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The New Normal: Putting AI at the Core of Your Order-to-Cash Shared Services Strategy

The New Normal: Putting AI at the Core of Your Order-to-Cash Shared Services Strategy
As the COVID-19 pandemic is drastically changing everything around us, individuals and businesses are all being severely tested. These are unprecedented times for many businesses – tearing down of the global economy, straining of the global supply chains, and navigating the turbulent volatile markets. 

Focus on Order-to-Cash Operations

Mitigating credit risk on new orders, monitoring risk on receivables, accelerating cash flow from collections, managing cash flow and optimizing working capital management are critical and essential for receivables and treasury operations to navigate businesses through these turbulent times.

Order-to-cash shared services teams around the world are responding in an applaudable way to meet these challenges to maintain business continuity in spite of the very unprecedented shelter-in-place orders; receivables, credit, collections and cash application staff in many businesses – small and big – local and global operations, shared service centers, global business services and BPO centers are all “working from home” to support essential operations — it is not “business as usual” in any sense of the phrase. According to J. P. Gownder from Forrester, “ The adaptive workforce will drive the future of work, whether you hope to prepare your organization for the next recession or to grow faster than you ever have before, adaptiveness is key to your future success in a world of automation and AI.” 

Planning for 2021 and Beyond

With no near-term relief from the pandemic, shared services executives are now forced to look at the way forward. Digitalization is on the top of every CFO and Shared services leader’s agenda who is focused on shifting gears from “survive to thrive” in 2021 and beyond. 

According to a recent IDC survey, 69% of finance executives are planning to reimagine their accounts receivables processes with automation. Order-to-cash shared services executives are at the crossroads of either a) redefining incremental improvements with small automation projects or b) reimagining end-to-end processes with next generation digital platforms for exponential growth. Next generation order-to-cash digital platforms promise the advantage of trifecta power of automation, analytics and AI to boost productivity and efficiency to unprecedented levels.

Shifting to Exponential Mindset

We are now in the age of AI. Artificial intelligence is in our everyday lives and as consumers, we are already leveraging the power of AI, cognitive digital technologies that mimic human brain capabilities, in our smart phone apps, social media apps, Alexa and Siri digital assistants, voice-assisted maps, smart shopping, stock trading and many many other every day applications. It is time we embrace AI in our enterprise and in our shared services to experience its tremendous cognitive and computing power to help us leapfrog our operations to whole new levels of efficiency. According to Deloitte’s Future of Finance Predictions, finance operations will become finance factories. Transactions will become touchless. In the years ahead, cloud-based ERP, automation, and cognitive innovation will continue apace, creating opportunities to radically simplify processes and free up people. Adding blockchain to the mix will only accelerate this trend. As this transition picks up speed, the capacity of humans to add value will be unleashed.” 

AI at the Core of Your Strategy

It is time for shared services executives especially in the order-to-cash, to understand the advantage AI can bring to their operations and how they can put AI to work in their shared services. World-class SSCs who put AI at the core of their order-to-cash strategy benefit from the exponential advantage of AI – unimaginable and unparalleled compared to traditional rule-based automation systems. 

Here are four ways AI-powered platforms like Emagia create exponential efficiency gains. These are also the four reasons why AI should be at the core of your order-to-cash SSC transformation strategy. 

  • Intelligent Process Automation:  AI bots can automate structured and repetitive work processes – such as invoice posting on customer portals or doing credit risk evaluation for every sales order or bringing payment information from external portals – and can eliminate thousands of hours of manual work involved in your shared services.
  • Strategic Predictive Insights: AI platforms bring powerful machine learning capabilities that are useful to learn and identify patterns in large complex operations data –  such your customer payment behaviors or potential collection risk or a payment fraud – This can not only eliminate thousands of hours of reporting and analysis but help you to proactively manage your operations in a data-driven intelligent way.
  • Cognitive Engagement and Augmentation: AI-powered digital assistants use natural language processing and generation capabilities to engage with customers, managers and shared services staff world-wide –  to give invoices and payments information, request for payments and take real-time payments much like front-line staff and customer financial services agents – increasing thousands of hours of digital engagement with customers and improving thousands of hours of productivity of managers and collections staff with cognitive augmentation.
  • Cognitive Document Data Capture: AI-powered platforms bring the capabilities of vision – reading unstructured and image-based documents, in many languages and formats, extracting text and applying information in the right context using computer vision, OCR and deep learning capabilities. Thousands of hours can be eliminated in data capture and data entry associated with unstructured image documents such as lockbox image files, checks, remittances, invoices, POD documents, contracts and many other documents. 

AI-powered order-to-cash platforms like Emagia, deliver touchless transaction processing with 80-90% self-driving autonomous processes. Shared services staff can now only focus on handling the 10-20% of transactions that are escalations and fall-outs while gaining  great access to forward-looking analytical insights for driving growth in revenues and customers with digital speeds. 

The Business Case of AI

With AI-powered order-to-cash systems, you can shift your gears in your shared services operations from “Survive to Thrive” and confidently support your business units to scale up their front-office to digital B2B eCommerce models. Your back-office B2B order-to-cash shared services will be ready for the exponential scale operations –  processing credit, collections, deductions, cash applications and payments at scale without the constant limitations of FTE headcount and the eternal quest for low cost locations. With AI, finance operations will be transformed to digital factories with digital services with clear deliverable outcomes happening in real-time and in a very predictable order. This  will become the new normal. 

Building the business case for AI-powered order-to-cash platforms is not about building ROI on traditional  headcount reduction or DSO reduction, but instead a business case for strategic investment – infrastructure needed to gain the business advantage and essential business system required for the business growth – to lead your business forward in the age of AI. Several companies have demonstrated that a strong scalable digital order-to-cash process can bolster strong earnings growth,  profitability and shareholder value.

Experience the AI Advantage 

An AI powered Order-to-Cash Platform will enable a shared service center to better fulfill its strategic mission by

  1. Scalability – supporting exponential business growth – insourcing and integrating new divisions (existing or newly acquired), or new clients (in case of  BPO SSC) – to realize the full potential of economies of scale. Remember, more acquisition candidates will be available as a result of the pandemic economy.
  2. Efficiency – Drive productivity and increase process efficiency to deliver the cost efficiency expected by your internal or external clients
  3. Experience – Improve the customer experience for your clients’ customers via digital assistants and enhanced self-service capabilities.
  4. Opportunity – Increase revenue opportunities for your business units using data-driven insights on risk, customer segmentation and other valuable data. You can also increase the operations performance vs Service Level Agreements (SLA’s). This is especially important for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) shared service centers to increase client retention and extension beyond the initial contract.
  5. Augmentation – Enable BPO SSC’s to help clients to utilize the SSC’s AI powered O2C system vs the client’s outmoded legacy O2C application. This will position the BPO SSC to deliver better results.

Take the Test Drive

At Emagia, we have a very clear purpose to bring the power of AI, automation and analytics to help shared services run their order-to-cash operations better so their businesses can grow exponentially. We do so by empowering our customers and helping them to increase shared services efficiency, increase cash flow from receivables, mitigate credit risk and optimize working capital management. 

Right now, more than ever, we are leading through our purpose. During these times of uncertainty, as we collectively fight COVID-19, we have opened access to Emagia digital order-to-cash tools to help you experience the advantage of AI and address current operational challenges.

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