A multinational study by the Chartered Institute of Credit Management and Dun & Bradstreet has found that 87% of respondents believe automation will improve the efficiency of their team in the next three years; but most have made little progress towards their digital transformation goals.
Key findings from the study were as follows:
- Eighty-three percent (83%) of respondents are currently using some form of automation;
- 62% of respondents are automating less than a quarter of their processes;
- Billing (43%), credit scoring (36%), reporting (30%) and collections (30%) are the most often automated processes
Operational efficiency was seen as a key driver for automation, with 68% of respondents citing time efficiencies and 55% citing cost savings as key drivers.
The biggest barriers to automation were: integration of multiple systems/tools (32%); winning budget (26%) and managing disparate data (15%).
“Comprehensive and reliable data was identified as critical to effective automation,” said Tim Vine, European Head of Finance Solutions for Dun and Bradstreet.
Philip King, CEO for the CICM gave the following comment:
Implementing successful automation is about employing the right technology to complement specific credit management functions and skills. A principal task of a credit manager is to avert the risk of non-payment, and automation can certainly assist in this task, with the understanding that human intervention based on experience and knowledge will always be required within processes.
The study leaves little room for doubt that automation will play an important part in improving operational efficiency in credit management in the months and years to come. The challenge for the 87% is how to achieve that change and what the catalyst will be.
Perhaps most interesting is the data concerning the challenges or roadblocks relating to change. Let’s look at these in turn:
Budget will always be a challenge, but most CFOs will soon identify value in automation with a well-structured business case laying out investment, cost-savings and a short payback period.
Cost savings need not always mean headcount reductions; it could simply mean lower headcount growth or freeing up resources so that businesses need to outsource less. Most people underestimate what’s possible in terms of automation and consequently the level of achievable operational efficiency.
Many credit managers are jaded by previous experiences with never-ending ERP development projects; with the assumption being that anything not ‘out of the box’ is expensive and takes an age to develop. That’s no longer true with low code platform development on ‘Platform as a Service’ infrastructure.
Another misconception is that it’s difficult to integrate systems. This can be true if a business is seeking to extract data from older ‘on premise’ systems, but many cloud-based systems have modern Application Programming Interfaces (‘APIs’) that make connectivity much easier.
Even the oldest of systems will allow the export and import of data and this can be scheduled to run automatically. Dependent on the number of systems you’re using, choosing the right platform and building functionality in one place can actually help streamline the number of software programs your team are subscribing to (and reduce cost).
Managing disparate data
This feels like part of the wider fear about integration. Not having a ‘source of truth’ for customer data in an organisation can cause real challenges. Changing and working with data in multiple systems, without syncing those changes, can make it almost impossible to read across systems; which leads to error and customer disappointment.
This challenge is unavoidable and overcoming it is part of good system design. Starting with a flexible, highly-customisable platform that is designed to integrate well with other systems is the first step to conquering this.
In summary, most credit managers see automation as something desirable, but it can be difficult to know where to begin. The common assumption is that automation through system design is expensive and disruptiveto business. Whilst this was once true, it no longer has to be the case when taking an agile approach with ‘low code’ development.
It’s possible to begin delivering operational systems that automate parts of a process within a matter of 2-3 months; which means much lower consultancy costs and lower project risk. Making changes in a low code development environment is much easier too!
There is huge opportunity in automation. It takes the mundane parts out of processes, allows teams to become massively more efficient and helps reduce errors that cause complaints. Good systems will also support live reporting and alerts to help managers keep a finger on the pulse of the business – instead of periodic reporting.
So if you’re in the 87%, remember there’s no time like the present!
Original article and source data: https://www.cicm.com/reliable-data-identified-key-successful-automation/
Credit and thanks to the Chartered Institute of Credit Management and Dun & Bradstreet