Let’s do a little experiment. Type the term “digital transformation” into Google’s search box and you will get about 531 million results. Try the same search on Amazon, and it will offer you more than 7,000 books on the topic. And there are good reasons this term has become such a household expression. It represents a fundamental shift to digitize a company’s business processes, its culture and the customer experiences, making data or bits a valuable input and output. It’s not a passing tech-driven fad, but a key driver how even small and medium-size businesses will be able to stay competitive. If, and that is the big if, they decide to get on this wave and ride it.
Done right, digital transformation enables all employees, from top managers down to factory workers, field workers and clerks, to more easily gather, share and analyze data in order to service more customers better and have the relevant information at their fingertips to keep learning from each transaction and making better decisions. It also means your customers suddenly have new ways to consume products or services and have the option to engage in an ongoing dialogue with their vendors.
Under the hood, digital transformation allows companies to automate many processes and often run them virtually hands-free. Tasks that were previously time-consuming and tedious are now handled by intelligent software tools that are, to varying degrees, context-aware. Why not have a chatbot start off a conversation with a supplier or handle an incoming customer query, point them to existing answers to their questions and only escalate those contacts that require a human touch?
The promise of this sweeping and lasting change has not been lost on most companies. In survey after survey by various consultancies and big tech companies that offer advice and the tools to transform a business, companies say they’re getting on board. When market research firm Gartner in 2019 asked almost 500 CEOs and senior executives in its annual survey, 82% said “they had a management initiative or transformation program underway to make their companies more digital — up from 62% in 2018.”
Like getting on a fresh wave and riding it, starting with digital transformation early can over time give you speed and lead to significant benefits, even if it’s only with some well-defined pilots in a department like finance. Companies that have begun to automate or digitize their Accounts Payable process report a significant effect, not only on the bottom line. An AP Automation platform like Yooz is a cost-effective way to quickly and painlessly shift the AP function into the cloud. As a result, you can reduce cycle times, avoid late fees and lock in discounts. AP Automation also makes handling invoices and purchase orders more accurate. Searching a digital haystack, for example, requires one click and takes seconds.
As soon as software equipped with machine-learning algorithms can read and understand invoices, AP staff have their hands free to focus on the real value-add tasks such as dealing with exceptions. Even better, platforms like Yooz get better over time at recognizing particular documents and how their data should be handled -- creating even more opportunities for employees to do the things that humans are truly good at, for instance nurturing your company’s relationships with suppliers, partners or franchisees. Once a business partner has discovered the power and ease of use of a state-of-the art vendor portal to submit invoices, receive electronic payments and get most of their questions answered, they will never want to go back to faxing or stuffing envelopes.
Finally, going digital is only growing in popularity as more and more companies prepare for a post-COVID19 world in which a fair amount of their staff will work remotely. They will need to access data and documents wherever they are, connecting the dots with colleagues who are no longer down the hall. In some cases, that might mean approving an invoice on a tablet from your kitchen counter.
And this is probably the most important thing about bringing digital transformation into the AP process. There is no turning back. Cloud-based systems have already proven their value. They make everyone’s job easier, they save time and money, and they continuously improve. From that perspective, digital transformation goes beyond harnessing bits and bank accounts. It’s ushering in a lasting change in work and company culture as well, giving us more flexibility and a flavor of what it’s like to experiment with powerful tools.
So get ready to ride that exciting wave!