For SSCs, intelligent automation is a no brainer.
The pressure on Shared Service Centres (SSCs) is intense. Competition is relentless and clients keep pushing for better results – often at the same level of investment. As a head of Shared Services you’re caught in a squeeze: how to stay ruthlessly efficient and hit your metrics, while ensuring your talented team is happy and focused on the tasks internal and external customers value most.
In this blog, we’ll look at how accounts receivable automation can help SSCs to get out of that trap. With the right tools in place, it’s possible to evolve operations to deliver better results, sustain a performance-driven culture, and still keep people motivated and engaged.
Getting even better at what they do
The world has gone digital and businesses are ditching paper-based and manual tasks to stay lean and agile. Despite being all about focus and efficiency, the Shared Services sector has been late to the IT party. In fairness, SSCs are great at what they do, and the manual processes they run on are at a high rate of maturity. Business process outsourcing (BPO) has been a thing since at least the 1980s, and four decades of honing their craft have made SSCs’ tried & true ways of working about as efficient as they can be. Still, the Shared Service Centres business model depends on executing a volume of tasks at an industrial scale, often in low-cost markets. There’s little room for doing more with less – and simply driving employees harder is a zero-sum game.
Keeping the talent pool full
It’s a common complaint across finance that hiring skilled people is hard. One of the critical advantages Shared Service Centres offer is access to a ready-made pool of accounting talent.
SSCs have proven processes for recruiting, training and consolidating skill sets. When clients need help, there are experienced experts ready to get to work. But keeping talent can be tough. The image of cubicle-packed warehouses, filled with people tapping at spreadsheets and shifting piles of paper, feels uncomfortably apt. The daily life of a Shared Services employee can be drudgery, overflowing with rote and repetitive tasks.
That makes retaining the Millennials increasingly hired for those roles particularly hard. Everyone knows GenY workers want job fulfilment first, along with the opportunity to master the latest tools and technologies. Manipulating tables, typing numbers into fields, and manually matching stacks of payments to invoices is unlikely to keep them engaged for long. Better to keep them focused on higher-value responsibilities. Getting rid of as many tedious tasks as possible is vital. Intelligent accounts receivable automation software is one way to do it.
Automating an intelligent AR function
Intelligent automation is the use of highly-evolved algorithms to automate tasks and make finance functions fitter and faster. It’s sweeping across sectors and its time that the Shared Services industry benefitted from it too. The intelligence bit means IT systems gain the ability to learn. Rather than simply carry out tasks as programmed by humans, they can adapt when conditions change.
In the accounts receivable realm, that means payments can be matched to invoices faster, with greater accuracy and volume of output than human intervention alone can deliver. Endless hours logged by banks of people keying in data, searching, checking, and double-checking, simply disappear. That’s good news for customers, who see cash allocation happening faster, errors reduced and time freed-up for better credit control. SSCs get to strengthen their overall offering. Employees get to shake off tedious workloads and spend more time using their training and experience.
It’s already happening
Our customer Brambles, one of the largest logistics companies in the world, is using intelligent automation to dramatically simplify its cash application process. With operations spanning 50 countries and more than 80 bank accounts, the company’s AR processes were highly complex, with only limited forms of automation in place. Different geographies had different procedures which tended to be time-consuming and error-prone.
Since moving to a Shared Service Centre model and implementing Rimilia, Brambles’ company-wide auto-match rates (how we match customer payments to invoices automatically) rose from 38% to over 80% and as high as 92% in the US. They’ve also:
- Enabled employees to focus on customer-valued work
- Reduced operational costs
- Improved visibility of cash flow globally
- Standardised Brambles’ cash allocation process
Intelligent automation from Rimilia was a part of an overall operational improvement strategy. The Brambles team reduced manual effort and gained back loads of time to focus on value-added tasks: calling customers, collecting cash, and helping build the business. It’s freed-up cash flow, improved collections, and reduced capital spending – creating a stronger financial footing for the company’s expansion plans.
Shared Service Centres and AI – it’s a no brainer
Even before the pandemic struck, the world was well along the road to digital transformation. The systemic shocks set off by COVID-19 have accelerated the pace of change, prompting Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to remark that, even back in April, economies had seen “two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months”.
Maybe in the past, digital transformation was something Shared Service Centres could put off ‘til later. Now later has arrived with a vengeance.
More people are suddenly working remotely, collaborating on Slack, meeting on Zoom, and moving manual tasks to digital platforms than ever before. If customers are operating that way, they’ll increasingly want Shared Service Centres to do the same. So the pressure never ends. But with SSCs’ high-level of process refinement and standardisation, lightening the load with a pain-free shift to intelligent automation could be easier than they think.
Want to kick-start your own journey to Intelligent Automation? Download our ‘No-brainer guide’ today.