The Importance of Automated Utility Data in the Midst of Business Disruption

Ma-Keba Frye  |  March 25, 2020   |  AP Automation  |  Data & Technology  

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The COVID-19 pandemic is changing everything from the way we work to the way we live. When natural disasters or crisis situations like this occur, businesses are left scrambling to maintain operations. This is especially true for industries that process utility bills and for companies that rely on manual and paper-based processes. Companies that don’t have processes in place for automated utility data now face imminent risk of business continuity, much less being able to drive growth or expansion. 

Business continuity risks come to light

In a typical business environment, manual work can seem like a simple and relatively inexpensive option for utility bill or energy management, even considering the hidden costs incurred with a one percent error rate inherent in manual data entry. At lower utility account volumes, businesses may manage to get by. However, at high volumes or in times of disruption and uncertainty – when employees’ hours are significantly reduced, and full-time employees must work remotely – continuing to rely on people to spend countless hours on data collection and data entry is risky.

  • A shift to remote work doesn’t allow you to support your team in person as you normally would. Reduced productivity puts you at risk of missed deadlines, late fees, and delayed time-to-value for delivery to your customers.
  • With limited resources, your team should only be spending time on business-critical operations. Without automated utility data, instead of strategic efforts and revenue-driving activities, your team is wasting time on menial data management.
  • Paper-based processes are challenging to manage remotely, especially when multiple locations are involved. For example, if bills are delivered by mail and employees aren’t in the office to receive them, then the entire invoicing process is disrupted.

Preparing for the unexpected

The damage that can occur from relying on manual data entry during times of uncertainty is real, not just theoretical. A few years ago, an Urjanet client in the utility bill management space had a chemical spill at one of their locations. The accident prevented mail delivery to their invoice processing facility for over a week, resulting in enormous late fees and additional operational costs to catch up with late payments. Urjanet’s cloud-based platform now protects them from future disruption by eliminating paper and automating utility bill processing.

With mail delivery of invoices, a single chemical spill resulted in enormous late fees.

Accidents and disasters once seemed like a far-off possibility. Now, it’s an immediate concern for businesses across the globe.  Without staff in-office to receive and organize mail, continuing to manage utility bills manually is overwhelmingly cumbersome. When the unexpected happens, you need a solution that will keep your operations running smoothly.

Web-scraping limitations 

Some businesses rely on web-scraping tools to collect and manage utility invoices. On the surface, this may seem like an automated process, but it requires an immense amount of maintenance on the backend to keep these tools up and running.

Utility service providers change their websites often. Without constant monitoring and maintenance of these credentials, web scraping tools will start to fail without warning – resulting in failed delivery to customers and delayed processing. 

In addition to changes to utility websites, roughly 20 percent of login credentials need to be updated at least once every year. Companies who attempt to maintain credentials themselves see an average of 10 times more login failures than those who utilize credential management services

A leading waste consulting firm used to spend 20 – 40 hours a week fixing broken templates.

A leading waste consulting firm, using an in-house web-scraping tool and managing credentials ad hoc, found themselves spending 20 to 40 hours a week just on fixing broken templates. After automating this process through Urjanet, the firm was able to dramatically improve service delivery and reallocate its resources to strategic priorities and revenue-driving activities. 

When operations are business as usual, having staff dedicated to maintaining and fixing credentials and templates is passable. But when staff availability is severely limited or disjointed due to switching to remote working or reductions in staff, web scraping solutions fall short. 

 

Learn how Urjanet helps businesses maintain utility credentials. 

 

Shifting to automated utility data to ensure business continuity

In a crisis situation, operational efficiency is no longer a nice-to-have; minimizing downtime and delivering a continuous workflow is critical to keeping your business up and running. By relying on automated utility data from a 100 percent cloud-based platform, you can rest easy knowing that the lifeblood of your business will be delivered accurately and on time. 

In these trying times, Urjanet is here to help. Schedule a 30-minute call with us to get a free assessment of your current process for managing utility invoices, so we can help identify areas of risk and how to mitigate them. 

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About Ma-Keba Frye

Ma-Keba Frye is a Content Marketing Associate at Urjanet, assisting with content development and execution. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, listening to music, and volunteering.


Tags   AP Automation   |   Urjanet   |   Utility Bill Management   |   Utility Bills   |   Utility Data   |