Xmas blog imageRetailers are still recovering from the biggest Black Friday and Cyber Monday to date in the UK – £3.3bn spent over the weekend – but after witnessing an ‘end of days’ frenzy at many bricks and mortar shops, consumers this year hit the virtual high street and instead opted to buy online. The focus now shifts to the supply chain to fulfil the orders.

The pressure is on for retailers, especially as last year Marks & Spencer hit the headlines because of a delivery back-log due to its new distribution centre being unable to handle the volume of orders – around one million – that were placed over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend. With a lesson for all retailers to learn, the question is who will be left out in the winter cold this year due to a failing supply chain?

Whatever the size of a business, it is imperative for businesses to have a holistic view of what is happening. As 2016 is fast approaching, now is the time to act; and looking at tools to aid business process is the first step for a business planning to review and analyse how to improve.

A good starting point is to review your document management process. By the very nature of the supply chain beast, businesses create silos of information, paper documents, online completion requests from some suppliers – all creating a delicate balance which can be easily disrupted if one element falls out of place. Three aspects to consider when reviewing your document management process: capture, workflow and email management.

Capture – Swapping chaos for clarity

Do you know how many different formats are required for data capture within your business? The likelihood is that there will be multiple ways, with endless formats. Fast, accurate data extraction from a full range of documents, for example, handwritten printed forms, banking documents, invoices or contracts can transform business efficiency. Precise recognition technologies can help to ensure high-quality data output, making manual intervention the exception rather than the norm – immediately improving time and reducing the manpower required to handle documents going through your business from your supply chain.

Workflow – Working together

Too many cooks in the kitchen comes as standard in supply chain management. It is inevitable that there will be many people involved in the process so having your internal team and stakeholders all handling documents in the same format, with a single approach and process is massively beneficial for the business. Workflow management solutions can act as the bridge between your line of business applications and your document repository, tying together your key systems to streamline your processes. Documents can be automatically routed between departments and authorisers to handle different process stages, for example, review, approval, escalation based on content or simply notification.

Email Manager – Ending the email vortex

Have you ever had an email vortex situation when an important document is shared via email but then seems to disappear into the unknown? Businesses rely on emails to conduct the majority of business, it is the world we live in today, but this comes with its own challenges when handling important – and in some cases legal – documents. With different providers, such as Microsoft Office and Gmail, emails are vulnerable within a business due to creating silos and being notoriously hard to manage. As email volumes rise year on year so does the time spent searching for and managing emails – and so does the risk of losing key information in the email deluge. Utilising email management software that runs automatically behind the scenes can help by handling duplicates, working with multiple accounts, capturing attachments – keeping core information locked into your business.

With 2015 finishing on a high for many retailers, as we transition into 2016 it is important that businesses look at how they can utilise business process tools and quickly identify pain-points within the business. Following the path of each individual element of the supply chain and identifying key points of friction will help you address and prepare for the New Year.