The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly put a spotlight on finance and the O2C function. Some industries have been impacted more than others – participants in the travel industry and retail seem to have been hit the hardest with attendees citing that passenger traffic has dropped by 80% as well as seeing a 60-70% reduction in revenue from walk-in purchases and one-time customers.
So, how do shared services functions continue to deliver value amidst the crisis? How do we maintain agility during this extraordinary time? How do we leverage technologies to optimize efficiency?
The crisis catalyzed many organizations to reinvent the operating model of the finance function. Through the power of digital transformation, many have taken this as their opportunity to shine, demonstrate their agility, robustness, and value to the wider organization by reprioritizing initiatives to deliver the following:
But how have organizations arrived at this and what challenges did they face when starting on their digital transformation journeys?
80% of the event participants cited a lack of a skilled workforce as a key barrier to success regarding digital transformation initiatives. Lack of collaboration is also identified as a challenge, with participants stating that success can only be achieved with ongoing performance reviews with cross-functional teams, coupled with working closely with your technology provider to drive alignment and progress.
Organizations have also found ways to motivate staff by equipping them in the right roles with the necessary levels of experience, leadership mindset, and authority to influence the business.
At HighRadius, we also see the value of this with evidence from clients that by expanding capabilities, talent pools, and leveraging powerful technology, teams can take on new operational practices and support complex processes that add more value to the organization.
Simply automating repetitive, manual, and paper-based O2C processes will not get organizations to where they need to be in a post COVID-19 world.
Participants agree that while traditional O2C automation technologies have enabled customers to reduce costs, increase efficiency and provide visibility into transactions, automation alone is not the best way to achieve key credit risk and working capital goals in 2022.
Organizations need to consider a managed O2C approach that combines automation with human interaction and a shared view of success across the organization. Teams that can quickly adapt and reinvent themselves to meet common goals are likely to be the most successful in driving innovation.
Participants were asked about their SSC’s level of digital maturity – are they running all operations manually, working with in-house solutions and/or ERP tools, leveraging robotic process automation (RPA) and/or artificial intelligence (AI) for one or more finance operations.
Interestingly, most participants are operating in an immature environment, using in-house solutions with some RPA. However, Europe’s largest sportswear manufacturer is leveraging an end-to-end accounts receivable platform, and can predict disputes and late payments, close the books faster and reduce the cost of compliance.
“Analytics and business intelligence platforms will shift from delivering capabilities that primarily help analysts manually explore data to those that steer analysts to the most significant insights, as determined by the data available.” Gartner: Top Priorities for Financial Leaders in 2021
We know that AI engines can tackle vast amounts of manual processes that overwhelm employees, including processes around cash applications, credit management, collections management, and dispute management.
Within the last year, we have seen customers voice their desire for RPA solutions that extend beyond individual task automation, integrating AI components to enable broader use cases and more sophisticated task variation.
However, the biggest takeaway from this part of the discussion is the difficulty organizations face in building in-house expertise to build machine learning or AI applications from the ground up. Those who can demonstrate success in these areas have developed relationships with O2C technology experts who can match their needs with the necessary technology investments.
A critical success factor when leveraging AI and digital transformation is the need for O2C teams to transform at the same speed as the front office to ensure the best customer experience. A real-life example is where advanced technology now enables customers to rent a car via the Alexa tool. Real-time payment mechanisms are integrated with finance to ensure a seamless customer experience and increased cash flow for the business.
Executives also highlighted the ability to automatically identify invalid deductions and process these through Salesforce. This way a customer service agent can quickly prioritize their time with information in one place.
Participants also discussed how they are expanding the use of AI into other areas outside of finance. For example, taking what they have learned from the O2C process, to predict when a crane might need servicing, so service teams are aware in advance of any issues occurring and operations potentially slowing down.
In summary, executives all agree that next-generation shared services must combine operations, people, and technology to create innovative, seamless service lines on a global scale.
HighRadius Electronic Invoice Presentment and Payment (EIPP) Software provides tools that automate and speed up invoice communication and facilitate a faster collection of payments, enabling a closer and more convenient relationship with customers. It automates the invoice transmission and payment collection process providing a configurable solution that supports multiple invoice formats and different modes of transmission (fax, email, portal, etc.) depending on the targeted customer, its integration with ERP systems and a rich search capability enables efficient storage and retrieval of past invoices, backup attachments to minimize disputes and short pays. Apart from that it also has some key features that you would not want to miss out: level-III interchange and surcharge; self-service customer portal; invoicing across email, customer portals, post, and fax; advanced deduction management; and lightning e-payments. The result is faster invoicing and payment collection, better customer service, and improved profitability and cash flow.