Case study

The challenge

A major European retail construction materials conglomerate that has grown substantially through acquisitions had unlinked processes for accounts payable (AP) across the organization. Its existing processes were manual and time-consuming, with system constraints that led to an ever-growing backlog of open items and inquiries. In addition to the rising number of queries from vendors yet to receive payments, the delays in the AP function also resulted in the company making duplicative payments to address their complaints. At the same time, the company lacked visibility into workflows for purchase orders (PO), leading to inaccurate inventory management. The company sought Cognizant's help in reexamining the AP and PO workflows and digitizing these functions.

Our approach

As a first step to digitizing the company’s processes, we used optical character recognition technology to scan and process invoice details. We then automated the mailroom by integrating an email inbox and an auto-scheduler. A statement reconciliation tool automated functions previously performed manually in Excel. We used an inbound query management tool to capture all calls from vendors and suppliers. It assigns a reference number to each case and records call history for easy reference. Call agents now use a library of standardized comments to easily review reconciliation status. Vendors enter data offline and an algorithm identifies duplicate invoices. We deployed a stock-taking workflow tool to automatically assign branch certificates for materials to help the company track inventory, while a ProMet workflow management tool helps track in-house volume and productivity in real time.

Eliminating costly errors and reducing manual processes

Our digital finance and accounting solution helped the company improve processing speeds and operational agility in the AP and inventory-tracking functions. It increased the AP query resolution rate to 99% and reduced order stops and overdue accounts by 50%. The solution also reduced the number of invoices backed up in the system by 30%. By increasing the PO auto-match rate from 67% to 81%, our solution cut person-hours by 50% and improved productivity by 300%. At the same time, average handling time for each incoming inquiry dropped by 200%—from 15 minutes to five.


improvement in PO reconciliation productivity


lower total cost of ownership of the AP function forecasted over the succeeding five years

5 days to 1

reduction in invoice processing cycle time

From $3.87 to $0.45

reduction in cost of processing each invoice