Serrala Survey Reveals Real-Time Data & Digitization are Top of Mind
15-07-2020 3 Min read
Serrala conducts annual surveys of our customers and prospects to gauge the sentiments of global finance and treasury organizations. This year our survey focused on how these organizations were impacted by the massive disruptions caused by the coronavirus crisis.
Results from the Serrala Future of Finance Survey 2021 show that boosting digitization, working with real-time data and leveraging cloud solutions were high priorities for finance leaders as they struggled to maintain consistent cash flows. We also found that every area of finance (AP, AR, Treasury and Cash Management) had difficulty managing manual processes, which reduced overall efficiency and visibility, when global teams moved to remote work.
Below is a short summary of the key survey findings. Download the survey infographic for an easy to share summary of these trends and topics.
Top Areas of Concern for Organizations in 2020: Ensuring Liquidity, Cash Flow and Working Capital
Unsurprisingly, reduced liquidity, cash flow and working capital were the top areas of concern for many organizations in 2020. Respondents cited challenges such as “limited visibility into private company risk” and “reduced funding cycles” and forty-seven percent (47%) stated that they struggled with cash flow continuity, making it the number one challenge for organizations during the crisis.
Our survey also reflected a strong interest in prioritizing improvements to cash management and forecasting (52%) as well as credit and risk management (48%).
Manual Processes Continue to Be a Challenge in Every Area of Finance
The majority of survey respondents reported that manual processes were a challenge during the crisis. It was the highest ranked issue in every area we surveyed: accounts receivable (41%), accounts payable (41%), payments (39%), and treasury and cash management (44%). However, AP and AR teams faced difficulties capturing incoming remittance and invoice information and Treasury and Cash Management teams had to deliver fast and accurate cash flow forecasts and liquidity reports.
Digitization is Necessary for Remote Work
The majority of finance organizations indicated that they are satisfied with their processes (77%), but one-third of respondents said the lack of digital process infrastructure (32%) and standardized / automated processes (33%) slowed down key finance processes when the organization began working remotely. Furthermore, 54% said it was difficult to change existing processes to achieve a greater level of digitization.
Based on the events of 2020, many back-office jobs will remain at least partially remote for the near future. As a result, companies will need to embrace new digital infrastructure and process change if they want to improve speed and agility in finance.
Access to Real-time Data is an Emerging Priority in Finance
One interesting finding from this year’s survey was the shift in the top priorities of finance and treasury leaders. Two-thirds (66%) of respondents put real-time data at the top of their priority list for 2021. This indicates that organizations are no longer simply interested in applying technology to reduce processing costs or eliminate manual tasks, which were the top priorities in our 2020 and 2018 surveys.
Our discussions with customers such as Hitachi and Zurich North America over the past year also showed that real-time data was a core topic for many organizations. They emphasized the importance of using real-time finance data to help them successfully manage cash flows, liquidity, and payments during the crisis.
Organizations are Moving Finance Processes to the Cloud
Cloud continues to gain momentum in finance and treasury, as teams become increasingly comfortable with running some or all of their processes there. This year, fifty-six percent of respondents (56%) listed cloud as the top technology priority for their organization, followed closely by AI and Machine Learning (53%) and intelligent process automation (52%).
The ongoing transition from on-premise to cloud solutions in finance is driven by the fact that cloud solutions require a low initial investment, are fast to implement and provide a faster return on investment. In the Magic Quadrant for Cloud Core Financial Management Suites for Midsize, Large and Global Organizations report, Gartner indicates that “Finance organizations are increasingly shifting to cloud core financial management suites” (Gartner, May 2021). These suites “offer many advantages that enable a more agile organization” including greater functional capabilities, faster introduction of new or differentiating capabilities, and industry-specific, best-practice solutions that will help transform the finance organization.
The positive outlook for 2021 demonstrated by 77% of organizations in our survey is very encouraging; however, our survey also highlighted several areas where finance will need to make changes. Making smart investments in digitized processing and cloud technology now, will help your organization build back from the disruptions of 2020 and create a stronger, faster and more agile finance department that is ready for the future – whatever it may hold.
You can discover strategies to eliminate manual processes, accelerate the move to fully digital, cloud-based solutions and benefit from real-time data by joining our Finance Compass virtual event series, tailored to your specific area of finance or treasury.
If you’re interested in exploring deeper insights from our survey, please download the full report.