Covid has undoubtedly created a shift in the perception of pharmaceuticals. Headlines have shifted from drug pricing debates to more positive stories about the speed of development and roll-out of vaccines that pave the way for a world where we can live with Covid.
Now is the perfect time to drive change and exploit the opportunities that digital transformation can bring to the pharma industry. Many of these projects were already underway pre-Covid, but now time is of the essence.Let’s look at the top three current challenges and trends faced by pharma companies. We will then explore how finance teams are leveraging digital advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation to play their part in mitigating these issues.
With the impact of digitalisation, consumers have become accustomed to communication according to their preferences be it social media, SMS, or email. They expect a seamless patient experience with collaborative and connected suppliers.
Pharmaceutical companies must lead the way and catch up with other industries when it comes to a better customer experience. This involves putting the customer at the heart of every interaction across the business, leveraging data to deliver personalised experiences, and ensuring customer-facing teams are set up for success.
While global pharmaceutical supply chains did not collapse under the pressure of Covid the pandemic revealed serious weaknesses in logistics that impacted the availability of medicines worldwide.
Pharma executives say the supply-chain risk is a significant reason for their company’s susceptibility to disruption, according to a recent McKinsey Global Institute survey.
According to this research, 55% point to a lack of visibility into supplier risks, with companies now expecting supply chain disruptions lasting a month or longer to occur every 3.7 years.
Blocked orders, issues with supplier payments, and visibility into order management pose significant challenges that can impact the customer experience and cause consumers to shop elsewhere.
Digital documentation and standardisation across industry platforms with digital signatures for regulatory documents, smart contracts, and blockchain also add to supplier risk and the need for a single version of the truth.
With the increase in digital transformation, more data must be collected and managed online, which makes the industry more exposed to cyberattacks than ever before.
Pharma companies face many security threats including intellectual property theft, ransomware, phishing, and insider fraud.
So, how can the finance function contribute to overcoming these challenges?
Many finance teams are transforming internal processes to create unified operations across the business that focus on customer-centricity, provide better forecast accuracy, and manage regulatory risk. This involves putting the customer first in every interaction and leveraging the power of AI and automation across accounts receivables.
AI solutions allow for conversational, on-brand responses to routine finance and order inquiries, which enable human experts to be free for more complex and demanding customer needs.
Other areas where AI can assist finance include:
“Extracting a single version of the truth and knowing where to prioritize automation efforts was a significant challenge with multiple SAP systems in place, across geographies, all with different configurations. HighRadius helped us prioritise these areas from order entry, cash application, and deductions, through to collections.”
Paul Buckham, Global Process Owner, Order to Cash, AstraZeneca
Finance teams are leveraging machine learning, AI, and analytics to generate insights and intelligence on supplier ROI and payment trends.
This helps avoid miscommunication between buyers and suppliers and can predict payment disputes that could hinder the delivery of goods to the end customer.
An automated accounts receivable platform also eliminates the clerical, repetitive tasks in customer and consignee correspondence for the collection of claims, proof of delivery, and bill of lading documentation, reducing the number of blocked orders and disputes. These tools also enable full visibility into the payment history of the order.
A lack of visibility into payment journeys has left accounts payable departments vulnerable to cyberattacks. These problems are rooted in paper-based systems, as human error makes manual processes more prone to fraud.
Machine learning and automation for tasks such as account reconciliation, journal entry, and transaction matching enable finance teams to significantly reduce exposure to cyber risk. By automating these tasks, finance teams can spend more time investigating anomalies and high-risk accounts.
Increased visibility of payments through an integrated receivables platform leads to fewer duplicate payments and creates a stronger defence for payment fraud as well as improved efficiency for employees and lower costs to the business overall.
Data and security concerns are also far less of an issue based on the levels of protection offered by cloud-based accounts receivable solutions with state-of-the-art SecOps teams to guarantee the safety and integrity of data.
COVID has challenged pharma companies in unique ways, but it has also demonstrated the need to embrace opportunities to transform. Finance plays a key part in this transformation and by leveraging robotics, AI, and the cloud they can provide faster insights and actions that result in a better patient experience.
HighRadius Integrated Receivables Software Platform is the world's only end-to-end accounts receivable software platform to lower DSO and bad-debt, automate cash posting, speed-up collections, and dispute resolution, and improve team productivity. It leverages RivanaTM Artificial Intelligence for Accounts Receivable to convert receivables faster and more effectively by using machine learning for accurate decision making across both credit and receivable processes and also enables suppliers to digitally connect with buyers via the radiusOneTM network, closing the loop from the supplier accounts receivable process to the buyer accounts payable process. Integrated Receivables have been divided into 6 distinct applications: Credit Software, EIPP Software, Cash Application Software, Deductions Software, Collections Software, and ERP Payment Gateway - covering the entire gamut of credit-to-cash.