Guaranteed Delivery?

James Marland

Guaranteed Delivery?I need to renew my passport: we UK citizens are not in the EU Schengen agreements, so need a passport each time we leave our rainy island to visit Brussels, Paris or Amsterdam. The whole process is a little stressful, and there are two separate things to worry about:

  • Will the Post Office send it safely to the Passport Office ?
  • Did I fill the form in correctly? As any small mistake will likely incur a large delay.

In order to solve the first issue I chose Guaranteed Delivery rather than the regular Mail . It is quite a lot more expensive but comes with the eponymous guarantee. I know I will be able to track the package with fancy barcodes and web pages, and that they will meet their service levels.

But what about the second worry? A passport application form has many ways to be wrong: you can sign in the wrong place, use an American format date by mistake (yep, did that once), the photograph can be wrong (my daughter once had hers returned for smiling, bless!), you can forget to include the cheque.

Up to one third of applications are delayed due to basic errors.

In order to solve this the Post Office came up with the Check-and-send service. The website lists the benefits as:

  • Peace of mind: from the form to the photos we’ll make sure everything meets the approved standard
  • Secure: we’ll send your application by Special Delivery™
  • Save time: Up to one third of applications sent to the Identity and Passport Service directly are delayed due to basic errors.

It works well, you go to the Post Office, they open the envelope and go through their long checklist. And if a mistake is made, you can immediately correct it before it leaves your possession.

So what does this mean for Business Networks?

Many networks focus exclusively on the first of my two passport worries: getting an electronic document delivered correctly. But an Invoice is also likely to be rejected “due to basic errors”. And delays to your invoice will cost you time and money. A Business Network needs to include a “Check and Send” service, just like the Post Office. The kind of errors that can be screened out could be:

  • Is the Purchase Order correct and still open?
  • Is the VAT rate correct for this country?
  • Does the price match the requested price, or is it within the tolerance specified by the buyer for this commodity?
  • If the material is flagged as hazardous, did the supplier included an MSDS sheet?

All of these errors should be screened out before the invoice leaves my possession. There is significant value to both parties in this “Check and Send”

  • Sellers can correct mistakes immediately, significantly increasing their likelihood of being paid on time
  • Buyers can get much better visibility into their cash position as invoices are not lost in a morass of paper and phone calls
  • Both parties save on significant administration costs

As noted at the start of this post, Guaranteed Delivery is a necessary condition for an effective network, but it is not sufficient. Without a comprehensive screening processes, you are merely moving bad invoices faster. A true Business Network “opens the envelope”, and checks the contents.


About James Marland

James is responsible for defining and rolling out strategies for the Network with particular focus on Europe. He joined Ariba at the launch of the Ariba Network in 1998 after previously being a Solution Consultant at SAP America. In addition he has held the position of Director of Algorithms at Vendavo, an SAP Partner in the area of Pricing. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from Southampton University. Follow James's twitter feed at @JamesMarland