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E-Invoicing: Why It’s So Important

For the past several years, the Federal Reserve System has encouraged businesses to switch from paper-based systems to electronic invoicing, or eInvoicing, to streamline payments across the nation. In a paper published by the Federal Reserve, The Strategies for Improving the U.S. Payment System, the agency called for businesses to implement the complete automation of transactions from the moment a purchase order is submitted, all the way through to payment and reconciliation. 

Benefits of eInvoicing

In many organizations still operating under a paper-based system, invoice approval and reconciliation are the most laborious, time-consuming, and error-prone steps in the procurement cycle. Paystream Advisors estimates $4 to $8 in processing costs can be saved for every paper invoice converted to an eInvoice. With organizations handling thousands of invoices, this adds up to significant savings. But processing costs are not the only benefit. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minnesota paper, U.S. Adoption of  Electronic Invoicing: Challenges and Opportunities, “while a business can accrue benefits from adopting electronic payments alone, materially greater benefits are gained in lower costs, cash management, fewer errors, risk mitigation and transparency when the entire process is electronic.” 

How eInvoicing Works

eInvoices are created, sent, and received in an automated, structured electronic format. This allows employees to quickly and easily approve suppliers’ invoices for payment, with or without a purchase order. Once approved, invoices can be exported or directly integrated into an accounts payable system. In the simplest terms, eInvoicing enables sellers to automatically generate and send invoices to customers digitally, and customers can in turn process and pay those invoices digitally. This results in increased control of overpayments, reduced data entry and document handling costs, and accelerated invoice approval. 

EqualLevel’s eInvoicing Software

EqualLevel’s eInvoicing software creates an efficient online system that integrates seamlessly with an organization’s accounting or ERP system. With the software, eInvoices are automatically entered into an accounts payable system where three-way matching processes ensure accuracy before payment completion. Through cXML, eInvoicing links internal financial workflows to payment systems for both suppliers and buyers. By integrating the two, organizations can make practical strides in their efforts to automate and enhance procurement. 

eInvoicing is essential for organizations looking to streamline their payment processes. Go to www.equallevel.com today for more information on EqualLevel’s eInvoicing capabilities. 

 

Sources: 

The Federal Reserve Bank of Minnesota paper, “U.S. Adoption of  Electronic Invoicing: Challenges and Opportunities” 

The Federal Reserve System paper, “The Strategies for Improving the U.S. Payment System.”

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How EqualLevel GO “Levels the Playing Field” for Small/Disadvantaged Businesses

When making purchases, procurement professionals expect the same functionality they experience as consumers shopping online at home. They want a seamless experience between their purchasing or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, and their approved vendors’ most up-to-date product and pricing information. Because setting up a connection between a vendor site and an organization’s financial system can be a complex undertaking, public sector organizations often inadvertently favor larger, more sophisticated vendors. They usually have just a few catalogs from large vendors integrated with their organization’s ERP and those businesses get the bulk of their dollars.

HOW CAN SMALL/DISADVANTAGED VENDORS COMPETE AGAINST THE BIG GUYS, ESPECIALLY IF THEY DON’T HAVE AN ONLINE PRESENCE ALREADY?

EqualLevel GO gives small OEMs or distributors, who may have limited IT capabilities, the opportunity to establish a punchout catalog store, or punchout store, that integrates with ERPs. This allows small companies to appear alongside their larger competitors.

A punchout store is a web-based, supplier-managed catalog storefront. The punchout store can be custom built on top of an existing eCommerce site or, more commonly, managed for the supplier by a third-party solution provider. Buying organization employees can access the supplier’s punchout store directly from their eProcurement marketplace, also known as “punching out” to the supplier’s site, or “punchout.” Punchout allows the organization to maintain full control over order approval and payment.

HOW PUNCHOUT WORKS

The customer connects, or “punches out,” from their company’s system to a supplier’s eCommerce site. The punchout site identifies the buying organization and displays the appropriate products and prices. The shopper searches and selects goods they wish to purchase and adds them to their cart on the punchout site. At the end of the shopping session, the shopper checks out, which sends descriptions and prices of the goods placed in their cart to their ERP system.

BENEFITS OF EQUALLEVELGO

EqualLevel GO’s punchout commerce site is scalable, easy-to-use and administer, and  is provided at no charge to sellers when combined with EqualLevel’s buy-side eProcurement Marketplace solution. EqualLevel GO customers experience tangible benefits, such as:

Increased Average Order Value

A punchout catalog store, combined with up-selling and cross-selling, is a powerful combination that increases total and average order value. Suppliers can show related and complementary products in their punchout store shopping cart and can anticipate and make adjustments that will increase the average sale.

Greater Ability to Attract Big Customers

When it comes to gaining large customers, a punchout catalog store is a win-win. Big enterprises are often on the lookout for suppliers who can allow them to order directly through their ERP procurement system. For many large organizations, punchout is a ”must-have” for engagement.

Improved Sales Productivity

A punchout catalog store streamlines the sales process because it produces more accurate orders. This means less time is spent correcting orders, which improves response times and overall productivity.

Improved Customer Relationships

By simplifying the purchasing process, suppliers strengthen customer relationships by receiving and responding to orders more quickly.

Small/disadvantaged customers like Midwest Technology Products, GBEX, and El Paso Office Supply have implemented, or are in the process of implementing, EqualLevel GO to ensure their products are showing up in the search results of big buyers. “Every year since creating our punchout store, sales have increased. Even when a customer doesn’t end up placing an order online, more often than not they’ve visited the site beforehand to learn and discover, before picking up the phone to order,” said Robin Peterson of Midwest Technology Products.

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City of Sioux Falls Saves Time and Money With Best-of-Breed Procurement Platform

ROCKVILLE, MD, August 18, 2022—The City of Sioux Falls has implemented EqualLevel’s eProcurement marketplace as part of its best-of-breed strategy to automate its procurement process. EqualLevel’s marketplace replaces their full eSourcing and eProcurement suite which had been in use for several years. Not satisfied with a full suite solution, the city was interested in employing a best-of-breed platform. Their purchasing department conducted a thorough search for a system that could be “as easy to use as Amazon. And we’ve found it,” said Purchasing Manager Scott Rust. “The product provides ease-of-use for both the end-user and the administrator. The analytics of the tool are amazing. We now have so much information at our fingertips.”   Situated in the middle of the Great Plains, the City of Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota, with a population of 180,927. In 2020, it was voted tenth among the 100 best places to live in the U.S. (livability.com). The city’s current operating budget is $281 million.    Rust and Business Analyst Matt Newman conducted a thorough evaluation of systems recommended by their counterparts at various schools, cities, and states. During demos, Rust and Newman paid careful attention to every facet of the software to determine how easy it was to use for the end-user. The team also interviewed staff to ensure they understood their needs for a new system. The City of Sioux Falls launched EqualLevel’s platform in April 2022. “The process was not cumbersome at all,” said Rust. “We were surprised how fast it was adopted and how fast it earned a prominent spot on our city’s intranet,” said Rust. Through the platform’s savings advisor, ELSA, which identifies the best value among search results, the city is already seeing thousands in savings. It has also eliminated the need to manually process purchase orders. “We have taken over 600 manual requisitions out of our system freeing up employees to do other things,” said Rust.   Since the launch of the new EqualLevel marketplace, the City of Sioux Falls has seen more contract compliance and increased utilization across its departments. “EqualLevel was able to create an easy-to-use, Amazon-like shopping experience for the city. From the field to the office, everyone can use it,” said Rust.    Of the suppliers that have been onboarded, 12 have brick and mortar stores within city limits allowing more city dollars to be invested in the local economy. “Doing business with local retailers has been a priority for our city. With EqualLevel’s tool we have been able to satisfy that goal,” said Rust.

EqualLevel’s mission is to enable more effective and efficient public sector spend management that helps agencies streamline operations and optimize spending. EqualLevel combines the best eProcurement marketplace and eInvoicing capabilities into a seamless solution that is easier-to-use, faster to configure and deploy, and more cost-effective than any other procure-to-pay platform available today. With deep domain knowledge in procurement, a best- in-class cloud platform, a fast-growing network of public sector buyers and sellers, and industry-first innovations like ELSA (an AI-powered savings advisor), EqualLevel is leading the way in helping the public sector to increase the value of every dollar spent. 

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City Migrates to Best-of-Breed E-Commerce Solution, User Acceptance Soars

Boasting highly rated schools, low tax rates, affordable housing, and a dynamic parks and recreation system, the City of Sioux Falls provides its citizens with a great place to live, work, learn and play. It is no wonder that in 2020, the city was voted tenth among the 100 best places to live in the U.S. (livability.com). Situated in the middle of the Great Plains, the City of Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota, with a population of 180,927. Its progressive city government, with a 2022 operating budget of $281 million, is led by Mayor Paul TenHaken. The Mayor has continually pledged his commitment to investing city dollars into technology to improve processes. 

In 2021, despite having an end-to-end punchout system in place, the City of Sioux Falls’s procurement department was still processing thousands of purchase orders annually. The city’s punchout system was ineffective and therefore not being utilized by employees in the field. Not only was it clunky, it lacked functionality, it was hard to access, and users found the checkout process cumbersome. It was easier to send requisitions for purchases to procurement then to try to make purchases through the system they had in place. The city was also limited in the number of catalogs the system could employ, leaving options for products also limited. Additionally, the procurement department found running reports to be a lengthy process in their former system.

Purchasing Manager Scott Rust and Business Analyst Matt Newman knew that if they ever wanted to have a tool that made purchasing easier and that would be embraced by city employees, they would have to find one that was much more user-friendly. They set out to find a best-in-breed procurement platform that could provide an easy and effective shopping experience for end-users. 

Because user acceptance was the top priority for the city, they evaluated their options based on end-user needs. Rust and Newman created a list of features they surmised city departments would need in a new system. Then, they took that list to city employees to see if they were on the right track, and if there was anything that they may have missed. Based on the feedback they received they modified their list. “We listened to our end-users. We wanted them to be in the driver’s seat,” said Rust. Besides end-user acceptance, it was also important to the procurement department that the new system offer robust reporting capabilities. 

The City of Sioux Falls set out to find the “best-of-breed” eProcurement system. They conducted a formal evaluation of systems recommended by their counterparts at various schools, cities, and states. One system that was endorsed, the EqualLevel marketplace, seemed to check all of the city’s boxes. With its ability to provide users with an easy and effective shopping experience with unlimited catalogs in one centralized location, along with its extensive reporting capabilities, EqualLevel’s system seemed like a win for both the city’s end-users and the procurement department alike. During a demo, the city looked at every facet of the software to determine ease-of-use for the end-user. The checkout process was simple and seamless. On the administrative side, they found the workflow worked well for routing purchases over a certain threshold to procurement. They were also impressed with the system’s dashboard and reporting features.

Selling the product to the city’s CFO turned out to be an easy process for Rust and Newman. EqualLevel’s marketplace would cost less than their current product and it had a better ROI, making it a “no brainer,” said Newman. Having the ability to use a single sign-on through the city’s intranet, as well as the security certificate EqualLevel has in place, were selling points for the city’s IT department.

The City of Sioux Falls ultimately decided to partner with EqualLevel and signed a contract in fall 2021. The implementation process began with a kick-off meeting between the city and EqualLevel where the project was divided into stages and an aggressive timeline was established. The city supplied EqualLevel with the names of the suppliers that needed to be set up in the system. “EqualLevel worked closely with us and each of our suppliers. Some suppliers were more familiar with punchout than others. EqualLevel worked step-by-step with the companies that needed more help with the process,” Newman shared. In keeping with their timeline, the city was able to fully rollout the new system in April 2022. “The process was not too cumbersome at all,” said Rust. “We were surprised how fast it was adopted and how fast it earned a prominent spot on our city’s intranet.”

The City of Sioux Falls decided to launch its EqualLevel marketplace utilizing its pCard program for payment. Since the launch of the city’s new EqualLevel marketplace, there have been more orders, contract compliance has increased, and there has been less maverick spending.  “Now that we have been able to add so many more catalogs, the spend has gone up on contract considerably,” said Rust. In the three months the system has been in use, over $350,000 in spend has been executed through the marketplace. In the last 30 days alone, there have been over $30,000 in purchases. “EqualLevel was able to create an easy-to-use, Amazon-like shopping experience for the city. EqualLevel’s flexibility allowed us to create the system we need. The checkout process is seamless. From the field to the office, everyone can use it,” said Rust.

Today, with the implementation of the EqualLevel program, the city has removed over 600  purchase orders from the system. Buyers no longer have to wait for procurement department approval before making purchases. “Having 600 plus requisitions out of our system has freed up procurement employees to do other things. With supply chain issues and federal money that has become available, procurement is not getting any less busy. It truly couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Rust.

The city currently has 20 supplier catalogs onboarded with plans for more in the future. The fact that there is no limit to the number of catalogs that can be added equates to time savings for employees who can now utilize the procurement software as a one-stop-shop. Of the suppliers that have been onboarded, 12 have brick and mortar stores within city limits, allowing more of the city’s dollars to be kept locally. “Doing business with local retailers has been a priority for our city. With EqualLevel’s tool we are able to satisfy that goal,” said Rust.

On the administrative side, the marketplace’s dashboard includes reports that show up-to-date spend for the month or for the week, or by user. Easy-to-run reports and the ability to customize ad hoc reports means the product is not just a fit for departments in the field, but also for city administrators.

With 250 active users, the city has achieved a 70% user acceptance rate which is better than they had anticipated. End-users are taking ownership of the system including suggesting catalogs to add and providing ideas to make the software work even better for them. “With everything in one system, users are motivated to use it. People feel good about saving money with the built-in savings advisor, ELSA, and administrators like seeing their savings accumulate  through the ELSA reporting,” said Newman.

The ease of using the pCards through the marketplace has provided other benefits as well. “The rebate with our pCard program has grown exponentially through the increased use of the marketplace,” said Newman. “This additional rebate further increases the product’s ROI.”

Now that phase one implementation has been completed, Rust and Newman look forward to watching the marketplace continue to evolve and to seeing the savings achieved after the system has been in place for a full 12 months. Phase two plans are in place to add more catalogs and more users. “The system will continue to evolve and get better as we use it. The possibilities are endless,” said Rust.

The city sought to build a best-of-breed procurement solution for their community and they believe they have found it. “The product provides ease-of-use for both the end-user and the administrator. The analytics of the tool are amazing. We now have so much information at our fingertips.” Rust and Newman are excited about the future and the growing benefits that the EqualLevel marketplace will provide.

Blog

McKinsey Endorses Digitizing Procurement and Payables to Optimize Public Sector Savings

By Orville Bailey, CEO, EqualLevel.

Every year the state, local and education (SLED) procurement market spends a staggering $1.5 trillion dollars annually on goods and services. In 2018, after analyzing more than 700 procurement efforts, management consulting firm McKinsey & Company concluded that at 28 percent, the public sector has the greatest potential for savings of any other sector (How smarter purchasing can improve public-sector performance).  In round dollars this adds up to the public sector potentially being able to save $400 billion through optimizing procurement. 

According to McKinsey, online tools can reduce administrative burdens. And there’s no question just the streamlining of operations alone could save hundreds of millions in non value-added time. Procure-to-pay automation improves the efficiency and effectiveness of the procurement and payables processes by digitizing manual tasks and leveraging transparency to improve decision-making. The public sector has long been plagued by the inefficiencies and costs associated with manual requisitioning, ordering, invoice reconciliation, and payment processing.

Innovating with a best-of-breed eProcurement and eInvoicing platform optimizes execution across all processes associated with the rec-order-pay transaction. A well-designed solution helps procurement and finance to streamline operations. The benefits of eProcurement and eInvoicing are numerous:

Efficiency: Automating leads to faster cycle times and improved productivity. The elimination of paper and manual steps frees up time for employees to focus on more critical initiatives.

Cost Savings: With all approved vendors housed in one centralized location, best value products can be easily identified.

Compliance: By automating the three-bid process and showing only contracted vendors, an eProcurement marketplace helps organizations comply with state and federal regulations.

Transparency: Robust reporting capabilities help ensure purchases conform to established policies. Real-time visibility into purchasing activities discourages maverick spending and provides leadership with valuable insights.

There is no doubt “the use of modern technology can take a big chunk off of public-sector bills” (Now is the Time for Procurement to Lead Value Capture) and the time to automate procure-to-pay is now. By improving efficiencies, the SLED market has the opportunity to generate savings that can help to offset the impact of COVID-19 and other budget pressures they are facing. 

Blog

TIPS Purchasing Cooperative Automates Member Purchasing With EqualLevel’s AI Procurement Platform

The Interlocal Purchasing System, better known as TIPS Purchasing Cooperative (TIPS), has selected EqualLevel to help automate and streamline purchasing for its members. The new TIPS eProcurement system will allow TIPS members to easily access the cooperative’s approved suppliers within a single, intuitive marketplace to ensure compliance and best value purchasing decisions. 

TIPS is a national purchasing cooperative that offers its 10,000 members access to competitively sourced purchasing contracts. TIPS members consist of organizations in the education, government, and non-profit sectors. The cooperative began as part of the Region 8 Education Service Center (ESC) and is one of 20 regional education centers in Texas. Jensen Mabe, VP of Sales & Business Development for TIPS, said of EqualLevel’s selection, “We wanted a cooperative marketplace and directory platform that was comprehensive, easy-to-use and administer, and adaptable to our individual member needs. EqualLevel was the easy choice.”

The EqualLevel marketplace will provide TIPS members with a consistent, consumer-like shopping experience across supplier storefronts. The new system will ensure members are purchasing from contracts that have been awarded through TIPS’s stringent competitive bid process. Further, guided buying navigation and supplier contract profiles will provide shoppers with the necessary steps for purchasing. 

In addition to contract compliance, TIPS’s new marketplace features the EqualLevel Savings Advisor™ (ELSA), a patent-pending technology that combines the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and a growing database of commonly sourced products to automatically identify in real-time the lowest price for items, or best available substitute, from approved suppliers. 

“EqualLevel is excited to partner with TIPS to create a one-stop-shop for its members. The marketplace will ensure compliance, drive productivity, and deliver hard dollar savings,” said EqualLevel founder and CEO, Orville Bailey.

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How Cooperative Purchasing Marketplaces Optimize savings for the Public Sector

Recently, leading cooperatives have recognized the need to create a one-stop-shop transactional marketplace for their members. Cooperatives like Sourcewell, E&I, MHEC, AEPA, and TIPS have announced or implemented marketplaces to help their members reduce price discovery, order processing and invoicing times. When you reduce costs within a government organization or institution, funds are freed up for other mission-specific uses. This means that constituents win, too. Cooperatives also realize benefits, with access to online spend reporting and tighter integrations with members topping the list.

How are cooperative agreements established? Well, the cooperative or lead agency runs a formal competitive process, following procurement codes, state and local statutes to determine which vendors qualify to sell specific goods and services under the agreement. A trusted cooperative contract eliminates the time and cost associated with your agency gathering requirements, creating the RFP, reviewing multiple bidders, and making an award. With cooperative purchasing, both the buyer and seller benefit from a dramatically shortened and less costly sales cycle.

The pandemic emphasized a vital lesson; all public sector organizations must digitize. This is especially true for cooperatives. The ones that fail to embrace a “digital-first” approach to improving their value proposition are at risk of being left behind and losing competitiveness. Digitalization is raising the stakes, so cooperatives have a growing incentive to find new ways to enhance member experience.

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