Even though Lucent Technologies Inc. was spun off from AT&T seven years ago, there were always little reminders of the former relationship. For treasury, it was a multitude of disparate systems in dozens of countries for such functions as cash collections. It was labor-intensive and, most of all, inefficient. But most importantly for Lucent, which was struggling financially along with the entire telecom industry, it was a very expensive legacy.

So Equitant, a finance outsourcer that specializes in managing a company's order-to-cash cycle, was brought in and implemented its system of payment dispute resolution. The result? "They've improved our operation by pinpointing where disputes are occurring, and who's responsible for resolving them," says Len Rinaldi, CFO for European, Middle Eastern and African operations at Lucent. "I think that overall, they've helped us shed 10% of our finance resources, while improving our asset management perspective by 40%," he says. "That's freed up tens of millions of dollars in working capital."

Could Lucent have done it on its own? Probably, Rinaldi concedes. But "it would have been very costly and labor intensive. They already had the system and the people."

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