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Exclusive Q&A: Marc Jacobs clears up expenses in the cloud 

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A vertical specialty fashion retailer streamlines financial and administrative tasks with cloud-based automation.

Maulik Patel, senior manager, IT finance applications, Marc Jacobs, recently spoke with Chain Store Age about how and why the retailer decided to upgrade its platform for managing expenses and invoices. By leveraging a cloud computing platform and cloud-based accounts payable (AP) technology, Marc Jacobs has transformed invoice and expense management.

What challenges did you face with your previous invoice/expense management process?

“Marc Jacobs faced a variety of challenges in using its previous invoice/expense management process. Chiefly, these included a lack of accountability in accounting for costs/budget due to lack of visibility, an inability to pay vendors on time leading to vendor management dissatisfaction with AP, many businesspeople uninspired by having to do administrative tasks in a creative business, and a lack of visibility into where invoices were. 

“Every fashion collection entailed a whole new slate of vendors – making managing the vendor invoice process and tracking expenses extremely challenging. Also, the previous system was not agile enough to accommodate the invoice/expense requirements involved in setting up a new warehouse in a couple of days or in engaging with a new vendor in a country where the company had not previously operated.

"Outside of the administrative challenges elicited by the huge volume of incoming bills, the high volume of indirect spend also translated into a dangerous financial blind spot.”

Why did you select Microsoft Azure and the Medius cloud-based AP invoice automation solutions?

“To keep pace with the fast-moving world of fashion, Marc Jacobs sought to modernize the way we managed supplier invoices and tracked expenses. Therefore, we selected Microsoft Azure and the Medius cloud-based AP invoice automation solution due to their agility.

"Marc Jacobs found the speed, agility and visibility it needed by moving its financial supply chain operations into the cloud, leveraging Microsoft Azure and the Medius cloud-based AP invoice automation solutions to help us modernize the way we managed supplier invoices and tracked expenses.”

 How do the new solutions work?

“MediusFlow supports the entire procure-to-pay (P2P) process with efficient tools that enables true, end-to-end automation. It provides for invoice scanning and data capture, automated coding, automated workflows, automated distribution of invoices, cloud-based invoice approvals at any time and from anywhere, automated matching of recurring invoices to payment plans in supplier contracts, posting of invoices to enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems for payment, and more. 

“Because the MediusFlow solution integrates directly with Microsoft Dynamics AX, the implementation team could easily connect MediusFlow to Dynamics AX so that it could begin interfacing data between the two solutions. Using Azure’s Logic apps to model and automate the relevant business processes, our developers easily implemented the new workflows without having to worry about building hosting, scalability, availability and management."

“The cloud-based deployment ensured that Marc Jacobs could benefit from fast time to ROI. Deployment time from the beginning of the project to go-live, including training and the organizational change of moving from decentralized to centralized invoice reception, was 21 days.”

What benefits do you receive?

“Thanks to Azure, MediusFlow is available for accounts payable as well as approvers at any time, on any device. With MediusFlow, we can route invoices directly to the right person for approval. Invoices are in a closed system, so they can’t get lost. And, for the first time, the business has clear visibility into everything that’s been processed and everything that’s in the queue (with details of variances, etc.), with almost no data entry needed. 

“The company now has greater clarity to perform real and accurate accrual based on invoices, vs. estimates based on budgets. Financial closing processes have been made substantially more efficient. We broke even in less than a year, cut our invoice processing lead time from 45 days down to 11, and achieved $150,000 in annual productivity gains. The company was also able to lower our AP headcount  to 2.5 full-time employees (FTEs) from six to eight FTEs.

“Business professionals have been able to significantly reduce the amount of time spent engaged in administrative tasks to focus on more value-added activities. The company has also been able to eliminate vendor inquiry challenges and aggravation.”

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