Modernize your order-to-cash processes with digitisation and automation

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Finance managers are at a crossroads. They want to lower costs, boost efficiency, and improve the cycle times of their order to cash (OTC) processes, but there’s no single path to achieve those goals. Should they stick with what they’ve got and wait for incremental updates, adding third-party bolt-ons wherever they can? Or should they start anew with a digital platform that incorporates automation?

Most companies have core enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms to process and manage a majority of the transactions in their finance ecosystems, such as accounts receivable, credit, payables, financial statement preparation and others. Many of these have been in play for years and do have added functionality to support new digital formats and produce better results. There are also bolt-on tools available.

Whether updated or integrated with new applications, the retooled platforms are delivering results and offer companies a homogenous platform to manage not only finance transactions, but also similar generic activities in other domains where administration of transactions is important. And while these platforms have become more flexible, they can be time-consuming to configure or re-configure because they are often multi-dimensional. However, they are still limited in their ability to improve processing efficiency.

Also, OTC is customer sensitive and therefore involves important impacts on customer satisfaction and future customer relationships. Often, using the standard functionality of an ERP system is not possible when managing line-item or customer invoice information, where there may be thousands of transactions a month that need to be processed and converted to digital. Bolt-ons take too much time to configure and require too much data transferring and reconciliation to maintain.

The lure of the new

Companies typically don’t like to rip and replace systems that are core to their business operations. But the lure of technologies such as data digitisation, robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and digital agents or chatbots, as well as newly designed workflow tools/case management tools, promise to improve efficiency and cycle times and lower costs more quickly than reconfigured ERPs and bolt-on tools.

But, upgrading the IT landscape and adopting the new tools has proved challenging. As companies experiment with these new tools, they are struggling to execute the necessary integration with their existing platforms and tools to achieve real results. The problem is how to leverage the power of digitisation and automation to achieve optimum benefits – at a price point and a project timeline that makes sense for your organisation. It won’t be easy, especially since various generations of systems will need to configured and reconfigured in a smart way so they all work together efficiently to deliver the new capabilities that are possible.

Just as processing power needs to be sorted out, companies will also need to determine which types of generic activities to target for digitisation and RPA. Scattered across these activities are common characteristics (size-small, redundant-copy paste, repetitive-rounding of numbers, reversing transactions-accruals, etc.), that make them better candidates, because they don’t need to rely on ERP platforms for processing. Here are a few examples of OTC activities to consider for RPA:

  • Entering data in all systems
  • Checking data/entries for compliance with business rules
  • Extracting data from multiple sources
  • Merging multiple data sources
  • Reconciling/validating data between sources and within defined business rules
  • Creating, combining and amending documents within Adobe
  • Uploading files to applications
  • Manging files
  • Reporting
  • Sending, reading and receiving emails

The next step will be to concentrate on specific types of transactions and design an integrated approach, using all available tools, to tackle the efficiency gap that exists from receiving many different types of inputs to process certain transactions. Until now, the low-hanging fruit for RPA has been in the source-to-pay domain, focusing on e-invoicing with suppliers, supplier master data, and blocked and parked invoices. But we’re starting to see more complex domains targeted, and OTC is one of those processing areas that is seen as ripe for redesign.

The case for automating OTC

Taking information that comes from customers and converting it into a digital format for use with RPA, AI, digital agents and machine learning solutions is fertile ground for harvesting digitization and automation opportunities. While there are certain processing requirements that make OTC unique and require analog (like telephone contacts) data as well as digital data (payment info from banks), there are also some very generic, every-day activities that happen at the core of the OTC process, such as document processing, master data creation and maintenance, adjustments to orders and invoices, changes to pricing details, application of promotional offers, etc. Some of these, mentioned in the list above, are key to processing transactions.

When grouped together across domains, these generic activities create thousands of on-going daily adjustments. These could be automated with RPA solutions that use cloud-enabled software bots using and reusing scripts. If you add up the workers employed for managing these transactions across the enterprise, they can add up to hundreds of workers either clustered in centers of excellence or decentralized, who impact processes downstream and upstream in other domains (customer remittances, bank information, adjustments to invoice values or sales updates/requests from customers). These processes determine payment behaviours, dictate working capital requirements and impact customer satisfaction. Add to that the reporting requirements that exist across these domains and one can see the power of using an integrated suite of automation tools to streamline administration of transactions in an enterprise.

Not only could transactions be more efficient, enterprises could glean new business insights through predictive reporting, such as identifying potential credit exposures and write-offs or forecasting cash flow revenues. The OTC process certainly could stand to benefit considerably if all information flowing through it were digitized, identified, and used in various ways to drive new information from raw data. With a well-designed and maintained RPA solution, an enterprise could potentially save more than 30% through efficiencies and reduced labor costs.

Since it is unlikely that most enterprises won’t move to replace their core operating platforms or ERP systems, they will need a harmonized approach that works across the different systems and tools. And, they’ll need to extend their core systems so they can add RPA and other digital technologies to improve processing capabilities, either running them alongside bolt-on tools or instead of them. And remember to consider that much of the processing and data required to create meaningful new insights in OTC reside outside the core operating systems (examples: emails, algorithms, unstructured date, manipulated information, etc. and change daily, if reported accurately.

Stay tuned to DXC Blogs learn more about the challenges and opportunities of integrating RPA into your finance business processes.


Thomas-Dobis-headshot-loresThomas Dobis is DXC’s BPS Global Advisory Finance and Accounting (F&A) lead, with more than 30 years’ experience in F&A. During his time with DXC, he has been involved in implementing managed services solutions, business outcomes, analytics platforms, automation frameworks, and various advisory activities focused on improving client operations for more than 50 clients.

Comments

  1. Shyam Sundar Balasubramanian says:

    Good one and a nice Blog Tom.. I agree on the challenges, I will add a couple more to the list — 1) Management of Change — Covering cultural, systems level & operational and 2) Most companies due to inorganic growth have acquired multiple ERP Systems and also multiple processes, so there is no one single solution that fits all available for all problems / challenges faced by enterprises..

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