Italian company Iren SpA is one of the main operators in the multi-utility sector acting on a supra-regional scale. With more than 76% of its electric production ecofriendly, Iren established itself as a major player in upstream and downstream energy, district heating, and the water sector.

For long-lasting success as a global player, Iren strives for seamless supply chain management processes, including a frictionless invoice processing experience for its suppliers and other stakeholders. In addition, a new 2019 law in Italy introduced mandatory electronic invoicing on national level, requiring a single source of truth for invoice activities.

In times when supply chain reliability is key, the project team aimed at providing suppliers with highest transparency. To do so, the innovation team focused on the following areas:

  • Data management and consistency
  • Efficient communication for seamless invoice processing
  • Supplier relationship management with timely and transparent information flow

Exploring and Synthesizing the Needs of End Users

Following its human-centered approach to innovation, the Customer Innovation unit at SAP, which includes SAP AppHaus and the Strategic Customer Engagements team, first tried to gain a deep understanding of Iren’s needs and challenges. While conducting an exploration workshop, multiple stakeholders working on Iren’s invoice processing analyzed the as-is situation and identified areas that offered opportunities for improvement. Based on the insights gained, the workshop participants identified a new communication interface with a specific focus on the invoicing processes to be the preferred solution to pursue. To get a thorough understanding of the process, the SAP team conducted interviews with both Iren and its suppliers’ end users.

“Usually I approach challenges in such a way that I have the solution directly in my mind,” said Alessandro Giussani, senior manager for Finance Accounting at Gruppo Iren.
“SAP’s human-centered approach to innovation has taught me differently. The mindset change enabled us to analyze the problem from many different point of views, which ensured the most beneficial solution. The involvement of all relevant stakeholders from the beginning is something we will capitalize on in the future.”

Exploration Workshop and Thorough User Research

During the user research, the team analyzed the process that was to be improved. It covers the following steps. First, before bills are being paid, the purchase and invoice processing workflow starts with the creation of a purchase order (PO) and the issuance of an invoice from Iren’s suppliers.Iren then inspects incoming goods or performed services and validates incoming invoices.

Scenes from workshop at IrenSounds easy; however, challenges arise on a regular basis for example when POs are not assigned to the correct invoice and therefore cannot be paid. Suppliers got in touch with Iren via classic communication channels often without contacting the right Iren counterpart. The lack of transparency led to frustration on both sides.

Improving Invoice Processing with SAP Business Technology Platform

Having the end users, different stakeholders and the process in mind, it quickly became clear that leveraging SAP Business Technology Platform would solve the discussed challenges holistically. The platform is an integrated portfolio of solutions helping companies to connect processes and experiences. It enables enterprises to act with integrity and confidence and, ultimately, support much needed continuous business innovation.

Built on SAP Integration Suite and the SAP Extension Suite, a dedicated supplier portal for a transparent and easy exchange between Iren and its suppliers helps ensure a frictionless invoice-processing experience. The portal delivers a comprehensive overview of received POs and submitted invoices and their statuses. Users can gain deep insights about POs and invoices with the option to propose changes, such as change of IBAN number.

And the project team did not stop here. As the icing on the cake, a new chatbot powered by SAP Conversational AI was developed to become an independent first-level interaction channel.

“The project conducted with SAP delivered promising and convincing results,” confirmed Laura Molino, information systems, ERP, and HR solutions manager at Iren SpA. “This only constitutes the starting point of our journey with SAP Business Technology Platform. Along with the PoC, we started experimenting with SAP Analytics Cloud and are eager to leverage innovative methodologies to maximize productiveness.”

Screenshots: Iren Supplier Portal
Click to enlarge

Bringing Purchase and Supplier Experience to a New Level

With SAP HANA providing real-time data, the supplier portal turns into a single source of truth for both Iren’s and its suppliers’ accountants. The solution reduces supplier complaints due to a higher transparency and improved autonomy in problem solving. A smoother and more targeted communication between suppliers and Iren leads to fewer delayed payments. Finally, it fulfills the requirements of Italy’s latest e-invoicing regulations.

With this new supplier portal, Iren takes an important step toward the Intelligent Enterprise. The solution is built to drive continuous business innovation. Iren can, from now on, benefit from SAP Business Technology Platform for future innovation opportunities.