BlackLine Blog

January 14, 2024

Accounts Receivable Year in Review

Modern Accounting
2 Minute Read

Danny Wheeler

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A Challenging Year in Accounts Receivable

Last year was a dynamic, exciting, and, yes, challenging year for AR stakeholders. As enterprises navigated through market fluctuations, labor shortages, and technology innovations, we at BlackLine have continued our pursuit of AR solutions designed to enable businesses to optimize strategies, processes, and decision-making.

Another important part of what we do is gathering and sharing information with the broader AR community through our surveys, BeyondTheBlack Conference, and ongoing communication with our customer partners. In this look back, let’s summarize some of our key learnings from last year, reviewing articles we published on our website that cover all aspects of AR, from strategy development to technology implementation and personnel management.

AR Strategy

Is there any question that businesses need to automate AR processes? Improving operations results in all kinds of benefits, including increased ROI due to time and cost savings gained by increasing efficiencies and implementing advanced AI-enabled capabilities.

So why aren’t more CFOs giving automation the green light? Much of that hesitancy is due to five myths of AR automation that reflect misplaced preconceptions. For example, finance leaders often believe that their ERP works well enough (few, if any, actually do). They worry that implementation will disrupt operations too much (even though implementing BlackLine solutions results in minimal disruption). Some even think it will cause problems with customer relationships (but customers are often a lot happier once their vendors adopt an automated solution that improves processes and gives them visibility, ensuring accounts are in sync and preventing unnecessary calls to chase invoices).

AR Process Optimization

At the top of any AR team’s wish list is an efficient, painless close … but how do we get there? The answer is to adhere to strategies and best practices designed to enhance decision intelligence, a decision-making strategy that’s informed by access to information that enables teams to quickly identify customer payment behavior patterns.

In addition, they should rely on order-to-cash and AR processes that leverage predictive analytics, informed planning, clear visibility to risk, and opportunities that inform strategies. Optimizing AR processes in this way sets businesses up for success so they can elevate customer engagement and boost revenue.

Customer Relationships & Accounts Receivable

When people start talking about technology and best-of-breed solutions, there’s one group that is often left out of the stakeholder discussion, and that’s sales. Sales teams are greatly impacted by the implementation of technologies designed to speed up AR processes. Those that work for enterprises that have implemented automation and AI-enabled capabilities have the benefit of critical insights into customer behavioral patterns. These insights inform sales strategies so team members spend their time pursuing only problematic payers and don’t waste their time contacting reliable payers.

Team Management

Just as technology and processes are dramatically changing, so are the ways enterprises manage their people. The role of the AR Revenue Cycle Manager has been broadened from process watchdog to strategic partner — one who steers departments so they’re better able to resolve issues related to the revenue cycle.

Another positive change is the emergence of BlackLine’s Invoice-to-Cash automation platform that dramatically saves AR teams’ time with automated payment matching. This solution has been a human resources lifesaver - during a global labor storage as businesses struggle to come up with new ways to build and retain teams - by allowing employees to work smarter, not harder.

AR Technology

A big part of optimizing AR processes is the technology that runs underneath, enabling processes to work quickly and efficiently. Some companies don’t feel ready to adopt new tech, convinced that their ERP can do the job. However, this often proves not to be a sustainable solution. While ERPs will likely always be the system of record for data and can perform basic AR functions, they can’t harvest AR insights or automatically extract actionable intelligence

Looking Forward

The year ahead promises to offer AR stakeholders even more exciting opportunities, including the ability to optimize operations with the much talked about capabilities derived from AI-enabled technologies. AI is not new to BlackLine since we’ve been incorporating AI in all our solutions for some time, but we’ll be taking AI to a whole new level of efficiency, productivity, and cost savings. Stay tuned!

About the Author


Danny Wheeler