Digital transformation and automation can be an intimidating process, especially if your company has the remnants of legacy processes and technology, or worse yet, dominance of analog processes. If you’re like many companies in this position, the idea of adopting technology and automation to replace decades-old processes opens the door to the unknown. And you’re not alone. A March 2021 global survey from EY shows that FIs are at various points along their technology journey. It may surprise you that 8% are just starting and 21% are in the evaluation stage. Twenty percent are exploring emerging technologies, 39% are in the implementation phase and 11% consider themselves advanced.

This journey has fallen into the ever-widening purview of finance leaders in all kinds of companies coming in all sizes. In fact, a survey released just last month shows that data security, data analytics, and overall process improvement are among the responsibilities finance leaders are now required to master in addition to their cash management duties. Also under this new skill set: digital transformation. It doesn’t matter where your company is as long as it’s progressing on the digital journey. If you heed the following 6 tips, you’ll be able to realize some quick wins along the way.

  1. Keep it simple:  There are many underlying processes that contribute to the fragmentation that exists across accounts payable, accounts receivable and money management, but you can’t fix them all at once.  Find a process that is reasonably simple yet currently supported by a manual workflow as the place to start.  Don’t try to replace a complex workflow at the onset, rather put you and your team in a position of strength and confidence.
  2. Find a partner you can grow with:  In today’s landscape, there are so many companies vying for market share across accounts payable, accounts receivable and money management automation, which can influence decision making ability.  With too many choices, it’s difficult to find the right provider that you can trust and grow with.  Performing due diligence up front on which partner is best suited for both your current and longer-term growth plans will pay dividends for your future. 
  3. Your business case doesn’t have to be a Harvard Business Plan:  As a Finance leader, you expect precision, accuracy and planning, but that can also result in over analysis, causing stagnation and that feeling of being overwhelmed.  Think about how to take that simple process and turn it into an easy business plan that maximizes results. Define the basic exam question you are trying to solve and then be ruthlessly intentional about how you answer the question.
  4. Hail to the back-office system!  The back-office system within an organization is the true book of record, but we know they can’t handle every process optimally, so they need help.  Make sure you fully understand how your back-office system works and what, if any, limitations exist to effectively support AP, AR and Treasury processes.  In addition, when sourcing for technology partners, don’t fall into the fully integrated to your back-office system trap.  Systems vary greatly from one organization to another and by truly understanding how your system works, you can find the right technology partner to optimize your technology structure.
  5. Solve for the 80%, not the 20%:  All too often in AP, AR and Treasury, we hear customers say something like, ‘yes, that will work for the majority of my processes, but what about this wonky, unicorn process that we’ve had in place for years?’.  Yep, that will undoubtedly be the case, but focus on solving for the majority of your workflows. This will give you confidence and momentum you’ll need to tackle the more complicated processes that might take a bit more muscle and energy to solve.
  6. Empower at every level across the organization:  Your team is the best source to help identify what processes are ripe for automation and key stakeholders can support the path to execution.  To truly embrace transformation and automation, it’s a mindset shift for the team.  Bring your team into the conversation, ask them to define the exam question and then be part of the solution.  The more supportive partners at different levels within an organization, the higher the chance of successful adoption.

The Bottomline: Like any big project or undertaking, finding the entry point is crucial and often can be the bottleneck to progress.  With the above 6 tips in mind, finance leaders can take the leap towards technology and automation with ease and simplicity to reduce that overwhelming feeling and drive success for your finance team.

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Posted by Jill McFarland

Jill McFarland is the general manager of accounts receivable solutions for Bottomline and has spent over 20 years working in the payments and financial technology space, including in both accounts payable and accounts receivable for Bottomline and Paymode-X.