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By Adriaan Kom, CCO at Visma | Onguard

In a short space of time, many businesses have had their digital transformation journeys accelerated, with a share of digital or digitally enabled products brought forward by as much as seven years. The fast changes in business operations and investments has resulted in a greater need to streamline operations and communicate with clients via new channels.

As economic pressures and payment delays continue, companies face many challenges in optimising their order-to-cash processes. Indeed, Onguard’s latest Fintech Barometer found that reducing DSO Is the biggest challenge for 30% of finance professionals. As too much time and resources are being spent on manually chasing debts and looking for the best solutions for customers with cashflow issues, effective cash management has never been more important.

There is a range of technology tools that allows businesses to proactively manage their risks, speed up their collections processes and manage debtors and disputes. However, transforming the order-to-cash process in isolation is not enough. It needs to be incorporated into the wider digital transformation strategy, and the way to do it is via the cloud.

Order-to-cash in the cloud

The Annual Fintech Barometer survey by Visma | Onguard discovered that uptake of cloud-based infrastructure by organisations in the UK sat at 43%, with a further 49% planning to do so in either 2021 or in the coming years. This represents a huge potential for cloud adoption in the near future, which can bring tangible benefits to more businesses and their order-to-cash processes.

Incorporating new platforms to business operations always requires a certain level of planning and strategy reviewing. Ensuring a cloud-based implementation removes the need for potentially costly in-house maintenance and expertise to prevent downtime. Lower upfront costs of a cloud deployment also enables businesses to save money from the outset, which is an attractive benefit for many business leaders. With internal IT teams already stretched due to the need to work on projects such as improving security measures, a cloud-based deployment will help to ease the strain on IT professionals who are already feeling the pressure.

There is a common misconception amongst many businesses that keeping data in-house allows for greater control and autonomy to facilitate efficiency in financial processes. However, the ERP architecture is already maintained in the cloud. Data can be integrated quickly and easily across systems, enabling synergy between processes.

This can also benefit finance professionals who are struggling with both disconnected and manual processes and completing tasks in an isolated manner. Integration is crucial when trying to improve efficiencies, but it was identified as the biggest challenge by 33% of professionals in the order-to-cash process in the Annual Fintech Barometer survey by Visma | Onguard.

Enabling business transformation with cloud

Cloud-based platforms present great opportunities for improving efficiencies across teams and processes. They also pave the way for order-to-cash integration with the latest technological advancements, such as robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), allowing business transformation to happen on a much bigger scale.

Effective use of robotics eliminates a number of manual and tedious tasks, enabling finance professionals to focus on more critical work. However, implementing this technology in-house can be a costly venture that requires continuous development and maintenance. Similar issues arise when it comes to AI and ML. Although the capabilities of AI are vast, such as being able to determine the likelihood of whether a customer will pay an outstanding invoice, the need to hire data scientists and the outlay involved in a data platform investment can place strain on budgets at a time where every penny counts.

The good news for finance teams is that the cloud is facilitating the availability of AI and ML-driven plug-and-play applications. These off-the-shelf solutions mean that organisations can apply these technologies quickly and easily, immediately transforming the order-to-cash process and having an immediate impact on the finance department.

Reinventing CX with cloud processes

As much as the pandemic accelerated digital transformation plans, it also impacted customer expectations and experiences. Automated cloud-based order-to-cash platforms can provide seamless deployment and simplify process management, meaning streamlined CX and greater customer satisfaction.

Visma | Onguard’s study revealed that 29% of finance professionals identified creating the best solution for clients as the most fun part of their work. Cloud-based platforms not only help maximise workplace satisfaction and engagement, but also provide the toolkit to understand clients’ needs and requirements. All of that combined allows businesses to offer a better, faster service and increase client loyalty. As companies reinvent their digital and CX strategies, integrated cloud-based platforms will help them to move forward and succeed on their transformation journeys.

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