The Cash Flow Challenge

EleVia Software recruits the company's finance department in their drive to improve productivity, writes David Chadwick

I started out in computers selling accounting systems for Olivetti more years ago than you really want to know. Probably the most exciting thing that these early systems did was to clock up the payment records of customers and allocate them to either being 30, 60 or 90 days overdue. It has taken right up until now to discover that taking over control of your payments and receipts does more than merely improve your cash flow.

For this enlightenment I have to thank Ron Noden of EleVia, who I recently spoke to in a Teams chat. EleVia, now a part of Battery/Newforma, has clients in over 40 countries - chiefly the United States, UK, Europe and Australia. It was founded in 2009, and has over 130,000 licensed users.

The software is integrated in Deltek Vision and Vantagepoint, and its billing and invoicing applications have been developed to add improved workflow to Deltek's already hugely capable ERP solutions, while maintaining the company's close relationship with Deltek Management.

One of the biggest issues facing the construction industry is late and outstanding payments. EleVia believes that improving a company's cash flow by just a couple of weeks could mean the difference between the success or failure of a project. "Forget the old 30, 60, 90 days routine which many organisations aspire to," Ron said. "If you haven't been paid within 90 days you already have a problem."

The Cash Flow Challenge is being made to change the way companies think about overdue payments and is offered to EleVia clients when they implement the financial management package. Mentored by EleVia, it monitors the amount of time that a company's cash flow shortens - the Days Sales Outstanding - within the first few months of using the software. Ron states that the workflow efficiencies attributed to EleVia Software can increase a company's cash flow by as much as one million pounds per month.

The finance departments of many companies handling Accounts Receivable Management & Collections (ARM) and Payables Approval & Tracking (PAT), are not usually associated with drives to improve their efficiency, and handle hundreds of invoices to project partners with varying degrees of inefficiency using outdated and cumbersome workflows.

EleVia's software uses similar non-invasive technology to Newforma to drive workflow efficiencies in finance and invoicing, producing notable reductions in Day Sales Outstanding (DSO). It does this by measuring from the time that the work is completed until the invoice is paid. More specifically, the Time to Invoice (TTI) should follow the time that the billable work has been completed as quickly as possible. The time of invoice until the time of collection - Accounts Receivable (AR) or AR Aging - is then used as an AR weighted KPI. EleVia uses both of these as the basis of an accountable AR Management and Collections process.

Automating the whole process
The key to all of this is in automating the gathering and processing of invoice information, using mobile applications to record the time spent and the time of completion of billable elements of work. Not only does real-time billing eliminate the normal working practice of totting up jobs and hours worked on time sheets at the end of the day (or the week!). It eradicates errors and time wasted checking whether, for example, someone who has clocked off early has actually finished their work or left it for tomorrow.

EleVia believe that simple automation of billing can increase TTIs by ten or more days a month, and the smaller number of exceptions that still arise can be handled more quickly.

TTI also becomes a target. It can be measured and reviewed frequently and even included on management dashboards, and response times can be used as part of the project management process, with the aim of shortening the results.

The invoicing workflow is integrated with EleVia Electronic Invoicing, which also helps to reduce TTI days by integrating the work of field and project teams within the accounting reporting system, using a single point of entry for all of the information required to fulfil an invoice. Errors are eliminated, time saved and the information needed to rectify exceptions is already within the system.

After configuring the software to match the requirements of individual companies, EleVia helps them set up automated processes which generate actions like reminder emails sent out one week before payments are due. Should companies respond with queries about the invoice - a familiar stalling tactic in every industry - the past couple of years of billing information can be downloaded and sent to the client in twenty minutes.

The integration with Deltek Vision, the ultimate source of truth and which shares bidirectional links with EleVia's data, enables any and every query to be answered.

Energising the System
As nice as it is to bring forward your cash flow, becoming more proactive in the way you handle your improved workflows has other benefits. Your own accounts team can be energised by the way in which they can contribute to a company's moving bottom line instead of passively recording the daily flow of invoices and payment receipts. They will also take onboard the maxim that 'the quicker you invoice, the quicker you get paid!'

Contractors and suppliers are similarly charged by the promise of quicker payments for their work and supplies and will respond accordingly. I have personal experience of this. Having recently moved home into a property that required stripping out completely, I was able to employ the best local builders when I needed them because I paid them on the dot as soon as they had finished a billable job. I probably saved a couple of months duration to finish the work in the process.

Improving the Workflow
Although the software is supplied out of the box, there are some configurable elements that allow EleVia to implement a client's specific requirements. Although it is designed to be customer friendly, a bit of input from EleVia can ensure that the system is running at an optimum level.

Speeding up ARM and PAT will certainly improve a company's cash flow, but there are other activities that are ripe for enhancement. The use of smartphones and tablets on site has revolutionised the collection of data and the signing off of goods received where it occurs. Instead of adding a signature to a piece of paper which is then taken back to the supplier for the invoice to be issued, deliveries can be inspected and validated on the spot, and appropriate project files updated.

Work carried out on site is similarly recorded, indicating the length of time a particular job has taken and any resources used to complete it, which can then be matched to the pay rates and costs of those who carried out the work, producing a real-time value of each item. This results in a massive improvement in expense cost recovery. Ron explained that inadequate collection of costs on sites that do not use the latest technology to harvest data were falling short by up to 40% on cost recovery.

EleVia's website exhorts its users to "Take the Challenge and dig up some cash!" It's an appealing thought, and one that drives home the message to EleVia's clients: take control of your workflows and kickstart your company's future success.