The recent pandemic has changed our habits, forcing us to reinvent our social relations and our professional exchanges. In a matter of months, SARS-CoV-2 will have done more in terms of digital transformation, accelerating digitalisation, than many other corporate projects. When contact becomes a problem, digital becomes the solution.
We have witnessed an explosion of working from home and this has brought in more collaborative tools, marking a lasting change in the company organisation. New technology implemented with varying degrees of success, reminding us that digital is not just a very simple transition but a real transformation.
For financial departments, the first requirement is of course to ensure the operational continuity of the company and their own department, starting with their financial visibility and cash flow. But also, by ensuring the continuity of supplier relationships that materialise in the Procure-to-Pay process.
Digitise exchanges, for more resilience
Dependence on paper has left the Procure-to-Pay process particularly vulnerable in this epidemic. Most invoices are in fact still exchanged in paper format (up to 70% according to eBillantis). This quickly becomes a problem in terms of routing and receiving mail, health security when handling documents is not guaranteed and the presence of teams on company premises is compulsory. And when there is always paper circulating to validate and pay invoices, it becomes a impossible nightmare.
Moreover, meeting payment deadlines – and therefore invoice processing – is more critical than ever. Any delay in paying suppliers directly threatens continuity. If these delays are sometimes intentional and reprehensible, some are organisational, any grain of sand in a manual process rendering it inoperative.
In this context, ITESOFT have noticed a change in behaviour on its digitalisation platforms processing several million invoices per month. In certain sectors such as construction, there is a real drop in the volume of invoices, proof of the slowdown in activity. Conversely, other sectors, such as distribution, continue to receive as many or more, with a rapid transition to electronic invoices exchanged by email. One of them, LIDL, for example, saw a 75% increase in the use of this channel, whereas a few weeks ago providers were still struggling to achieve this same level.
ITESOFT quickly responded to this demand by offering free access during the pandemic free to the email flow capture function for all its customers who had not yet opted for this service. There is no doubt that this crisis will only accelerate the adoption of electronic invoicing, email exchanges and supplier portals.
Digitalise processes, for more agility
While capturing digital documents at source to extract data is essential, it is also essential to rely on, or trust processes that are themselves digitalised. In a few days following the crises, finance departments had to redeploy their staff and change their operating methods. For example, ITESOFT’s Support department noted a 30% increase in calls from its customers to set up systems and enable their teams to work remotely!
In this period of social and professional distancing, organisations need more agility, visibility, and traceability than ever. Digitalised processes, transactions by robots, ensuring efficient and scalable workflows… all become essential.
Countering the increased risk of fraud
Fraud is a reality. And we have learned from previous economic crises that it always increases during these difficult times. As Bruce Dorris, President ECA Environmental Consulting Agency, points out, the question is not whether we will see more fraud but how much.
If, as a Euler Hermes DFCG study indicates, false supplier and transfer fraud remain at the top of the risk for finance departments, the phenomenon is only getting stronger in the current context. A pharmaceutical distributor CERP, for example lost 6.6 million euros, after paying a large order for protective masks and hydro alcoholic gels from a non-existing company.
Amplify efforts to digitalise and secure exchanges
The effects of the health crisis are here. Finance departments are responsible for strengthening their digitalisation initiatives to meet the challenges of the crisis we are going through. Digitalise to ensure real business continuity plans, have a clear vision of financial commitments, and reduce operating costs.
The need for change is never as strong as when it comes to adapting to a crisis.