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To Drive Modernization, CFOs Embrace Role Of Chief Collaborator

At the onset of the coronavirus crisis, technology-focused businesses often fared better than peers less advanced in their own digitization efforts. Organizations that embraced migration to the cloud and prioritized interconnected back office systems found themselves in a more favorable position to weather the disruption of work-from-home requirements.

But the enterprise digitization journey is a marathon, not a sprint, and is indeed an evolution that never truly ends. There is always room for improvement, noted Jason Wood, chief financial officer of eFileCabinet.

In this week’s Voice Of The CFO report, Wood acknowledged his position within a digital enterprise that had been set up to continue operating smoothly as professionals worked from home. But there are certain areas of operations that can still make progress on the digitization front. As he told PYMNTS, moving the modernization needle requires an emphasis on collaboration, both with external partners and across internal departments and the technologies they use to keep business moving.

Payments’ Digital Migration

As a digital native company, Wood said eFileCabinet had already adopted electronic payment practices within its own accounts payable department well before the pandemic hit. Yet one of the biggest hurdles to modernization is the fact that, no matter how advanced a business is in its own digitization journey, a company’s external partners may not be on the same page.

B2B payments are a prime example of this dynamic. In eFileCabinet’s case, said Wood, some of its vendors actually prefer to be paid via check — or in the least, cannot accept card payments.

“You prefer to pay as many people as you can with your card program because you get rebates,” he explained.

A key component of eFileCabinet’s payments digitization strategy is to collaborate with its bank partners, with Wood highlighting Chase Bank’s Chase Cashflow360 offering that allows the company to streamline supplier payments based on the methods that a vendor can accept and prefers.

On the accounts receivable side, a similar issue arises in which some clients of the company continue to pay via paper check. It’s forced some team members to occasionally step into the office to collect checks from the lockbox and scan them into their system for deposit, and has recently become the focus of payment modernization efforts.

Once again, collaboration with external partners is a vital component of shifting away from paper checks.

“The more that we can route people to paying through ACH, the better,” Wood said, noting that while the company prefers to pay via card, it also prefers to receive payment via ACH to avoid the cost of card acceptance. “This can be a hard thing to do when you have a lot of customers. It takes a lot of communication, and you have to first systematically set it up so you’re prepared to take ACH.”

Working with its customer base to support their own migration away from checks and toward ACH is vital to a successful payments digitization effort, he added.

Prioritizing Integration

Beyond payments, there are plenty of other opportunities within back office workflows to drive deeper digitization. Wood said the company has already embraced FinTech platforms like NetSuite and Salesforce, but as it makes further progress toward automation, he’ll be prioritizing the ability of technology to not just digitize solutions, but integrate with others.

Take, for example, the order-to-cash cycle, a process that Wood said was “extremely manual” within the company before he stepped into the role of CFO back in November. The company has an array of solutions that surround the Salesforce customer relationship management portal, including technologies for quotes and billing. But in order to automate and streamline the entire order-to-cash cycle, everything from order processing to invoice scheduling must be integrated and connected.

“We’re still heavily in that process right now,” he explained, noting that the ability for FinTech solutions to integrate with the company’s existing tools is paramount when deciding which solutions to adopt, and which not to. “When we look at a solution, if there’s not already a slick integration into Netsuite and Salesforce, then it’s not going to be a solution that will work for us — regardless of functionality and cost.”

Prioritizing the ability for a variety of platforms to work together within the back office reflects a broader emphasis on collaboration within the enterprise.

The need for all points of the order-to-cash cycle to connect seamlessly, for instance, signals the need for multiple departments to work together on a single workflow, from the sales team to the accounts receivable department. As such, the role of the CFO is to facilitate those connections, according to Wood, in order to ensure that all team members — not just finance professionals — can complete their jobs as efficiently and effectively as possible.

“CFOs need to make sure they have data that has meaning tied to the company’s goals and objectives, and it needs to be as cleanly accessible as can be,” Wood said. “They can’t do that unless you’re managing systems and tools correctly from a company-wide perspective.”

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NEW PYMNTS DATA: BUY NOW, PAY LATER CONSUMER STUDY 

About: Buy Now, Pay Later: Millennials And The Shifting Dynamics Of Online Credit, a PYMNTS and PayPal collaboration, examines the demand for new flexible credit options as well as how consumers, especially those in the millennial demographic, are paying online. The study is based on two surveys, totaling nearly 15,000 U.S. consumers.

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