Digitizing utility bill management affects every player

Posted at March 2, 2021 » By : » Categories : News » Comments Off on Digitizing utility bill management affects every player

Taking the decision to digitize the management of your utility bills is a great step in reducing the administrative burden of bill processing in your business. The accuracy and visibility over how much your business is spending on energy, water, and gas will enable decisions and actions that benefit your bottom line.

To drive home the advantages digital transformation will bring to your business, it’s important to think of it as a team game, just like soccer—football, for those of you in the rest of the world. The different areas of your business have their own unique expertise. They’ll find value in disparate data sets and they’ll each leverage their relationships to deliver the energy efficiency and resource allocation that will save you money. 

In this blog, we look at the five areas of your business you’ll want to give plenty of playing time to if you really want to reduce the cost of energy.

Facilities Management – the playmaker

The FM team is the eyes and ears of your business, yet they are often an afterthought when it comes to the changes the business is planning. When you’re running a multi-site operation and trying to implement policies and processes that will make you more energy-efficient, the facilities team are the ones who control the plays during the game. They need to explore and test innovative ways to use tools like building management systems more effectively to save money on the heating, air-conditioning, and ventilation, which account for the majority of your energy usage

But don’t make the assumption that facilities managers will know how to interpret all of the utility data you give them. A recent survey by JLL points to FM managers sometimes being presented with data and scratching their heads. Empower them, however, and provide the proper support needed to succeed, and they are bound to deliver the assists you need at the front line. 

Procurement – the goalkeeper

Nothing should get past a well-organized and effective procurement team. They’re a key player when it comes to managing energy vendors, contracts, and performance. Digitizing your utility bills provides the data that most procurement teams can only dream of. It gives them power in negotiations with suppliers. It provides them the information to go deep into the contract terms, the nature of supply, and even the past performance of facilities. Quite simply, digitization gives your procurement team the opportunity to save you from suppliers and contracts that aren’t performing to the standards you expect. 

And you’ll find procurement leaders are keen to help. A survey of senior procurement executives found that 96% recognized the potential of digitizing, and 54% felt AI would improve the efficiency, transparency, and control over purchasing. Despite the optimism, though, only 3% reported it was in place in their business.

Finance – the striker

Close to the action at all times, your finance and accounts payable teams are the ones who have the final say over the money that leaves your business. Digitizing your utility bills revolutionizes your business process management and frees the team from mindless data entry. It leaves them in the perfect position to look for opportunities to hit your goal to save money. 

A utility bill management platform does the support work for your accounts payable team. In managing the reconciliation and payment of bills, it takes on all the mundane—yet vital—running about and gives the team the freedom to create opportunities, like using the information to find ways to reduce your energy costs. And they’ll find plenty—while digitization will ensure you have clean data to back up every decision, your suppliers may still be using manual processes, and making errors.

It’s also worth noting that your business is in a far better position to deal with incorrect bills before they are paid. It’s much easier to bring a supplier to the table when you owe them money than when they’ve already got it; so you’ll find they’ll do everything they can to stay onside. 

Sustainability – the coach

There’s much to be said for getting a full picture of the way your entire energy portfolio is performing. Only with a clear view of all the information can you decide on your next play and focus on any weaknesses. By identifying costs and opportunities and helping other areas to realize them, those same areas of the business will become more energy efficient. 

The information brought by digitizing gives you the opportunity to develop business cases for investment in transfers to more sustainable and energy-efficient equipment; big market plays that could really have an impact on your overall success.

Customer – the defender

Without customers, we have no business. But so often, we make them tackle unnecessary tasks that put them offside. Digitizing brings the opportunity to give customers the ability to see all their utility bills in one place. Not only does allowing them to serve themselves set your customer service team free from dealing with unnecessary calls or contacts, bringing accurate and timely data to your customer—exactly when they need it—means they can make decisions in the moment. They can see what their energy usage is costing and make adjustments as they need, so they don’t incur unnecessary penalties. 

Not all customers will use the data, of course. According to Deloitte, they often express interest in energy efficiency programs and better information but don’t always participate. But give the data to those who want it, and the chances are they’ll reward you for it.

The playbook:

To help you get the right results from digitization, we’ve developed the following playbook:

Own the transformation

When you’re thinking about the reports your organization will need once your utility bills are digitized, cast your net as wide as possible. Addressing energy cost savings as a team, rather than as a single department, will maximize the potential benefits.

Make sure there’s a swift rollout out to the rest of the organization, rather than an uninspiring drip. Take too long, and you’ll quickly lose traction; there’s only so long most people will put up with double-entry or workarounds, and people’s response to change is fickle. Lead them through the process with the promise of excitement and then take too long to deliver, and you’ll lose their goodwill.

Processes are only good if they’re followed consistently. All it takes is one poor experience and those who perhaps weren’t entirely sold on the change you’re implementing are likely to give up quickly. Encourage participation; make sure you’re aware of who is—and who isn’t—using the new processes and the new data. It’s easy to lose track of the effectiveness of any digitization process once the data is out in the mainstream. Keep checking in with those using it and look for ways to help them unlock value.

Reinvent the digital workflows

Remember, the power of data is in the speed at which you can bring it to the decision-making point. Produce forecasts in minutes and give people the confidence that the data they are seeing is correct, and you’ll smooth the path to full adoption.

There’s little point in looking at data that benchmarks the energy usage of each of your sites, once a quarter. By that time, there will be so many variables that understanding what the data is telling you will be virtually impossible. Bring benchmarking to those who need it as quickly as you can. If there’s an issue with your utility usage, you’ll want to know about it before it gets out of control, not when it’s too late to change.

Planning makes perfect

Know what you’re trying to achieve and look for scenarios to get you there. Strategize, strategize, and strategize some more. Having the data at hand really does give you so many options. The limit is literally your own imagination.

It goes without saying that the data will only help you if it’s right. Digitizing goes a long way towards bringing you accurate data, but using auditing to make sure what you are seeing, and using to drive decision making, is, indeed, correct.

It takes the team effort of the team to improve your data quality, start by understanding common energy data gaps. Download a copy of our eBook The True Cost of Mismanaged Energy Data: Understanding Gaps in Your Data today!

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