If all goes well, this article will soon seem like a relic from a past era. COVID-19 cases are falling, vaccines are being delivered by the hundreds of thousands every day, and the era of mandatory home offices might be coming to a close.
The development of true business future-proofing—both economic and for each of our organizations—will take longer. We’ve been so focused on survival in the here and now that long-term thinking has been tough for all but the most future-focused among us. With the simple luxury of a little less stress and a little bit of a return to normal, though, the time is ripe to tackle that planning.
Getting there means businesses will need to focus on resilience in 2021, full stop. But how do you build that resilience while your organization is getting back on its feet?
Building resilience throughout your finance teams
You’ve taken the steps to ensure your AP operations are running more smoothly than before, automating what you can and ensuring everyone has VPN access and the right setup for Zoom calls. Maybe you’ve even taken the time to get your business continuity plans updated. What’s next?
Digitize and streamline ruthlessly
Digital transformation isn’t a buzzword, even if you’ve heard it so often it starts to seem like one. Breaking down every step of your invoice to payment processes and figuring out what it will take to make them digital, secure, and streamlined can save untold amounts of time and money. Businesses looking to ensure they’re ready for whatever 2025 and 2030 throw at them can’t really wait around before doing so.
Accelerate automation efforts
Going beyond digitizing invoices and payments and into full-blown automation leads to further opportunities to maximize the return on the investment your organization is making into accounts payable and accounts receivable. The more approvals resemble an assembly line and require less tactical work, the better off you’ll be.
Invest in an agile workforce
Digitizing and automating doesn’t meaning laying off employees. It means using some of the savings you’re realizing from doing those things and investing in your people, teaching them to think about the big picture, how to better tackle strategic initiatives, and work from anywhere in a diverse set of circumstances and systems. You’ll create value by saving money, but great employees who can think and act in a visionary way to ferret out further cost-savings and smart business opportunities create even more value.
Prioritize cash management strategies
Cash is the lifeline of any organization, and your AP team is responsible for outflow while your AR team is responsible for intake. That means both of those teams are powerful players in the organization. Limiting fraud risk for both of those teams by securing and automating both paying and getting paid helps, but stepping back and better understanding how you’re moving and retaining cash via enhanced data and analytics is absolutely vital.
Your vendors aren’t just businesses you pay, procurement is not a necessary evil to work around, and your CFO isn’t just someone you want to tiptoe around. Smart AP and AR teams will forge great relationships with all of these parties to reduce inquiries that are time-consuming and often infuriating, helping to pave the way to smoother operations. If you’re taking the time to digitize, automate, and educate your teams, let these parties know all about it and how they can plug in to realize their own efficiency gains. You build stronger relationships and better appreciation for what you do that way, and both selfishly and unselfishly, that’s great.
I fully recognize these steps are a journey. One that you may not complete in 2021 as we all struggle to re-adjust to life in an office and pushing forward the day-to-day priorities of the business. Going from a finance function capable of continuing operations in a tough environment to one resilient enough to thrive despite the inevitable twists and turns ahead is a road well worth walking.
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