By Stuart Evans, Chief Technology Officer, Invu
For years technology professionals have been advocating the benefits of Cloud computing — but what is the value for a finance department to adopt this way of thinking? Why direct customers and even employees to a web portal in the Cloud when there are so many other ways of communicating — namely telephone, post or email?
The portal option is not simply a matter of extending choice — although that is a key consideration in improving the customer experience. Opting for a web portal that is fully integrated with the existing back end document management system ensures documents are 100% identifiable and traceable. All documents uploaded to the portal by clients are automatically downloaded to the document management system for safe keeping and routing to retain a full audit trail. The result is that organisations can not only securely exchange documents with clients but also obtain approvals and retain a full auditable record of the process.
Of course, if clients miss the personal interaction, traditional communication routes are still an option. But by re-directing any transactional communication to a web portal, organisations gain security, visibility and efficiency — as well as cost reduction.
Here are seven reasons every business should move towards a dedicated web portal now:
1. Cheap - The cost to implement and run the portal are relatively low. The portal is not a catch all for every corporate document. For most organisations, no more than 10% of documents created are actually shared with customers or suppliers, such as contracts, proposals or valuation statements. With only a sub-set of documents to be published, the portal is quick and easy to setup and manage.
2. Easy to implement — Getting started with a portal is simple: just configure the document management systems to create a portal account and the company is up and running. Since the portal is integrated with the document management system, everyone in the company can start using a portal straightaway — within hours — and with no limit on the number of customers or business users. Documents can be uploaded to the portal with a single click, making it incredibly easy to start sharing information with clients.
3. Fast ROI — Obviously the use of the portal completely removes the need for print and postage, cutting direct costs as well as avoiding time wasted manually collating documents. More importantly, a business has far better control over the entire information management process. Unlike email, the portal provides a full audit trail, ensuring the business knows when a customer has read a document and if it has been approved. There is no time consuming chasing, resending of emails or version confusion. Improving collaboration and speed of customer interaction can deliver a significant financial benefit, as well as improving the quality of the customer relationship.
4. Secure & Compliant — Only those documents the business wants to share with customers and suppliers are published via the portal and there is a clear, secure separation between the portal and the rest of the organisation’s documents. Furthermore, given the growing need to respect the privacy of a customer’s information, the portal provides a far more secure and controlled environment than the somewhat random, chaotic and insecure approach of emailing documents. The portal provides a single view of all client correspondence with full transparency and audit trail — and only those individuals with the correct security clearance can access the information.
5. Efficient — Businesses constantly strive to improve efficiency and reduce the time it takes to process invoices and record sensitive information. Using the portal to source and keep track of documents which require complex review and approval processes ensures nothing gets missed or lost. Critically, the portal can transform the speed of turnaround, with minimum effort and minimum elapsed time. Companies can exploit the portal to streamline processes and introduce new, more effective working practices.
6. Enables process change — Effective use of the portal can transform the way businesses operate. Unlike anarchic email or file sharing systems like Dropbox, the portal’s full audit trail provides immediate visibility of the status of each customer interaction — those documents that have been approved; and those awaiting approval. Full visibility and transparency enables the organisation to impose greater control, minimise time spent searching for updates and rapidly prioritise key areas of activity.
7. Supports closer customer relationships — A portal provides customers with a 24 hour touch point with the business. The information can provide additional customer value, enable some degree of self-service, and remove the risk of a customer experience being compromised as a result of one member of staff being out of the office for any reason. Critically, unlike unreliable email, the full audit trail and visibility ensures that any problem with document upload or download is immediately flagged — there is no embarrassing delay or confusion in information delivery that can undermine business trust.
Today’s business world depends on confidence, accuracy and trust. It is simply no longer acceptable to fire off a time sensitive document via email and assume it has arrived. Nor is it commercially efficient or effective to dedicate time to chasing customers for information — the process is time consuming for the business and often inconvenient for the customer.
For any organisation, especially those in the business of delivering professional or advisory services, it is now time to start thinking about making the move to a web-portal for business critical transactions - or ultimately your business will start to suffer.