The Microsoft Platform for Order-to-Cash Applications in Publishing

Never has the value of a single platform for IT (Information Technology) apps been more evident than in the world of Order-To-Cash systems. Order to Cash (O2C) is that most basic of business activities – taking orders and getting paid. It is also a complex activity for publishers because it covers a multitude of workflows for various kinds of publishers, each of which has a unique view depending on the vertical in which they operate.

Most ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software providers to the publishing industry manage the “basic” functions of order entry, fulfillment, billing, accounts receivables, and payment processing, along with metadata management and ONIX exports. However, the concern is that they cover the basic needs, and publishers often have more than just “basic” needs.

The Technology Platform

The question is where to source the secondary applications that fill in any cracks in the ERP-vendor supplied software. Given the complexity of today’s publishing business, the list of those secondary applications is a long one, and moreover, it is a list that is becoming increasingly important.

This brings us back to our first statement, that to future-proof the O2C solution in a publishing company, it is important to first implement an O2C system that is part of a technology platform that can be easily expanded by productivity aids that are often provided by third-party specialist software partners.

We are stating our case here for building on a Microsoft ERP and O2C platform. Why? Because the plethora of add-on partner products is practically limitless. There is never going to be a time when you fail to find a good product to meet your latest information needs that can be seamlessly integrated into your core system. This is not always the case with other platforms. The benefits for your business are clear:

  • Uninterrupted growth and scale
  • No departmental data silos – more value in the data you have
  • Modern user interfaces that everybody knows (lower cost of operation and training)
  • Supports mobile and remote operations
  • Access to Big Data apps such as AI (Artificial Intelligence), with all those big-picture insights
  • Easily transported to the cloud, with all those benefits
  • Leverage the power and support of a global provider

The use of a technology platform such as that provided by Microsoft (and products like knkPublishing that build on it), minimizes the costs of your information infrastructure and extends its life, thus enhancing the value of your investment in information systems. It allows continuous improvement by lowering roadblocks to implementing new modules with better information and greater productivity.

The Value of Partner Products

As we noted earlier, the number of these secondary applications is growing in number and importance. The publishing industry is not static! Here are examples of where publishers have encountered new industry requirements that can be met with partner products that merge into the main O2C workflow.

In Marketing, many publishers need to build community with their consumers but lose the data from the customer journey by selling through on-line retailers like Amazon. The solution for those publishers is to add a Direct-To-Consumer channel, and knkPublishing and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central provide seamless integration with the leading e-commerce solutions from Magento and Shopify. In verticals like B2B and media publishing, third parties commonly supply intent data software.

Large regular customers like distributors place bulk orders on publishers using EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) systems that are typically not part of the core O2C workflows in the publisher’s ERP system. EDI is an automated, computer-to-computer method for managing order transactions, using pre-defined standard formats. TruCommerce is a strong partner in this area that adds to knkPublishing’s O2C system to streamline EDI order processing.

Fulfillment operations such as pick, pack and ship are functions that are increasingly outsourced by publishers in North America today. They outsource these activities for several reasons, often because they are typically not part of the publisher’s core competency and because specialist warehouse operations incur variable costs compared to an in-house warehouse operating at a fixed cost. With an outsourced warehouse, the publisher needs to integrate to the third party’s inventory management systems, for returns and shipments from the printer and outgoing shipments to customers, for example. knkPublishing software provides its own integration capability (knk Integration Platform) suitable for interchanging data with external software products such as this.

Print-On-Demand (POD) is another example. POD quality and range has improved tremendously in recent times and is an important strategy that publishers employ to manage backlist demand and reduce book-miles, and knk can provide easy integration to POD suppliers like Lightning Source and HP Piazza.

And lastly, in the areas of billing, accounts receivable, and payment processing there are several partner products that improve productivity for publishers. Sales tax charges are set at the state level and are prone to frequent changes (including temporary sales tax “holidays” for example). Users can attempt to monitor each state’s rate changes manually, but software products like Avalara can be easily integrated into a Microsoft-based ERP system and lower costs, and eliminate costly mistakes for the publisher. The same applies to payment processing products that automate the process of applying cash, and on-line credit card processing. Cash application can be a complex process in publishing, particularly when customers expect to pay for new shipments with credits from returns, for example. Bank reconciliation software is another example of partner products that add value to an ERP system. All these partner products pay off and when they can be seamlessly integrated into a Microsoft-based platform such as knkPublishing, the advantages last long into the future.

John Lawson, Managing Director of knk Software UK, based in London, summarizes, “Making available the proliferation of software offerings that are often necessary, and the day-to-day management of them is not practical nor technically feasible with multiple systems and potentially multiple providers for separate digital and print components, for example. It must be automated, and it must be integrated in a single platform.”




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