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Three simple steps to successful order-to-cash automation

Caroline Schneider
January 30, 2020

Implementing automation can be a daunting task. Indeed, figuring out the right order-to-cash (O2C) automation strategy for your finance function can often be complicated.

However, if you’re looking to digitize your O2C process, but you’re not ready for a full-blown transformation that requires significant change management and investment, automating your O2C data extraction not only generates sizeable benefits, but can also enable data-driven decision-making.

Reducing manual effort by leveraging data from self-service portals

It’s likely that your teams are spending a lot of time pulling and reviewing external data in order to resolve exceptions in the O2C process. They may be logging into or searching customer websites to find missing master data, remittance advice, or researching disputes and deductions. They may also be reaching out to customers to check invoice status, send invoices, statements, and proof of deliveries, and obtain promise to pay information. A lot of these steps can be reduced, if you can successfully automate the process.

Many organizations deploy accounts payable (AP) portals or websites to deliver self-service options to their business partners. These portals house the same data needed to resolve an issue, follow up on payments, resolve a dispute, and update master data. Integrating data from these portals in advance can update and improve your existing systems and processes, reducing non-value added work and exceptions, and enabling your team to refocus on what’s important.

Automating O2C data extraction

Wouldn’t it be great if your systems were updated with payment promises without a collector having to call your customer? What if the data could trigger an alert to your team to call a customer that hasn’t yet received their invoice or is sending payment for a different amount? What about incorporating customer data proactively in your credit or deductions process? What if you had remittance advice in advance?

Working in collections, I often dream about these kinds of capabilities. Leveraging robotic process automation (RPA) – or other data capture software – gives you the ability to extract, format, and upload customer portal data proactively into your ERP or collections platforms to create a dynamic collections approach, improve cash automatch, flag disputes, and drive touchless processing.

The best approach

There are so many ways to use customer portal data in your O2C process. To figure out the best approach for your organization, I recommend the following three steps:

  • Identify customers that use portals – survey your team members to find which customers are using portals for pricing changes, deductions and disputes, invoicing and billing, payments, and cash applications. Prioritize which customers to target first by the volume of work relating to exceptions or handling time. Multiple customers often use the same portal provider, making it easier to replicate the automation across your customers
  • Decide how to automate – some portals enable you to download Excel and CSV files, while others just display the data. RPA is agile, doesn’t require coding, and can work with different text formats and data extraction methods. This means that automation can be implemented with a sprint approach vs. a big bang implementation. Of course, there are other data extraction tools on the market if you don’t want to use RPA – just do your research
  • Agree on the approach and scope – decide which data and sub processes are in scope. Perhaps you want to use portal data and automation to upload statements and invoices to your high-volume customers? Or maybe you want to catch missing invoices and promises to pay to create a dynamic follow-up strategy, or pull in remittance advice from pending payments to improve automatch rate and reduce research effort? There are many ways to improve data quality and processing through basic customer and system automation.

It’s much easier to automate activities related to data transfer than implementing new platforms. Automatically ingesting portal and website data into your O2C process gives you the power to identify issues immediately, improve your data, and optimize your process without changing your core systems.

Who says that blockchain is the only way to sync data between systems!

Read other blogs in this series :

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Caroline Schneider has been delivering and designing O2C solutions for clients for over 18 years. She is passionate about delivering solutions to clients to maximize their working capital through technology, automation, and industrialized process design.

This blog was co-written by Lukasz Latak – a member of Caroline Schneider’s team. As part of Finance Powered by Intelligent Automation Practice, Lukasz has over 10 years of experience in the credit-to-cash (C2C) domain, including operations management and technologies, supporting transformation initiatives for external clients and across Capgemini engagements.