The Scenario

Mailbox

For many organisations numerous processes are initiated via the submission of Excel templates, for example, that must be validated, processed and responded to. Anything from accountancy journals and purchase orders to organisation structure changes and financial restatements, all are processed in pretty much the same way:

  1. User submits a request.
  2. Request source is validated, for example originating domain.
  3. Request format is validated, e.g. template format and version.
  4. Request is validated against business rules and reference data.
  5. Validation report issued where appropriate.
  6. Impact report and / or confirmation issued.
  7. Request recorded for processing and analysis.

In most cases the process is supported manually by either a central help-desk or dedicated team. Either way, support staff are tasked with understanding not just complex processes, but anything from dozens to hundreds of business rules.

Regardless of location, on-shore or off, the cost of that support is considerable and turnaround times restrictive, inconvenient and not conducive to the smooth flow of operations.

In any case where a template file is submitted that must be validated and processed, the process can be automated and improved. As well as reducing turnaround times to seconds, having the business rules built in means they can be used to produce easy to follow documentation.

Manual overheads can be reduced to almost nothing for the majority of queries freeing support staff to deal with more pressing or complex issues.

In the case of SAP journals, no meaningful error message was provided by SAP should a journal fail to post.

End users would resort to calling the help-desk where support staff would manually examine the journal in order to pin-point the reason(s) for failure. This was the case even for things as simple as invalid cost centres or accounts, too many lines in a journal or a simple failure to balance debits and credits.

In another team, the groups structure was controlled via change requests in the form of an Excel form. Given the nature of the group a large number of complex business rules, such as regulatory controls, had to be considered.

In this case it could take anything up to a couple of weeks to have a change request analysed, validated and returned with its impact analysis. Given the complexity of the subject matter sometimes longer.

Other Overheads of the Manual Processes

The structure change process was such that at least a full weeks effort per cycle (roughly quarterly) was being spent simply keeping track of change requests, handling authorisation and making sure they did not clash.

The effort taken to complete a single change could stretch to days with multiple iterations between end users and the support team.

Generally the complexity of the models was such that rework was often required. Combined with hard deadlines, this resulted in staff regularly working late to ensure avoid breaches.

Finally, the lack of clear processes in respect to structure changes made process improvement difficult.

The Solution

Image 1. shows the working model, a simple process where an unattended mailbox handles queries and responses. The only manual effort being the monthly update of the reference data.


Image 1. Automated Mailbox Process.

Automated Mailbox Process

Functionality Delivered

Architecture

Overheads

Benefits, Workload and Time Savings

Improve Flow, Save Time and Improve Quality

Whatever the process, if your organisation is handling template based documents that need to be validated, processed and reported on, an automated mailbox will not only save money and time, but will increase the visibility of your business rules, improve data quality and empower your users.

Get in touch to hear more....