The finance function has undergone a revolution in recent years, driven by changes in what customers and internal business users need. No longer just the holders of the purse strings, finance professionals have now become true business partners for stakeholders across their organisations – as well as playing a vital role in customer relationships.

As the finance team forges new relationships, and adapts its way of working, it must also redefine the tools that it uses to achieve its goals. The CFO needs to ensure that new levels of insight are derived from financial data – and that optimal efficiency is achieved in essential tasks, not least the order-to-cash (O2C) process. This is where fintech partners can help.

“In the finance function, there is more focus on increasing the efficiency of staff, which means automating repetitive processes so that people can focus on higher-value tasks, whether that means building customer relationships or collecting from higher-value customers,” says Natalie Fedie, VP of customer success at HighRadius.

A software-as-a-service (SaaS) company with an impressive growth trajectory, HighRadius specialises in automating the O2C process with its integrated receivables platform. The cloud-based solution enables businesses to reduce cycle times through the automation of receivables and payments processes across credit, electronic billing and payment processing, cash application, deductions and collections.

In short: HighRadius’s goal is to help companies put their order-to-cash process on autopilot and make the most of innovative, new technologies.

Flying high on innovation

Fedie is responsible for helping customers maximise their return on investment in HighRadius software, and for ensuring that the company and its technology stay one step ahead of customer needs. HighRadius achieves this by leveraging the deep understanding of the finance function that led the mastermind behind the business – president and CEO Sashi Narahari – to start the company ten years ago.

“Back then, we had a bolt-on accounts receivable solution, but it quickly moved to the cloud in the mid-2000s to eliminate the expense of maintaining a technology solution,” Fedie notes. “Since then, we have added to it to create a smart solution that uses AI in a way that makes a real difference. Now, we have a cloud-based solution that helps unlock the power of people in the finance function through the application of smart, AI-enabled treasury management applications.”

HighRadius provides the only end-to-end accounts receivable software platform for lowering day sales outstanding (DSO) and bad debt, automating cash posting, speeding up collections and dispute resolution, as well as improving team productivity.

The platform uses Rivana Artificial Intelligence for accounts receivable to convert receivables faster and more effectively; using machine learning to predict future outcomes and automate labour-intensive tasks.

The AI component is particularly powerful in helping companies increase efficiency in O2C and treasury systems, by gaining valuable insight from the data a company has in its existing systems. It can, for example, look at key value metrics such as DSO, and analyse the activities that contribute to it. It can then focus on the productivity of collections analysts to highlight ways in which they can improve their overall performance.

Furthermore, it can help the team verify transactions and reach out to customers. Its purpose is to generate meaningful insight into how agents can recoup money quicker, but the first step in the process is ensuring that the AI engine has the right data on which to work.

“We identify the data and where it is within the company, then we help to bring all of that data into one place,” Fedie explains. “This is especially important if a company does not have shared services or a single ERP system.”

The comprehensive approach to data management, AI-enabled analysis and workflow is a result of the core values that HighRadius put in place from the outset. Its focus is firmly on delivering efficiency and productivity enhancements, regardless of what ERP, accounts receivable or treasury management system a client has in place.

From this fundamental desire to help clients of all kinds achieve stellar efficiency gains, workflow improvements and – ultimately, better revenue streams – stems a passion for innovation. Hence the company’s step into the new field of autonomous receivables, which harnesses the synergies between human decision-making on the one hand, and AI-enabled data analysis and workflow management on the other.

The AI-powered Freeda Digital Assistant is a key component in autonomous receivables, which brings together all the functions that are required to optimise the O2C process, enabling an agent to immediately access a prioritised workflow, view call dashboards, examine key data on outstanding payments and, through voice commands, call customers to talk about outstanding bills.

‘It is like a self-driving car for accounts receivable,” Fedie explains. “You sit down and talk to the system and the computer does all of the admin work.”

After a call, the system will capture key action items from the conversation, find the relevant invoices and prepare emails to follow up with the client. It prioritises the day’s workload, analyses the outcome of each call and greatly improves visibility across every customer interaction.

“The future is not machines instead of humans,” says Fedie. “The future is humans and machines working together.”

A solution for our times

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the finance function’s journey towards digitalisation – and its switch to a business partnering role have been greatly accelerated. Such turbulent times have highlighted the need for companies of all sizes to focus more intensely on managing their cash.

A solution like the HighRadius integrated receivables platform presents an opportunity for businesses to quickly take control by automating the whole O2C workflow from onboarding and cash application to cash management as well as working capital forecasting.

“No one was ready for the pandemic, and no one could have foreseen it, or the accelerated need for working capital,” says Fedie. “Now, there is more pressure than ever on the CFO to access working capital and AR is often overlooked in that. There is a growing need for real-time importing of AR data, so that senior executives can see where revenue is outstanding and bills can be collected.”

The pandemic has driven companies to place greater emphasis on collections and, beyond that, the need to understand not only the probability that a client will be delinquent on a bill – but also the resulting impact on sales.

Businesses looking to improve the O2C process do, of course, have choices. HighRadius is not the only solution provider in the market. It does, however, have a proven track record in helping clients achieve peak financial performance. Its products are particularly relevant to industries such as consumer products, manufacturing, distribution and energy. But it can deliver impressive results for any business that sells various products or provides a service to other companies.

One key reason for the firm’s success is its ability to marry unrivalled technical know-how with subject matter expertise on the business side. It is that combination that has helped it to deliver its solutions to some of the most successful and disruptive businesses in the world. Uber is just one example.

“We have some great early adopters, and we are pushing hard to get results,” says Fedie. “Our own transformation and growth are incredibly fast, and we are hoping to share that with our customers. There are some great leaders out there willing to take risks to automate entire processes, to be agile and to build change. Those kinds of partnerships have driven our growth, which allows us to focus on making our customers great.”

“It is like a self-driving car for accounts receivable. You sit down and talk to the system and the computer does all of the admin work.”

“What’s clear is that every company has a different approach,” Fedie emphasises. “Some strive to be the best and use the newest solution, so they implement our AI functionality and the autonomous capability. Other companies want to move at a slower pace. They just want to take the first step and see where it might lead them further down the line. They might automate a high-volume transaction or a stand-alone process to begin with.”

At every stage of the journey, Fedie and her team are there to help guide each customer with a comprehensive post-implementation programme that enables clients to take the next step at their own pace. By offering high-quality expertise and support through new and existing services, HighRadius customers have access to tailor-made solutions that improve the value and efficiency of their business, while still maintaining control.

“The savings start on the day they go live with the solution,” she summarises. “We are on a rocketship. As a company, we have grown quickly, and our growth is built on striving to take customer value to the next level.”