Marieke Saeij, Discusses Intelligent Automation for Finance

By Marieke Saeij, CEO, Visma | Onguard
Marieke Saeij, discusses why intelligent automation is a must-have in a future-proof financial policy

Intelligent Automation (IA) takes financial process automation to the next level. It not only tackles relatively simple and routine processes with ease, but also those that until now seemed too complicated and unpredictable to be automated, and it’s here where organisations can benefit from increased efficiency and a reduction in costs. 

Crucially, while this innovation allows finance professionals to focus on providing personalised services to their customers, understanding of the technology is still relatively low among financial professionals. Visma | Onguard’s annual Fintech Barometer reveals that only half of finance professionals surveyed have heard of IA and are aware of what it entails. Despite this need for clarity, almost all respondents (94%) stated they are planning to implement this technology within their organisations in the coming years.

Extending automation capabilities with Intelligent Automation

For the half of finance professionals not clear on how IA can assist in their organisation, it’s important to analyse its core features and explore why it's indispensable in future-proofing business operations. A key aspect is that automation is not just about improving the processes behind relatively simple tasks, such as sending invoices, but also about being able to independently assess situations and determine how a process will play out. The financial processes within the order-to-cash workflow that are chosen for automation will determine which technologies are needed for effective implementation of IA, as this varies between different use cases. Integration will often include big data, but artificial intelligence or RPA can also play a key role. 

For example, IA can be used to determine the likelihood of whether a customer will pay an outstanding invoice. Based on this insight, the financial department can adjust the tone of communication to suit the unique circumstances of that particular account, while also enabling finance professionals to plan for an impending collection or prevent it if needed. 

Another revenue-generating avenue in the order-to-cash process is in payment processing, especially in the context of a large existing bookkeeping operation. IA can analyse all incoming payments and match them with outstanding invoices, meaning that only a small number of exceptions may still have to be checked manually, and IA can even give suggestions for these. Take for example an account where the amount is very similar to an outstanding invoice, or a parent company is making payment in place of the intended customer. In both cases, IA helps with faster processing and efficiency gains within the finance department.  

The three top benefits of Intelligent Automation

It’s certainly clear that IA can facilitate a substantial increase in workplace efficiency within a finance department. Processes run faster and demand less from finance professionals, which has a positive knock-on effect on the wider organisation's results and objectives as a whole. The advantages also extend further, with:

1. Greater investment in the customer relationship

By applying IA, finance professionals spend less time on tasks that were previously too complex for technology to handle. This leaves them more time for what is arguably the most important aspect of their role: the customer relationship and delivery of personalised services. With more time available to understand and comprehend customer requirements, finance professionals are better placed to meet them. An example could be understanding how a customer prefers to pay, how they like to communicate with the business and acknowledging the detail around any payment issues or delays. Anticipating this makes it easier to deliver and maintain customer satisfaction, increasing the potential for continued loyalty and consistent payments. 

2. Guaranteed high-quality

Despite technological advancements, humans continue to play a crucial role in the finance department. But, mistakes can happen, and IA provides a safety net to catch errors. Using rich and complex data sets, finance teams can determine which output is required and which work process needs to be adjusted, with the software doing the work. It then learns from each process and makes improvements, helping to reduce the incidence of future errors. The result for customers is a higher-quality and better value-for-money experience, all thanks to the fact that finance professionals have more time to focus on meeting their individual needs. 

3. Software-driven insights 

IA can provide detailed analyses by looking for connections between datasets, providing insights to further drive business efficiency and future-proof operations.

Ultimately, IA helps financial departments to truly empower their employees. It takes the heavy lifting away from finance professionals and provides them the time and resources to prioritise the customer relationship. Doing so will not only result in satisfied customers, but also help to reduce costs and provide a clear overview of the order-to-cash process. For organisations that have yet to do so, it’s time to jump on the IA bandwagon and reap the benefits.


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