If automation is the first step in finance digital transformation, then digital orchestration is the map. No matter how many steps you take, you will not reach the destination if you do not have the map.
Digital Levers Beyond Automation
Automation is quick wins, orchestration long-term value. To improve cashflow and achieve cost reduction, improved business outcomes through smart insights and increased external stakeholder satisfaction through better usability, you need to deploy and, far more importantly, orchestrate new age technologies such as AI, analytics, and RPA.
Analytics: The sophistication and maturity of analytics solutions are evolving. Advanced analytics solutions use data to provide insights and sometimes prescribe action. Analytics can be used to examine customers’ payment patterns and external data to devise collection strategies.
Cloud: The adoption of cloud platforms in finance and accounting (F&A) outsourcing is increasing exponentially, primarily because of the availability of sophisticated BPaaS solutions with improved data security and compliance. Cloud-based digital solutions combined with mobility can significantly reduce process cycle times. Consider the example of cloud-based P2P platforms that allow reviews and approvals of invoices on the go, shortening cycle times, and improving efficiency.
AI: Cognitive digital solutions with machine learning capability augment humans in performing judgment-oriented tasks and make processes smarter. Natural language processing improves user experience by enhancing the stakeholders’ interactions with the system. For example, an AI-based conversational solution in the Accounts Payable helpdesk can understand semi-structured vendor queries and fetch relevant information quickly, reducing work for the team and improving vendors’ interaction with the system. Another example is invoice processing by cognitive tools that can learn how humans handle exceptions.
Orchestration of Digital Technologies
Each of Marvel’s superheroes such as Captain America, Hulk, and Iron Man has unique abilities but when they get together as the Avengers, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The Business 4.0 digital levers are like these superheroes. While they can deliver individually, the impact is greater when they are orchestrated and implemented collectively.
Deploy each digital lever according to its importance in various F&A processes. Analytics has a larger play in AR & Collections and FP&A as compared to procure to pay (P2P) and record to report (R2R). For robotics process automation (RPA), which has seen an uptick in adoption, it is the opposite.
A strong master data management solution is essential to achieve the full benefits from properly orchestrated digital technologies. As an example for how digital CFOs are transforming finance, we can consider working capital improvement. Insights from the integrated data of accounts payable and collections help CFOs optimize the strategy to improve working capital.
The workforce, customers, and partners all need to use the enablers — the innovation, API and IoT ecosystems — to drive stakeholder experience, decisions, process efficiency, and scalability and performance.
There is no dearth of use cases for digital transformation in finance through orchestration. Orchestration of intelligent optical character recognition (OCR), machine learning, AI-based conversational bots, RPA, and advanced analytics can transform the P2P process; orchestration of MDM, predictive analysis, automation, and cognitive assist applications can improve the O2C (order to cash) process; orchestration of automation, machine learning, and cloud can bring about a real reduction of FTEs and enable faster period-end closing in R2R processes; and so on.
Key Factors in Technology Transformation
Setting the stage: Transformation takes effort and time. Enterprises must first assess their level of process maturity and the integration of their systems. Process mining blends the power of data-based analysis and machine learning to add value to traditional process simulation and management. Enterprises that use process mining along with other best practices set the stage for digital enablement. Use process assessment to identify the scope for technology intervention.
Acceptance and resource planning: In the finance digital transformation journey, the acceptance and support of the stakeholders are essential. Train the key stakeholders. Shift F&A staffing pyramid from a doers-heavy to a thinkers-heavy model. Communication, resource utilization, and change management are vital to success.
Adaptability: Digital solutions should be nimble enough to adjust to constantly changing regulatory and other requirements such as GST in India and GDPR in Europe.
Role of the Third-party Provider
Third-party providers enable access to the latest technologies, scalability, and best practices and methodologies for process improvement and technology implementation. Most leading FAO service providers are shifting their focus from operator to orchestrator, as enterprises increasingly require strategic partnerships. Many have made strategic alliances with leading technology vendors and have developed best practices and in-house tools to help enterprises in transforming. Because of the availability of best-in-class technologies in the FAO market, service providers are moving from a build-operate to a broker-integrator model for better process orchestration.
The need for F&A to deliver business outcomes has made digital transformation a necessity, not an option. To reach your transformation goal, draw up an orchestration roadmap today. Watch this space for more pointers on becoming a digital native.