When $5 billion CB Richard Ellis Group decided to build an automated invoice processing, approval and payment system, it wanted to do it right. So the Los Angeles-based commercial real estate company spent nine months investigating vendors. Many offered ready-to-go, end-to-end packages, according to Margaret Guelzow, the company's financial systems manager. But CBRE decided the best solution was to take performers from four different providers and organize them as a quartet that could harmonize all the different processes the company needed. The players are Cambridge Solutions, Bank of America's PayMode, and rCash Pay and SiteStuff, both owned by Yardi Solutions.

That music is starting to sound sweet. The new process cuts the cost of payment processing in half, Guelzow says, and trims 23% off the cost of invoice processing. She estimates that once the system is fully implemented, the cost of processing a vendor payment at CBRE will fall below $6, compared with an industry average of $11.31 cited by the 2007 IOMA Benchmarking Report.

Payments can zip through the new system in three days or less, compared with the 30 to 45 days it took under the old paper-based system, Guelzow adds, and invoice status is visible to all parties throughout the process. "An invoice is passed to each partner in turn like a baton in a relay race," she says. "The interdependent workflow accelerates processing time, reduces errors and ends materials waste." By digitizing almost 2 million invoices a year, she estimates that CBRE has eliminated 10 million pieces of paper .

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