The Sunday Business post ran a commercial profile of Convergent on Sunday 11th February, 2018.
See below a copy of the content:
FINANCE AUTOMATION DRIVING DIGITAL CHANGE
Digital Transformation is a term you’re hearing and reading a lot these days, and investments in accounts packages, ERPs, business systems and cloud services are attempts organisations make to digitally transform their business processes.
Yet for many financial departments, the everyday reality still involves the manual inputting and processing of finance and accounts payable data.
While receiving invoices electronically is sometimes regarded as the accounts payable department ‘going digital’, the reality is that these invoices are still printed so they can be matched, approved, posted and eventually stored in a lever arch folder. The costs and risks associated with these paper-based, manual processes are significant.
Most people regard an over-reliance on paper and email as their problems whereas they’re actually the symptom or result of their problems.
These same problems usually manifest themselves in the wider organisation, not just within finance. A deeper dive is required, something that Irish-based organisation Convergent specialises in.
“When we go into an organisation, the first thing we do is a very general evaluation of current processes and the stakeholders that are important to the processes. For example, departments, functions, systems or locations,” says Convergent’s commercial director Niall McConnell.
“Our basic proposition is simple – information needs to be free to flow but flow in three ways: seamlessly, digitally, and automatically. When it can’t flow like this, paper and email usage are the only options available to any organisation.”
Like most things, solving these problems is usually a lot more complex than the proposition, yet Convergent finds the finance department a great place to begin since it’s processes are quite defined but also heavily dependent on paper, very time consuming and manual. “Tackling finance first can achieve a lot of quick wins in terms of time and cost savings.”
“With the recent upturn in business we have seen a familiar pattern emerge; finance departments have focussed their recent efforts and investments on changing or upgrading their accounts packages or ERP systems,” he says.
“Yet what we see is that despite these investments, the same old problems still exist – accessing the right information, manual business processes and a continued reliance on paper and email.
“You can have the greatest financial management system but it’s pointless if all the processes that feed it are manual and take a huge amount of time.”
Much of what McConnell is talking about is mitigating financial risk. Checking whether your financial data is accurate, whether you have visibility over where your invoices are in the approvals process or how long it takes to prepare your management accounts are important questions to ask.
“A finance and accounts payable digital solution delivers greater efficiency and capacity to the finance department,” says McConnell. “To be effective, it needs five core elements – data capture and extraction, data matching, automation of the approvals processes, data migration and secure document and information management.
“The core benefits are the visibility and controls that are needed with financial data. It’s finance at the end of the day, that’s the engine of the organisation, and it’s critical that information is captured quickly, accurately, automatically and digitally routed the right way.”
Maximising the investment
The interesting part about Convergent’s approach is that it’s not just targeted at helping the financial function of organisations. The approach they use for finance can be applied to other functions and processes such as HR, compliance and GDPR.
Since most other departments are exposed to finance processes from time to time, it’s visible and easy for people in other departments to see the benefits and start thinking about how the same approach can help their own departments and processes.
The main message McConnell gives businesses is that systems can be as much of a problem as a solution. They can provide great benefits to specific functions of an organisation, but they can create information silos, disconnected processes and GDPR risks.
The organisations that adopt a functional approach to investing in systems rather than an organisational approach, tend to have the most disconnects, paper dependency and manual processes.
“This is where organisations need to change their mindset; that there’s no such thing as process being confined to a function or department anymore,” explains McConnell. “Processes drive through departments and functions. Take the relationship between finance and HR as a typical example. Even though they’re two separate functions, the need for information to flow between them is critical.
“Just think about it – when HR hires someone, finance needs to know information like name, rate of pay, PPS number, bank details and so on, but because the HR and finance systems are not connected, this information is locked and has to be manually transferred, typically by email or paper.”
This problem is why Convergent came up with the ‘Digital Highway’ approach which delivers a user-centric solution so information can traverse different systems, users and departments. It connects the information and content within systems, allows information to flow freely and automates cross-functional processes.
“We don’t change how people work, we just make it better,” he says. “We’re not asking people to change just for the sake of change; we’re not saying you have to conform a system because this is the way we built it.
“What we are saying is that when we implement a Digital Highway, it’s unique to your organisation, your processes and your requirements. And because we approach it in this way, the entire organisation benefits because user adoption rates are higher and resistance to change is lower.”
Information silos are a major issue for organisations. Information is proliferating, and businesses are struggling to manage it. In fact, 90 per cent of the world’s data has been generated in the last two years, according to The Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research, the largest independent research organisation in Scandinavia.
While many companies understand the implications of GDPR and recognise the value of their information, few are able to effectively manage it when it is scattered across multiple, disconnected business systems and repositories.
Convergent recently launched a new intelligent approach to information management that is unique because it unifies and manages information in other systems without the need for migration.
It uses artificial intelligence to break down information silos and simplify the user experience without compromising existing systems. It’s system-neutral and unifies information across the enterprise based on context and need, not based on the system, site, library or folder in which the information is stored.
With GDPR and the proliferation of information, such an approach can give companies a much-needed boost. Making your way onto the Digital Highway with finance or any other function, is a quick transition that makes it more than worthwhile.