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From the Top - API Outsourcing

Last week I spoke with Gary Halleen, CEO of API Outsourcing, a company that provides processing services to integrate fax and other non-EDI data forms along with EDI into a common format for processing using automated workflow.

Image Gary, what is the primary business of API Outsourcing?

Halleen: We do billing and accounts payable on an outsourced basis. In the case of billing we capture support documents such as time sheets, work orders, etc, and store them as PDF images. We receive a billing file from our customer and present the bill useing EDI, email, fax or paper. The reciepient of the invoice can access the support documents through an API portal.  In the case of accounts payable our clients’ vendors’ invoices are received through EDI, paper, fax, email or data files. The different data forms are converted to PDF images. The electronic invoices are passed to approvers and accounting through a workflow engine based on client business rules. After approval and payment we send back the payment information via EDI or it is also available via an API vendor portal using a web browser.

Image What is the makeup of your customer base?

Halleen: We have middle market and Fortune 500 customers using our services. It is particularly useful for organizations with people in the field who need to actually see the documents. By converting all information to PDF images we provide visible transactions out of rather cryptic EDI and other data forms. We create one PDF file for each item/transaction, and route it to the proper person or function. Even big companies use this, particularly if there is an approval process in place.

Image How do you get the documents to the right parties?

Halleen: We have a workflow engine that works off business rules, based on our customers’ needs. For example, a company may get a single FedEx bill for 60 locations. We parse and create a PDF containing the billing information for each location, then route the document to that location. Once approved, we reconsolidate the documents to a single payment for each vendor to minimize the number of ACH transactions and then send EDI back to the biller or provide an Internet portal for billers that do not handle EDI. Essentially, we are taking a process that works well as a manual process, and automating it by making everything digital and user friendly.

Image What about non-EDI users for your system?

Halleen: We work with an EDI provider, SPS Commerce, who processes the EDI transactions. A lot of our customers don’t have EDI. In that case if they need to send or receive EDI we handle the process to receive or deliver it to them as human readable documents, then turn them back into EDI transactions to send or receive through SPS Commerce. They take care of all the mapping and technical requirements on the EDI side.

Image You handle a variety of non-digital documents, right?

Halleen: Yes, we process inbound documents in the form of email, fax, and paper, and make it all electronic. It all ends up in a common format that fits together. The user doesn’t know or care the origin. They see it as a single flow on their end. Paper invoices come to a PO box. We then prepare them and scan them, and do data entry where necessary. Then we add the information to the database. For inbound email, we strip out the data and put it into the database. It all routes through our workflow with a link back to the PDF image.

Image What happens to the documents after they are converted?

Halleen: The PDF images and data are stored on RAID (magnetic disk) where we maintain full history of the information in our archives. I could search history and see all bills for a date range, an invoice, a delivery receipt, etc.

Image What is involved in a typical implementation on the customer’s end?

Halleen: We are a web based service, or SaaS. The only thing our customers need on their end is a computer with Internet access, a brower and the Adobe Acrobat reader. This kind of architecture makes installation very easy for our customers. We are seeing a definite trend to the SaaS model.

Image How do you break down your service offering?

Halleen: We offer a turn-key service and bill a single amount per transaction. In fact, we also see this kind of billing as a trend, particularly with SaaS services. We fill in the gaps for our customers. They can pick specific parts of our service, but most often, our customers are asking us to take over the process from beginning to end.

Image What kind of volumes do you support?

Halleen: We have customers of almost every size. Some of our larger customers are very transaction intensive. We have one 3pl that deals with 300 carriers, and 80 shippers. Once we get a transaction, there is no more paper… ever. We process about 100,000 transactions each month for them, but they are not our largest customer. We have one client for whom we process over 3 million inbound pages each month

Image Aside from the transaction volume, that’s a lot of paper.

Halleen: After we process the paper, we send it out to a pulping plant for recycling.

Image Aside from helping your customers with their workflow and transaction translations between paper and EDI, what can a customer expect to gain from your services.

Halleen: We have been able to cut the DSO (days sales outstanding) for billing customers by 7 to 10 days. For some customers, that can amount to significant dollars. In the case of account payable we give them control of DPO (days payables outstanding), eliminate lost discounts double payment and reduce their invoice processing cost up to 70%
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Scott Koegler

Scott Koegler is Executive Editor for PMG360. He is a technology writer and editor with 20+ years experience delivering high value content to readers and publishers. 

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