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The benefits of automating order-to-cash processes for publishers

August 19, 2022 | By Jay Kulkarni, CEO – Theorem Inc. @theoreminc

Order-to-Cash (OTC) processes are critical to many businesses as they define the internal process to take product or service orders from the initial request all the way through the revenue recognition stage. The complexities within these processes can be vast and create challenges in terms of scalability both in the short-term and long-term. This is most prevalent in industries like publishing, media, and entertainment and streaming that rely on their OTC processes to execute and grow their ad monetization strategies to increase revenues for their business.

From a 10,000-foot view, OTC is a seemingly simple process. Orders are received, processed, sent through billing, and revenue is recognized. But publishers using order-to-cash in their business workflows today know that as the digital ad market continues to grow, OTC is becoming a much more complicated process.

That’s because OTC involves a high number of manual tasks that can create higher costs, elevate error margins, increase delays, and limit scalability. Luckily, these tasks are repeatable and scalable, which makes them prime candidates for automation. However, the thought of re-engineering long-standing manual OTC processes can seem daunting and often companies put off automating them because of this perceived complexity.

However, the reality is that delaying this essential step is much more costly in the long run. This is especially true in the publishing industry, where scalability hinges on resolving OTC pain points.

Identifying OTC pain points across the publishing industry

With more ad dollars being spent on programmatic and across media and entertainment organizations leveraging ad monetization strategies, publishers are encountering a need for scalability in their ad business now more than ever before. Order volume is out-scaling manual elements of existing processes to execute campaigns, particularly in companies with an ever-growing daily volume of short-lived ad placements. 

Additionally, no trafficking team — no matter how skilled it may be — has the ability to execute with 100% accuracy when manually processing hundreds of ad campaigns every day. From the volume of unique URLs needed for creatives to requests for targeting large sets of designated marketing areas (DMAs), it all comes down to reducing the manual components of these repeatable processes.

In addition to minimizing error margins almost completely, automating these processes will allow for scale with ease. The repeatable aspects of trafficking workflows — such as targeting sections, creating unique targeting rules and UTM trackers, DMA cloning, and creating rule sets — are all ideal for automation. Executing a well–rounded automation strategy to address these aspects of OTC will free up bandwidth for tasks and process that must be manual and thus again easily allow for scale. 

Why automating the OTC process is crucial for publishers

Order-to-cash issues in publishing can be both internal and external. However, they all involve the ad placement campaign cycle. Internal processes involve inventory management, subscription management, order processing, and ad placements. Processes that are external include order processing, ad management, programmatic, and audience management.  

Of course, there are some crossover points between the two, as some processes involve the client needs (advertising) and the means to flight ads (audience management and inventory management). But in terms of profit, they all affect the bottom line.

OTC processes regularly involve segmentation, which tends to be a manual process. The more manual the process, the longer the campaign completion times, resulting in extended periods of time between order placements and recognized revenue.

Streamlining an ad placement campaign cycle based on an order-to-cash workflow with automation will make processes more efficient, creating smaller error margins while enabling publishers and media marketing companies to complete order cycles and recognize revenue faster. 

How streamlining OTC can help

Take, for example, the process of manually selecting rule sets in ad trafficking. Rule sets are a standard element in the OTC process and often come with a high margin of error. For each campaign, ad, and platform, a particular rule set must be implemented to meet the client’s targeting criteria. Multiply this by hundreds or thousands per day and you have the perfect scenario for errors to occur. These types of errors affect ad performance and tracking UTMs, causing significant inaccuracies in reporting.

In fact, automating aspects of ad operations processes has resolved pain points and eliminated errors for companies like PubWorX. Doing so helped the publisher standardize processes, increase scalability, and collect smarter insights that drive informed decisions across over 200 media brands. . Doing so helped the publisher standardize processes, increase scalability, and collect smarter insights that drive informed decisions across over 200 media brands.

In the same vein, many publishing companies have a vast array of product packages available to their ad clients. Some offer 50-plus types of product packages, each with their own set of guidelines for trafficking. This increases the potential for errors during campaign setup, deployment, and reporting.

In this instance, trafficking appropriately and enabling the correct tags for reporting is key to successful campaign execution. Again, reducing manual efforts and human error margins is essential and the best way to do so is through automated DMA updating capabilities. 

Ensure business growth for years to come

The order-to-cash process has become more arduous as the digital ad market has grown. This is particularly true within the publishing industry. In markets that rely heavily on order-to-cash workflows for recognized revenue, the answer is simple: Optimize your OTC workflows with automation to eliminate error margins, reduce delays in revenue recognition, increase bandwidth, and ensure scalability.

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