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Onsite: Verizon Wireless Dials Up Payables Efficiency and Visibility

Verizon Wireless has mastered payables with online order-to-pay software, cutting down on paperwork, maximizing discounts and improving cash-flow management.

Driving Force: Self-Service Options Sell Online System

With more than 50 million voice and data customers and revenues of $32.3 billion in 2005, a company the size of Verizon Wireless certainly has clout with its suppliers, but the move to an online invoicing and payment approach still required a bit of diplomacy. To woo suppliers to give up paper invoicing and enroll in the Xign order-to-pay network, Joe Selewicz, staff vice president and assistant controller, says the company is using the carrot rather than the stick.

"Our vendors can use the network to accelerate payments," he explains, adding that "it's not uncommon for vendors to call us near the end of a quarter or fiscal year and make us offers to accelerate payments. There's also a self-service aspect in that if vendors use the network, they can go into the system and check the status of payments."

Vendors weren't the only ones that had to be sold on the move as success also depended on internal adoption. "We had to put on our marketing hat and go out and sell it to the departments and the procurement organizations that would have to deal with the vendors and contracts," Selewicz says. Here again, the accounts payable group sold the benefit of letting internal users go into the system and check the status of payments at will, which has meant faster answers as well as a lot fewer phone calls to accounts payable.

Sensitivity about auditing and Sarbanes-Oxley compliance also helped convince internal customers to adopt a more automated approach, Selewicz says. "In the past, these invoices were going directly to the field and there was no visibility until they were processed," he says. "Now when an invoice comes over, we know it's in the system, we can quantify what has been received and we can make our auditors much happier about the accuracy of our accruals."