As finance executives and accounts receivable (A/R) managers finalize their 2021 plans, it’s helpful to review 2020 goals and challenges. In April, MSTS surveyed 300 U.S.-based B2B corporate finance professionals responsible for managing one or more facets of A/R operations. Our respondents generously shared their input on A/R goals, problems and digital transformation progress during the height of the pandemic’s initial surge. These insights remain relevant today, in the face of fresh uncertainties, and they should help finance and A/R leaders recalibrate their 2021 goals as needed moving forward.
Top 2020 financial department goals:
- Establish a better credit and underwriting process (selected by 46% of respondents);
- Improve working capital management (40%);
- Increase cash flow (39%);
- Reduce manual processes (32%);
- Accelerate customer onboarding (31%); and
- Reduce fraud (31%).
A/R teams have a prime opportunity to drive the achievement of those objectives — namely, by performing credit checks more efficiently, accelerating customer onboarding processes, reducing time-to-sale, more effectively managing disputes and keeping pace with collections. To execute these improvements, though, many A/R groups will need to increase their use of automation.
Reducing Manual A/R Processes
An overreliance on manual, paper-based processes marks a significant A/R obstacle: 37% of respondents report that their current technology tools are preventing them from achieving their goals; and 27% of respondents indicate their team is stretched too thin by current processes and tasks.
As finance and A/R leaders strive to identify and address manual processes that pose the greatest risks to capital and the customer experience, they should consider the biggest pain points survey respondents identified:
- Underwriting and extending credit;
- Payment application;
- Billing errors; and
- Collections/late payments .
Although manual processes are not the only source of invoicing and billing errors that result in late and/or delayed payments, they are a major driver of those breakdowns. I take a closer look at three negative impacts of manual A/R processes in my next blog, “How Manual A/R Processes Hinder Working Capital, Human Capital and CX.”