Originally appeared in Payments Journal

Companies looking for an innovative customer experience (CX) solution may be ditching chat bots soon. New Zealand startup Soul Machines is developing interactive, intuitive AI wrapped in a realistic avatar mimicking authentic human interactions—with an emphasis on B2B application.

Businesses embracing the goal of enhancing the CX, whether through advanced technology or something simpler, are not alone: 66% of financial leaders say improving the customer experience is their company’s top objective, according to “The Future of Finance: 360-Degree Cash Flow Visibility and Control,” a Forrester Consulting study commissioned by Corcentric.

Surprisingly, it is a priority that ranks higher than reducing costs (57%), increasing profitability (53%), and improving the employee experience (43%).

Even if a company is not looking to go as far as incorporating Hollywood-like CGI, budgets are still tight across industries. So where is the money going to come from to drive changes like this? Other findings from the study indicate that the ability to unlock funding already exists within the Office of the CFO.

Uncovering a shocking discovery

Despite developing strategic goals, most businesses may be unprepared to fund them adequately. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of financial leaders say the COVID-19 pandemic opened their eyes to the need for optimized cash flows to access money to fund business goals. And 64% said that achieving business priorities is predicated on digitizing and automating financial processes.

However, the vast majority (95%) of companies lack a solution and/or service partner for enabling holistic cash forecasting. About as many (90%) also do not have automated accounts receivable (AR) and accounts payable (AP) functions. Instead, siloed, manual processes impede progress, as does a lack of internal talent and the bandwidth to understand how to do it all well.

Businesses typically have underinvested in financial technology supporting the Office of the CFO, which has been viewed as a “back office” function. This lack of support, which has resulted in an expectation to continue doing more despite having fewer resources at hand, has created a situation that finance leaders must confront and take action on.

What works now may not be best

Most financial leaders recognize the need for process and technology improvements. Almost three-quarters (71%) say optimizing cash flows to uncover funding for key initiatives is the most important financial-related action to achieve their companies’ top business priorities. About the same (73%) believe enabling holistic cash forecasting would be valuable or extremely valuable to their organizations.

For those organizations struggling to understand the real-world business value of such an investment, financial leaders should consider demonstrating how the benefits of financial process transformation extend past enhancing cash management to improving risk management, fraud management, and financial planning.

The top cash flow optimization benefits to promote include smarter decision-making, improved payment user experience, and increased business agility. Conversely, businesses lacking cash flow optimization may see an increased risk of fraud, struggle to pivot quickly to disruption, and overlook funding they can uncover and use to support the initiatives stakeholders care most about.

Embracing technology and digital transformation has the strong potential to yield growth and agility; however, failure to incorporate these can slow progress against the initiatives about which executives care most.

Aligning on the right solution

How can businesses implement a solution without hoisting an even greater load on financial leaders’ shoulders? After all, CFOs balance multiple responsibilities every day, including duties found outside the typical financial purview, such as those of Chief Operating Officer.

For many companies, the right technology partner can help drive a successful and complete transformation. Because of problems related to people and processes, businesses claim to lack the resources and expertise for automating AR and AP processes. As a result, most (85%) are engaging or plan to engage a managed service partner to fill existing talent gaps and leverage best practices.

Financial leaders agree that the best managed service partner is a triple threat. They are flexible. They have industry expertise. And they understand businesses’ unique requirements, processes, and cultures, as well as how to overcome any technology challenges.

Forging the path ahead

Innovative technologies offer many exciting possibilities, but unless financial leaders can identify funding, these aspirations will likely fall short. Fortunately, the solution is already available in the hands of the Office of the CFO.

At Corcentric, we stand ready to help.  To learn how we can help, contact Corcentric today.