Home Tech Updates Finance has a new foundation to improve internal customer service

Finance has a new foundation to improve internal customer service

by Helen J. Wolf
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As the new fiscal year approaches, finance functions across Australia are gearing up for the next phase of their digital transformation: building on foundations that have served them well in recent years but are now truly focused on sharpening, simplifying, and streamlining the way they do business. To work.

In a recent survey, 75% of finance professionals identified process improvement as their principal focus by 2022, making it the top priority for finance functions.

Many professionals don’t just ‘consider’ technological solutions – such as process automation or AI – to address this; about a third are already experimenting or in pilot mode, and others are even further along. Actual implementations are currently concentrated in process automation rather than in more emerging areas like AI, although we expect this to balance out this year and beyond.

In support of this, research from Gartner shows that finance professionals are “focused on digital initiatives that will lay a critical foundation for an autonomous future.”

In such a future, financial operations would be powered by technologies such as automation and AI that reduce “the need for human intervention” to run financial processes, the analyst firm said.

Finance has a new foundation to improve internal customer service

Unstructured processes (still) break the finances.

Finance probably already has good core applications or systems that allow them to work seamlessly and as intended.

It is only when other enterprise service teams and back office functions need to contact the finance team that problems usually arise.

In many smaller and medium-sized organizations, the finance function coordinates requests for help through a shared mailbox accessible to one or more employees who read and respond to or triage all emails received.

Finance may process emails about expense reports submitted by an individual employee, request a copy of a standard form to register a new supplier in the financial system for billing purposes, or request assistance from sales to resolve an issue that occurred on a customer’s account.

There is a constant flow of this type of communication and request between finance and other corporate services teams such as sales, human resources, facilities, and other internal functions.

The inbox fills up quickly. As a result, finance staff can pick up repetitive requests — PDF forms attached to emails — leaving them less time to focus on more value-added activities or respond to more difficult requests.

In addition, it is unlikely that the person or people checking a shared email inbox are best placed to respond to all messages. They may need to forward a request to another team, such as creditors, to ask questions or find a solution.

At that point, the communication process becomes unstructured. There is no way to track the progress of their request and report back to the person who requested the information. And unless the people guarding the inbox stay on top of this manual tracking, requests will easily slip through the cracks — until the original requester chases it.

It’s easy to see how running funding requests through a shared inbox without much structure can lead to a process breakdown.

The star of automation is rising.

Many finance functions want a more effective channel between teams to communicate requests better and get faster responses.

Such channels can use more structured approaches, such as enterprise service management (ESM), which uses automation and artificial intelligence to enable requesting functions to self-serve their easiest questions and track how more difficult questions are resolved.

Low complexity, highly repetitive requests, such as for a standard new vendor onboarding form, can be recognized and ‘read’ by the AI. The AI ​​can then automatically respond with a link to download the form or have the form attached to an email.

Where a request needs to be assigned to someone else, an ESM tool can track who the request was sent to or who it was with.

Financial officers must also associate service levels with requests in this part of the system. A reminder will be sent automatically if a forwarded request is unanswered for 24 hours. Likewise, the person who originally submitted the appeal should be able to see where it is, and it’s status at any time without tracking it down.

It should also be added that what is good for finance is good for other ‘back-office business functions. The best practice model would be to have all internal operations run the same ESM portal to log assistance requests and manage the flow of communication to and from other parts of the organization and themselves. Such a model promises to break down internal silos, allowing departments to work better together and boosting productivity and efficiency.

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