Digitizing Accounts Receivable
For years, organizations have wrestled with digitizing information and automating processes, including operational areas like accounts receivable. ERP systems, augmented by specific-function modules and third-party add-on systems and networks, were a step forward. But they have signal limitations, and many processes remain manually driven.
A particular irony is apparent in a supplier creating a digital invoice, printing it onto paper and mailing it to a customer, who then must key it—”re-digitize” it—into their system. Likewise, the spreadsheet, a central finance tool, requires considerable human effort to create and update. The lack of interoperability has been difficult to solve.
Imaging allowed the capture of documents, but people must manually key index information. Technology pushed forward with optical character recognition (OCR) and intelligent character recognition (IDR) for hand-written information. But these programs stumbled on unformatted documents, where a particular bit of data might be anywhere on the paper.
Further, the technology that could unify the various discrete order-to-cash functions of accounts receivable remained elusive. It awaited the sufficient advance and application of artificial intelligence, robotic process automation and advanced analytics, the so-called “three A’s,” together with big data management and cloud technology, as in Emagia’s digital order-to-cash system.
The consequence of the convergence of these advanced cognitive technologies offers digital accounts receivable. No longer merely digitized, digital accounts receivable finally realizes the complete automation of integrated order to cash processes. Where formerly AR was 20 percent automated and 80 percent human-driven, digital AR is an 80 percent automated process, with 20 percent human involvement in higher-order and strategic work.
Digital Accounts Receivable
But what does digital accounts receivable mean? What does digital mean? Since the pandemic, enterprise leaders are talking about digital in various ways. There may be few words as lacking in a clear, commonly understood definition as “digital.” The many descriptions each reflect some understanding of it and generally include some aspect of what digital means. But differing perspectives can cross up leaders in enterprise planning.
McKinsey offers that digital should be seen less as a thing and more as a way of doing things, which is an excellent way to think about it. Breaking that down to make it more concrete, McKinsey identifies three attributes:
- Creating value at new frontiers: “… being open to reexamining your entire way of doing business and understanding where the new frontiers of value are …,” 1
- Creating value in core activities: “… rethinking how to use new capabilities to improve how customers are served.” 2
- Building foundational digital capabilities: “… the technological and organizational processes that allow an enterprise to be agile and fast.” which includes mindset and system and data architecture. 3
That definition leads back to our discussion of digital accounts receivable. Given McKinsey’s definition, what is digital accounts receivable (AR)? It mainly hits the latter two attributes: improving customer experience—a vital goal—and allowing the finance realm (specifically cash management) to be faster and more agile. Digital transformation of the complex order-to-cash process yields several benefits, perhaps most importantly improving customer experience.
Digital AR employs state-of-the-art technologies working together to shift most of the processing burden from people to machines, reducing errors, accelerating process speeds and, through machine learning, automatically increasing accuracy. Digital AR provides visualization and reporting in real-time. Analytics yields up to the minute history, prediction, and prescription. Customer experience is enhanced through customer-preferred self-service supported by effective cognitive digital assistance.
In addition, digital AR:
- Speeds credit approvals
- Streamlines collections
- Reduces human error
- Accelerates cash application
- Provides real-time reporting
- Accurately forecasts cash flow
- Reduces DSO
The integrated application of robotic process automation, AI and analytics operating from a data repository in a cloud environment brings these benefits.
Tremendous power resides in the single repository of data drawn from all relevant internal and external sources. As a result, disparate processes operate from one information base. For example, real-time cash application information supports collections. This capacity not only brings greater efficiency but improves the experience and builds customer confidence and trust.
The Emagia digital order-to-cash system transforms accounts receivable, fully automating it for the first time. It creates and unifies digitized information from structured and unstructured documents and sources. It then works through intelligent digital processes without human intervention on all ordinary transactions. Finally, it reports in real-time with visualizations and offers prescriptions to support strategic, data-driven decision-making. As a result, AR transforms from digitized to digital.
Research authorities have recognized Emagia as a leader in AR automation. For more information Emagia offerings, check out https://www.emagia.com/products/
1. What Digital Really Means, Karel Dorner and David Edelman, principals, McKinsey, https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/technology-media-and-telecommunications/our-insights/what-digital-really-means