If a consulting firm ran a strategic planning exercise, they might present participants with the following conditions at the outset: One camp of companies has explored and invested in new, cutting-edge technologies to digitize and digitalize (not the same, but more on that shortly) most of their processes and their business models. Camp two has only haphazardly tackled the subject of digitization because they're waiting to see what competitors do and trying to avoid stirring anxiety among the employees with an overwhelming amount of new tech. Every time a pilot is launched, they keep asking: “What is digital transformation, and what does it mean for our corporation?”
Now, consider holding that guessing game today, and the organizers would throw in a global health crisis with deep and dark consequences for the global economy, with businesses shuttered for months, supply chains disrupted, cash- and contactless payments on the rise, and the general realization dawning on people that the way we’ve done things may change for good. In short, digital transformation is a highly volatile brew worth thinking about.
Digital transformation is much more than just going paperless
Digital transformation was previously considered a fundamental change to how business is conducted, and businesses are organized and run. One, companies ought to digitize their act, meaning they would turn their formerly paper-based operations into a stream of bits, or 1s and 0s. That will save them time and money. Two, and that’s even more important, digitalizing your operations and business model means completely rethinking and often re-inventing the core of the enterprise's development.
A company that can attract and engage customers through online or mobile channels, that can cut down on client churn and better manage relationships with suppliers electronically, profoundly changes its practices and its culture in ways that go beyond just going paperless. That’s even more relevant when their economy is in turmoil.
New rules for navigating through the Digital Age in a post-COVID world
Julie Sweet, CEO of consulting firm Accenture, argued in Fortune recently that COVID-19 has given the game of digital transformation five new rules: “For most companies, the ‘brutal facts’ will reveal that they are even further behind on their digital journey than they realized and that the bar has been raised. To leapfrog the competition, CEOs need to rethink transformation and follow a new set of rules.
Here they are: “Fast-forward to the cloud. Build your digital “A-Team.” Be a learner. Move at ‘lean’ speed. Act with purpose.” And her advice is just one of many, many more that all argue the same. A crisis is a chance to transform their strategy and embrace digital transformation. It's clear that the time to start is now.
The finance function and the accounts payable team are a good case in point what potentially lies in this holistic and thoughtful approach to digital transformation. Until recently, not much progress had been made to rethink one of the oldest jobs in the world: paying the guy who delivers something to your shop.
Enter the cloud and AP automation platforms such as Yooz that offer powerful features such as keyword searches across your entire accounts payable system and machine learning that becomes smarter with every billing cycle. Today, a company’s CFO or finance leader is in a particularly good position to leverage digital technology for broader change within the organization and its service.
Why AP Automation is a key piece of today's digital evolution
Replacing piles of invoices and purchase orders with a portal for vendors to electronically submit their documents and letting AI crunch the numbers on the backend is more than just bits winning over atoms. Taking advantage of this type of technology almost instantly streamlines the entire purchase-to-payment (P2P) workflow beyond AP automation:
- It saves significant amounts of time and money
- It feeds valuable insights to the entire company about cash flow and cash management
- It provides actionable intelligence about the overall health of your supply chain
- It becomes the driver for cultural change, encouraging employees and entire teams to try out experiments that benefit them and the organization as a whole.
And, finally, in times like these when uncertainty looms big, digital transformation can be a catalyst to become leaner and focus on the things that add value and make a business more resilient. It starts with small steps like being able to process invoices and initiate payments even when no one’s at the regular office and instead review and approve new documents on a mobile device from anywhere. And it goes all the way to finally convincing top executives that the AP function has immense strategic value that marketing, HR and other departments can profit from too.
Who knows, the secret of digital transformation may become apparent to everyone in your company the day you no longer handle paper invoices or limited to completing accounts payable tasks from your office chair. Dare to be in camp one and be a change leader who is proactive rather than reactive to the effects of technology.