We recently commented on the impending price rises which the Royal Mail insist are necessary if they are to maintain a universal service. The fun has already started with individuals and businesses bulk buying stamps marked ‘1st Class’ and ‘2nd Class’ – still perfectly useable after the price rise is implemented – in the hope of saving some money or, more likely, making a fast buck. Spend £1000 on first class stamps on 16 April 2012 and the same stamps will be worth £1304 on 30 April – just 2 weeks later – not a bad return! The returns on second class are even greater. Needless to say, retail stocks of stamps are running low and Royal Mail are refusing to supply more stamps ahead of the price rise; fun, fun, fun – and all so incredibly short term! Before we know it the new prices will be the norm. The £1 letter does not seem very far off. Wouldn’t it be better to just think of ways to stop using stamps? Not great for Royal Mail – but that’s business.
This was a recent situation at BSA where the increasing postage costs spurred us into action on our invoicing system. Historically we have always produced invoices manually. The nature of the business has meant that this has never been too much of a problem but there have always 3 points that irked:
- Manual invoices always run the risk of errors creeping in.
- Invoices needed to be manually printed, collated, folded, enveloped and posted.
- All invoice data had to be manually entered into our SAGE accounts system – again with the risk of errors.
On the upside, because we have a lot of repeat business, we could copy and update invoices avoiding the need to create every invoice from scratch.
The Royal Mail increases were the final push we needed to look at making changes where we could draw on our expertise in web technology, data management and, most of all, practical system implementation! Our objectives were clear:
- The ability to automatically create and send formatted invoices by email
- All data to be entered only once
- Facility for repeat invoices and regular invoicing
- Import of all invoice data directly into SAGE
- Copies of all invoices to be retained for internal records
- Flexibility for future adaption and development
To keep costs down and streamline development timescales, we elected to build the system using secure, open source PHP & MySQL technologies coupled with SAGE’s built in data import and access functionality. Within a week we had our system which went live at the end of March with, I am pleased to say, no significant bugs.
Although we have been using the system for less than a month, we have already seen significant cost & time benefits which can be summarised as follows:
- Reduced time required to create and process invoices
- Repeat invoices can be produced individually, in batches or monthly as required
- Individual invoices can be tested if necessary
- Easy resolution of any invoice queries (we only had one – not related to the new system!)
- Direct import of data into SAGE – significant time reduction
- Straightforward analysis of monthly invoicing data – SAGE reporting NOT required!
- Archive copies of all invoices
Further testing has shown the system is quick and easy to use and the inherent flexibility of our approach has already allowed us to implement refinements. Overall, taking into account direct costs and time costs, we estimate savings in excess of £120.00 per month giving a commercial system investment payback of less than 12 months – and all because Royal Mail are trying to make more money! If you would like to discuss how flexible web-based data systems can help reduce costs in your business, give us a call.