Today’s Business Reality:
In today’s rough and tumble business environment the need for expense management, working capital and liquidity are key CEO and CFO concerns. Gone are the days of ready access to financing and smooth collection of accounts receivables. Timely management information must be available showing how the business is doing and where the opportunities for improvement are. More than ever companies must increase the productivity of limited order to cash management and staff. All this must be delivered with maximum customer service and satisfaction.
Companies must be able to extend credit intelligently, generate accurate and timely invoices, and quickly identify and correct customer disputes. Management needs to track performance metrics, trends and customer issues. Companies that do these things well are in a position to shorten their overall cash conversion cycle, reduce the need for borrowing and bring a company the liquidity it needs to survive and thrive.
There are many cost effective automation solutions in the marketplace focused on these issues. Many of these are cloud based. This simplifies implementation and few internal IT resources are needed. Even though the costs are relatively low, the functionality is amazing. Credit and other financial managers will find that the first hurdle is to convince management the suggested solution meets the acid test. They have to answer the question, “Show me the Return on Investment” (ROI).
Where to Start
The first step for a credit manager is to determine when volumes and performance challenges justify automation and the expense of a solution. The solution could be developed internally or acquired from a third party provider. The cost and likelihood of success with an internal option really depends on the resources available in the company.
Following are ten things to consider that fit any automation initiative. The following is not intended to be a complete list. It covers the key points you may include in a recommendation to senior management.
How would you answer the following question: What are the Compelling Needs for Automation?
In order to convince management to invest in any automation you must demonstrate the need in clear, real world and understandable terms. Here are ten things to consider:
- Is excessive overtime a routine in the department? Are you using temps to supplement permanent staff?
- If you benchmark Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) transaction volume is yours is low by comparison?
- Is your company growing, merging or acquiring but you are not able to hire additional staff for your department?
- Is Sales continually upset that credit reviews take too long? Is business lost as a result?
- Are collection results below expectations?
- Is your department stuck in a morass of unworked deductions?
- Are invoices often inaccurate or go out late?
- Are Sales and Customers impacted by order hold and release delays?
- Is management unsatisfied with performance measurements, reporting and the ability to status Customer balances?
- Is it impossible to accurately forecast cash flow?
As you can see if any or all of these factors are in play you will get the attention of your management with opportunities for significant improvements.
Where is the Money!
Soft savings such as process efficiency or improved customer service can help justify expenditures for automation. Actual hard cost savings will enable you to calculate the “ROI” and how long it will take to get there.
You should consider such things as:
- An increase in transactions per FTE will reduce the need for overtime, temps or permanent staff.
- Based on forecasted company and transaction growth automation will reduce the need to add staff.
- Automation of the credit approval and review process will speed decisions, avoid lost business and could reduce past dues and write-offs.
- Increased collection efficiency will bring in cash earlier, reducing borrowing costs, enabling the company to take all Accounts Payable discounts, provide working capital to invest in profitable opportunities.
- Timely or self-service invoicing will reduce invoicing delays, identify errors earlier and optimize the payment cycle.
- Cash administration/application improvements will identify customer payments earlier, avoiding unnecessary collection expense and speeding up the order hold release process, improving revenue and profits.
This is just a surface view of what it takes to convince management an automation initiative should be approved. Each of these points and more will be discussed in-depth at the upcoming CreditScape Summit and Annual meeting in Newport Beach, CA on March 24-25 2016. Come to CreditScape, learn from experts and peers who have done this, share you own experiences with others. For more information, visit www.CreditScapeConference.com.
Robert S. Shultz is a Partner at Quote to Cash Solutions (Q2C) LLC. He will also be moderating several of the panel discussions and workshops at CreditScape.
Read the other posts in this series here:
- How to Know That Your Credit Department Processes Are Efficient
- Justifying Credit and Collections Automation to Your Management, by Robert S. Shultz
- So Your Software or Automation Initiative Has Been Approved, What Do I Do Now?, by Robert S. Shultz
- Why is it So Difficult to Implement New Technology Solutions in the Credit Department, by Michelle Herman
- Easy-to-Implement Technology That Can Make a Credit Manager’s Job Easier, by Michelle Herman