“In the time we implemented Xelix, it highlighted $1.7m in historical duplicate payments. That’s errors our recovery firm didn’t spot. We’ve already recovered $540,000 of this. Now, we can catch AP processing errors before money leaves the business.”
A bold statement from Jeff Santos, AP Analyst at Energy Transfer.
So, how did Xelix help this 59th-ranked Fortune 500 organisation transform its Accounts Payable team to deliver far more value every day?
Leading North America's energy supply
Energy Transfer operates one of the largest and most diversified portfolios of energy assets in North America. With 120,000 miles of pipeline across 41 states, the organisation turns over $80 billion.
A 60-strong finance team manages the entire P2P process. This involves around 18,000 vendors, more than 500,000 invoices, and 12,000+ vendor statements annually.
Such immense operations need efficient processes and stringent attention to detail. Vendor relations rely on this, as does protecting Energy Transfer’s cash flow.
Three goals to transform AP costs and productivity
Like so many organisations with busy AP departments, Energy Transfer experienced common challenges. And they hampered performance in many ways.
Jeff knew Energy Transfer must further automate its AP processes, so he established three core goals.
1. Eliminate recovery firm finder’s fee
2. Reconcile 300 statements a month
3. Provide more value from the team
“We rely on a six-monthly recovery firm audit and pay a 14% fee. It can find significant errors that have already been paid, so finder’s fees have become a huge cost to the department.
Eventually, we’d like to stop outsourcing overpayment and fraud prevention. The idea is to catch errors before the money goes out the door. So, we set an initial goal to reduce the fee by $100,000,” said Jeff.
Retrospectively recovering payment errors is never 100% successful. An ‘after the event’ approach always leads to loss. And the work required following an audit is significant, pulling people away from their day job.
Jeff described their frustrations with statement reconciliation: “We have a ticketing system called Remedy. But we receive a huge volume so it’s incredibly time-consuming for the team to work through them.
Remedy creates tickets from emails so we can’t identify if the vendor has attached a statement unless they highlight this in the subject line. The manual process can be lengthy,” he said.
Data management was a headache too: “To manage our master data, vendors either contact our support team or create an account in our vendor portal. But in the last five years, we’ve completed 11 acquisitions. That meant we’ve found multiple accounts created by multiple entities. It can be a mess to consolidate.
Usually, the AP team come to me and my team for help creating reports. And it’s not straightforward. We can pull data from SAP, but that might mess up a template elsewhere. This work takes us away from our own responsibilities and deliverables too.
We want the team to feel like they’re providing value, so automation should increase the scope for our AP processors. That could be trying to improve a process or progressing it, instead of getting stuck with the daily data grind. This is about improving morale too,” said Jeff.
Measurable results from day one
Finding $1.7 million to recover
As part of the implementation process, Xelix asks for up to two years of historical AP data. This accelerates machine learning and increases report accuracy. It also provides a historical audit. Businesses often find a huge amount of money to start recovering from day one. Energy Transfer was no exception.
“Xelix’s historical audit identified $1.7 million in duplicate payments. Errors the recovery firm had missed in the last two years. And it goes back to ensuring we’ve got the best technology.
So far, we’ve recovered $540,000 and expect to achieve more. As for our goal of saving $100,000 in recovery firm fees, we’re on target to achieve this within one year.
With Xelix in action, the AP team has taken on more of a quality assurance role. They can stop money leaving the business in error now. It’s far more proactive.”
Energy Transfer has discovered the difference between Xelix and a recovery firm. The AI-driven software identifies a much wider variety of errors, using its knowledge of your systems to predict what doesn’t look correct. It searches much further than invoice number and vendor name.
From 26 to 8 minutes (three times faster)
So, what about Jeff’s goal to achieve 300 statement reconciliations a month?
“Well, 300 is at the low end, we’re achieving much more than that every month now. It used to take an average of 26 minutes to reconcile a statement. With Xelix, that’s down to eight minutes.
With a reconciliation team of eight, we’re set to save 261 hours a year from more efficient statement reconciliation. That’s a threefold productivity increase.
It’s also improving our vendor relations. Thanks to Xelix, we have better system oversight. So, we can respond to queries with accurate feedback and timescales.”
Detecting 20% duplicate vendors
Jeff knew the many acquisitions had taken their toll on the master vendor data file. And before Xelix, it wasn’t easy to spot the errors.
“When someone created a new vendor, we didn’t get notified. We had to look at two systems to see the update.
Using the Xelix module, we discovered 20% of our data related to duplicate vendors. That had meant we risked paying the wrong vendor.
Feedback from our business partner support team has been positive too. They feel the Xelix module is easy use. They say it quickly identifies duplicate vendors and highlights when a vendor has added a new bank account in the portal. This gives us much better bank account visibility controls.
With Xelix, we don’t have to discover vendor errors after the event. It’s an aspect of the platform we love.”
“Plug and play” reporting
Jeff loves Xelix’s reporting module. Amazed how easy it is to use, everyone now has reporting tools they can access.
“The Reports Module is plug and play. It’s so easy. You just drag a category or criteria like a pivot table. Xelix gives you all your data in one place. You’re not having to go into multiple systems. It’s definitely a perk that frees up time,” he said.
The Xelix Reports dashboard updates daily. Working through the automated data feed, there’s no need to upload further data. From one place, you can create reports that matter to your business. And bespoke configuration is always part of the set-up process.
Fast and easy implementation
When it comes to implementation, many software vendors promise customers the world, only to let them down. Because Xelix is a bolt-on process it only needs a daily data feed from the ERP system. It’s a ‘light touch’ set-up for IT. Jeff said he found this to be the case.
“I've been involved in many software projects during my five years at Energy Transfer. Implementing Xelix has been one of the most successful. It was seamless. Our tech team didn’t encounter any complications during the process and the Xelix team was very attentive.
Xelix gave us a template for our IT team. This helped them quickly implement a data transfer to Xelix, every day at 4pm. From there, we spent a couple of weeks on data validation and another two on user training. We wanted our team to feel comfortable with Xelix from the outset.
In total, implementation took less than two months. And we saw cost-benefit in that time due to feeding our historical data into Xelix,” said Jeff.
An AP tool fuelled by customer feedback
There’s no doubt Jeff has solved many of his AP challenges with Xelix on board. This boils down to saving time and money. Both lead to an effective AP function that delivers more value to the organisation.
“I’m particularly impressed with Xelix’s attentiveness and incorporation of customer feedback - a trait that we wholeheartedly admire and value,” concluded Jeff.
Helping almost 100 businesses, Xelix works closely with industry pros like Jeff to gain important feedback. Arranging regular catchups, customer feedback is the biggest driver of Xelix’s roadmap. One customer’s need can help many more supercharge their AP functions.
Hear from Jeffrey Santos, AP Analyst