There’s a big focus on digital transformation across the entire enterprise. In fact, Information Age calls out that 47% of CIO’s are seeing an increase in the pace of transformation.
CFO’s are sharing that they need to protect their organizations and get them through to the other side of Covid, and many have shared with me their need to ensure that they prioritize cash flow, minimize risk, eliminate inefficiencies, reign in rogue spending and improve visibility of cash in general.
In the last month, a VP Finance and a supply chain owner whom I spoke with have looked at the two solution wheels below and mentioned that they perceive Esker as a bit of a unicorn, given the many areas they could potentially improve via the platform. Other research analysts with large think tanks have shared the same sentiment — one in which I regard it as a great compliment. I’m more excited now than at any point in my last 21 years here at Esker knowing the many ways business and IT leaders are leveraging the technology for their companies and their careers. As it turns out, unicorns are not just for my daughter’s bedroom walls.
To give you a little more context, picture a rainy day in Indianapolis over a decade ago, where I showed business leaders a slide that illustrated automation opportunities of plenty. I could see eyes glaze over and the look of fear that a lengthy sales pitch was about to be unleashed, and all they really wanted was to focus on one business process, nothing more.
CIOs and business leaders are still choosing technologies that provide the greatest return and the least risk, but there has been a shift in the last few years toward lowering numbers of vendors and doing more with key SaaS platforms.
For example, in the last five calls I have had with CIOs, the same trends and comments were shared: “We have too many vendors and did not do a good enough job of leveraging the opportunities we had with each vendor. We are seeking vendors that can bring automation across both order-to-cash and procure-to-pay cycles, and ideally those modules would share data to provide us with predictive insights. Those insights might include warnings that a customer’s credit situation has changed, and maybe they need to be put on a different payment plan. The alerts might warn us that a key supplier needs to renew the code of conduct, share annual compliance documentation and let us know there is a new risk to be investigated.”
Having reintroduced the slide below that shows the different areas companies are tackling right now, initially I was expecting rotten eggs, tomatoes or some deep sighs. But the reaction has been quite the opposite. Nearly every time a CFO has said, “Hold on a minute, I want to see this.” One actually said, “I’m giving you most of my morning because I need help processing our sales orders faster, collecting receivables and applying our cash better, and tightening control around our AP spend. Relax, if you did not have all these capabilities, you would not be getting my time. I want to study this slide!”
Controllers have said, “Ah, cool.” But upon probing, they have shared with me that they value the ability to improve their AP process. And then, in time, tackle expenses and move upstream, and better control procurement without needing to deploy a technology that might take 18 months and cost several million. For many leaders, they like the idea of deploying in an Agile manner, tackling one process at a time. Yet it’s easier to get approval from the c-suite or steering committee as those stakeholders have wider needs for efficiency and automation.
In some cases, these trends have been driven by companies seeking to retire aging or unsupported workflow document management technologies, and those tools were often processing a variety of documents: from sales orders, AR and AP invoices, and remittance documents. For others, current and planned ERP migrations and acquisitions/divestitures have fueled interest as cash will remain king for quite some time, and these processes are still paramount.
Many agree that broken, paper-based processes were quickly exposed when we began working remotely. For many leaders, they see these processes as costing money and an inefficient use of staff. Others see it as an opportunity to innovate and come out on the other side stronger. As Gartner recommends, “Don’t let a good crisis go to waste.” You may have opportunities to apply that advice on either side of O2C and P2P cycles.