From XU Magazine, 
Issue 30

Fundamentals for business finance success in 2022

An updated guide to the future of finance and automation

Zahara recommends keeping up to date with digital innovations and shifts in the workplace to ensure a thriving finance team in your business this year.

Zahara recommends keeping up to date with digital innovations and shifts in the workplace to ensure a thriving finance team in your business this year. 

Automation

Finance teams are continuing their digital transformation from manual paper processes to accounts payable automation. Many businesses are still processing invoices by chasing paper or using outdated spreadsheets. In 2022, this just doesn’t cut it anymore and doesn’t provide the speed and accuracy that can be found with automation solutions. Automation starts with optical character recognition (OCR) to scan invoices into a format ready to be automatically routed for approval, without the finance team needing to lift a finger. However, new technology and intelligence can reach far beyond that.

A key to business success in 2022 is to adopt an invoice processing system where invoices filter their way through workflows based on meeting certain conditions. Zahara’s intelligent invoice processing identifies suppliers, line items and other details which are matched to corresponding purchase orders. Invoices glide through your customised workflows, are exported to accounts and securely filed away. Streamlining processes in this way is at the forefront of innovation in financial technology. It is ludicrous to still receive unexpected invoices after uncontrolled spend. Businesses in 2022 should have a firm grip on reducing any spend waste and adopting an automation system will prevent any unapproved spend or surprise invoices.  

Neobanks

Traditional banks are currently being challenged by neobanks, which are completely online-only services. Rapidly- growing neobanks such as Monzo are offering innovative solutions and additional services to customers, and often value high quality customer service. Helping your customers by supporting these banks may help to streamline transactions. Neobanks cater for small businesses and startups, creating financial tools to assist with business growth. Digital banking services are expected to grow in 2022, so have a look at what they can offer your business.

Human to AI balance

With Artificial Intelligence (AI) continually improving and being adopted by more businesses, being successful depends on knowing how to balance between real people and robots. In various industries some forms of AI are becoming an industry standard, such as automated chatbots that direct customers to the right solutions on ecommerce websites. There are huge benefits to adopting this technology as it can speed up your businesses’ lengthy manual processes and improve the overall customer experience. However, consider when it is right to remain more personable to avoid becoming too cold and inauthentic.  

Self billing

The tried and tested method for billing is for the supplier to send their invoice to their customer and hope the customer receives it, processes it and pays it. This method is used world-wide and has been very successful. But technology has changed and the way we work has changed. The demise of paper invoices, posted by snail mail was accelerated when we all had to work from home.

There may be a better way to get paid. SoHo House is an exclusive private members club with outlets all over the world. They have a world-wide supplier base including many self-employed designers and entertainers. Self-billing has allowed them to login and create their bills by keying in their hours and rates. Behind the scenes an approval process workflow no-doubt kicks off but at least the supplier knows their bill has been received.

This type of billing is perfect for smaller companies and subcontractors. It might be a stretch for an enterprise class company to be expected to login and submit a bill when they have invested millions in an ERP system and batch send their invoices. Or expect you as a customer to login and get their bill, automatically taking your payment by direct debit.

As specialists in the field of accounts payable automation, Zahara has taken a very keen interest in self-billing and can facilitate this functionality already with our supplier portal. We expect to see expanded use of this and when e-invoicing expands over the coming years and are well prepared to support it further.

Metaverse preparation

The building of the Metaverse, an online world accessed through virtual reality headsets, has begun with thousands of new jobs created dedicated to its development. For businesses, the implementation of the new universe will mean adapting to a new world of digital transformation. While the Metaverse seems to feel years away, many brands such as Gymshark and Selfridges are already making a strong virtual presence. We have seen virtual campaigns and user experiences by these retail giants who are already dominating the use of this new technology. For smaller businesses however, it may be useful to begin thinking about a world where the Metaverse is as commonly used as social media. Finance teams could be managing new currencies on a daily basis, such as cryptocurrency, which may present new challenges and opportunities. 

Be adaptable and open to change

No matter the size of your business or finance team, it is always important to remain flexible and adaptable as industries develop. The pandemic is an obvious example of how businesses have had to alter their processes with short notice and remain adaptable to survive. Always explore new solutions that could help to streamline your processes, promote growth, or improve customer experience. Not every solution will be for you, or not straight away, but keep an open mind and don’t fear change.

Why leave it there?

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