Utility bill management is a support area that is sometimes confused with utility expense management (UEM), but it is narrower in its service focus and a subset of UEM. Before focusing on utility bill management, let’s examine a high-level definition of utility expense management, the umbrella term for the comprehensive management of utilities under which utility bill management lives.
Utility Expense Management Summarized
Utility expense management is the discipline of implementing a purposeful and programmatic approach to comprehensively managing an organization’s utility expenses. It’s focused on a few central tenets:
1. What utility services are available to our organization that best serve our needs?
2. How do we procure these services at the most competitive rates?
3. How do we best manage our utility services to avoid unneeded overconsumption and waste while maintaining tight control over ongoing utility management operations?
The utility expense management bottom line: It’s about the right utility services at the right costs, managed effectively now and sustainably into the future.
Utility Bill Management Summarized
Utility bill management, as noted, is a subset of UEM that focuses on the key activities relating to bill processing and on-time payments, initial bill verification and dispute resolution support, and supporting cost allocations to relevant business units.
Bill management activities also help to serve more comprehensive utility expense management needs. Examples include usage monitoring and informing strategies to save money over the long term. The primary objective, however, centers on streamlining accounts payable activities and practices.
The utility bill management bottom line: Its focus is timely bill reviews/financial invoice accuracy and payments, dispute resolution support, facilitating cost allocation activities, and providing operational continuity by avoiding late fees and unintended service disruptions.
5 Utility Bill Management Areas of Transformation
1. SaaS technology platform capabilities drive efficiencies at scale
Expense management providers, whether relating to utility services, traditional telecom services (TEM), or managed mobility services (MMS), emphasize a robust SaaS platform as a foundational component for effective program management.
This technology is crucial to data management, especially when dealing with utility services and associated charges. It will have the capability to house all relevant data effectively. Moreover, it will be highly configurable, adapting to your organization’s needs with customized automated workflows that drive processing efficiencies and reduce human errors.
A robust SaaS platform will support various analytical tasks conducted by subject-matter experts and be supported by proven processes.
The technology platform will offer insightful dashboard capabilities for monitoring usage, trends, and reporting. Customized dashboard design and reporting features should also be available to cater to specific requirements.
Different utility expense management platforms will have different looks and feel, each with pros and cons. Just be sure you are confident that the SaaS platform of any prospective partner possesses all the capabilities your organization prioritizes.
2. Cost efficiencies are gained with UBM
A fundamental imperative of UBM and UEM is strong cost management. One of the best ways to manage costs effectively is to do so right from the beginning of the management process.
Utility invoices will be centrally audited and reviewed promptly after vendor invoices are released for contract compliance as part of an effective utility bill management process. This proactively avoids overpayments and the need to dedicate resources (time and money) to retrieve any overpayments. The best treatment for any ailment is prevention, as the saying goes.
And the avoidance of late payment fees is a tremendous win for many large enterprises. This is a common but costly mistake that can cost larger enterprises thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, over the course of a few years if not managed well and in line with utility bill management best practices.
3. Financial accuracy is enhanced with UBM
Many large enterprises are decentralized with hundreds of U.S. locations or even worldwide. A utility bill management service will leverage the technology, systems, and experienced personnel to centralize essential accounts payable, invoice processing, and cost allocation functions.
The time and money saved by streamlined accounts payable processing cannot be overstated. And this speaks nothing of peace of mind. Large organizations that must go back and redo incorrect cost-allocation work or “chase” money that should never have gone out the door regarding overpayments due to billing errors are spinning their wheels unnecessarily.
A vital utility bill management service addresses these core program needs head-on. The fundamentals are knowing precisely what you have, where everything is located, and promptly taking the right actions regarding utility lifecycle management.The more that core accounts payable processes such as these are correctly conducted out of the gate, the less stress is placed on other utility expense management services downstream, such as dispute resolution support.
Again, the best cure is a healthy utility bill management workstyle that avoids financial sickness.
4. Operational continuity measures are strengthened with UBM
Preventing service interruptions caused by unintended service disconnections is an example that would be at the top of this list. Centralized utility bill management supported by sound processes and attentive management will eliminate this common large enterprise problem, especially for organizations with many locations.
Moreover, the efficient and effective payment of all utility bills promptly adds to overall program stability. This would be one less area for turbulence within an expense management arena with plenty to contend with without adding unnecessary friction.
The SaaS platform will also provide highly digestible and insightful information about all utility services and associated costs, which aids in longer-term budging and forecasting activities important to overall utility lifecycle management.
5. Strong utility bill management strategically serves the overlying discipline of utility expense management
As mentioned earlier, utility bill management is an area of work under the utility expense management umbrella category focused on many “block and tackle” accounts payable processes.
This being the case, it still helps to facilitate sound work in many other areas within utility expense management. For example:
- Additional program audit and optimization work is aided by tight control over front-end utility invoice processing, ensuring that services are billed correctly and paid on time.
There’s less cleanup on the audit side, given that most billing errors will be caught at the beginning of the billing process. Optimization analyses benefit from a clear understanding of active services invoicing correctly for comparative purposes.
- Operational efficiencies are enhanced because of solid utility bill management. Again, when many everyday bill processing and payment issues are prevented in the first place, this conserves both time and energy for other areas within utility expense management and eliminates unnecessary utility management distractions.
- Financial stability is promoted via strong management of crucial accounts payable processes, which facilitates longer-term budgeting and forecasting for the enterprise.
Closing Thoughts On The Value of Utility Bill Management
Utility bill management is a foundational service area under utility expense management. It leverages a utility expense management provider’s technology platform, specialized processes, and experienced subject-matter experts to accurately and timely process utility bills.
This front-end process support prevents late fees and unplanned service disruptions. Moreover, it provides high-leverage support for cost allocations across business units, an often underappreciated yet important accounts payable function.
Performing all these utility bill management services well sets your organization up for overall strong utility expense lifecycle management, financial transparency, and forward-leaning strategic planning.
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