Ascom Q&A: Sophisticated solutions

13 November 2012 |


Ascom’s Invoice$hark solution is designed to help carriers reduce the cost and complexities involved with managing and processing incoming invoices.

  

Launched early last year, it is aimed at Tier 1 and Tier 2 carriers and can be integrated with their accounting systems.

The company’s contract appraisal and monitoring system is shortlisted for the Best Market Innovation category at this year’s Capacity Awards.

The solution has been designed to help carriers negotiate with a counterpart effectively, exploring alternatives and evaluating cost/benefit outcomes.

Here Ascom’s senior business consultant, Klaas Scheppink, talks to Capacity about the company’s strategy of delivering innovative and sophisticated solutions to the carrier community.

Q | How can carriers gain better control over their invoice validation, payments and dispute settlements?

In international wholesale telecoms, the validation of large amounts of incoming invoices, particularly in the case of traditional bilateral business, means cost declarations can be time consuming.

Vendors send various types of paper invoice formats, sometimes covering multiple products and often holding large amounts of line items.

Each month, incoming invoices have to be captured and validated, disputes may have to be raised and payments need to be cleared out. Due to the tedious manual processes in place, most carriers tend to only focus on the very obvious anomalies.

They therefore miss many opportunities to reduce payments by disputing smaller or hidden discrepancies in reported versus expected cost. These processes become even harder to manage manually when multiple invoices contain line items for the same traffic periods.

Ascom’s Invoice$hark enables a carrier to regain full control of processes and data involved with invoice validation, payments and dispute settlement. The time and effort usually needed, for example, to scan an incoming paper invoice or send out the dispute letter along with partial payment clearance, can now significantly be reduced.

Since generation of a fully qualified dispute letter with all necessary details is just a matter of one mouse click, within minutes profits that otherwise may have been lost, are recaptured.

Q | How does Ascom’s solution help change the way incoming invoices are being processed?

Firstly, Invoice$hark completely separates importing invoices and their detailed line items from all subsequent business related tasks.

The contents of the invoice are validated on a very high level, allowing it to be rejected when there are obvious errors, such as incorrect sums. Verified liabilities can be forwarded to the financial accounting system.

At the same time, a reconciliation process begins matching the line items with own cost or revenue expectations. This data is uploaded from the carrier’s billing system and incorporates data from other invoices and corrections for the same billing period.

Finally, all anomalies are classified by impact according to globally configured or vendor specific thresholds.

At this point in the process the carrier’s dispute analysts or other skilled members of staff will deal with the invoice or declaration. They do so by basically assessing the highlighted discrepancies and accepting, rejecting or modifying the recommended disputes to be included in the dispute letter.

A dispute may even comprise line items from other older invoices. All data is now available to automatically generate the complete dispute letter in next to no time.

With an established interface to the financial accounting system, Invoice$hark can also forward details on payments and disputed amounts for all invoices involved in the reconciliation process. This also allows better control over the communication with the accounting department and reduces the risks of data loss.

Q | Does the system also support the process of resolving disputes?

All subsequent steps in solving disputes are fully supported by this application, including the management of incoming dispute letters.

Own notes on the progress can be entered, along with emails, documents and other data exchanged with other carriers or own departments.

Further partial payments or corrective invoice details can be sent to the accounting department, depending on the outcome of the resolution.

By using the onboard reporting functionalities, managers can access an up-to-date overview of the performance of their dispute team, as well as an insight into the quality of incoming and outgoing invoices.

Invoice$hark can also be integrated with Ascom’s CDR Archiving and Event Reconciliation solutions, enabling carriers to drill down disputes to the CDR-level when needed.

Furthermore, as Invoice$hark holds information on all agreed minutes and amounts, this data can be used to calculate the final financial positions of complex bilateral contracts after expiration of the contract period, by utilising our recently developed solution ipsCAM.