October 28, 2021

Raising the Bar in Accounts Receivable Automation

7-minute read

There are 30 teams in the NBA, 20 teams in the English Football Premier League, and 10 teams in Formula 1, each with two drivers per team.

All teams in their respective sport are playing the same game. Yet, not every team has the same ability to win. Likewise, not all solutions in the order to cash and accounts receivables marketspace are the same.

Every now and again, an innovation or figurehead comes along and changes the dynamics of the game. Think Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls, Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United, or Lewis Hamilton of F1.

Jordan, Ferguson, and Hamilton all raised the bar on performance and results, going beyond what had been achieved before. They were the catalyst to changing their team’s ability and mentality to elevate their collective success.

Accounts receievable automation raises the bar by creating more time for AR professionals to perform the tasks that drive results by using their skills and expertise. Furthermore, it provides business intelligence in real time for better decision-making.

Raising the Bar

In October 2020, BlackLine acquired Rimilia, a company focused on AR automation solutions that had been successful but not yet reached their full potential. They needed a catalyst.

An investment was made to ensure that the new AR division accentuated the BlackLine ethos of being a unified, automated, and continuous platform, as it became part of their financial operations management  solutions platform.

Here are four ways BlackLine is raising the bar in AR automation.

Unified AR Solutions

All the BlackLine AR Solutions—Cash Application, Collections Management, Credit & Risk Management, Dispute Management, Team & Task Management, and AR Intelligence—are part of the unified AR platform.

What is the difference between a unified platform and an integrated platform? This question is best answered by providing some examples.

Integrated solutions work together like the pieces of a puzzle. While they’re sometimes hosted on the same cloud or infrastructure platform, they don’t necessary work hand in hand together. 

For example, the data in the Credit & Risk solution is unavailable in the Collections Management solution and vice a versa. As a result, data is in silos and not efficiently utilized from one solution to another, and effort is required to integrate the data.

A unified platform is like a Rubik’s cube. If you move one side of the puzzle, it impacts other parts simultaneously.

For example, if a payment is received in BlackLine Cash Application, it will automatically update the user’s calendar and to-do lists. Simultaneously, it will intelligently remove any actions in the recovery sequences and collections management, ensuring needless customer contact is eliminated.

The payment will then automatically feed into the assessment in the Credit & Risk Management solution. At this point, all of the data is available and no longer in silos, improving customer assessments and decisions-making.

The result is one version of the truth, with data that is available for everyone across the AR team—making the team more unified, efficient, and effective.

Intelligent Automation

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a term used all the time, but can be easily misunderstood. It opens a can of worms, and the associated jargon can lead to confusion. ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ is an old phrase, but one that is very applicable while investigating how AI is practically used.

In some instances, AI is only used for reporting, which adds no value to your processes or outcomes.

On a broader scale, let’s investigate the IEEE standards association 2755 (Taxonomy for Intelligent Process Automation Product Features and Functionality). Key definitions were created for this guide in June 2017 to clarify the different technologies: 

  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA)—A preconfigured software instance that uses business rules and predefined activity to complete the autonomous execution of a process, delivering a result or service with human exception management
  • Artificial Intelligence—The combination of cognitive automation, machine learning, reasoning, hypothesis generation and analysis, natural language processing, and intentional algorithm mutation, producing insights and analytics at or above human capability

Now, what does it mean to be working in AR? Here’s an example using the cash application process.

Robotic Process Automation

Process driven and concentrated on the “doing element,” RPA replaces keystroke depressions. No fundamental transformation is required to do what has always been done, and remittances are required to complete the process, meaning valuable time is spent chasing down remittances.

Machine Learning

By understanding and learning what is being processed, the algorithm studies and replays what has been done before and simulates a better way to automate. This reduces the need for remittances to an exception level only.

This is how BlackLine’s Cash Application solution works, resulting in less than 19% of remittances being required while achieving on average 84% auto match—to an invoice level, not an account level.

And remember all that time chasing customers for remittances? Use it to contact customers for monies due and improve your DSO, aged debt, and working capital results. This is a classic example of human and machine intelligence working hand in hand.

Modern Technology Platform

BlackLine AR unified solutions are built on a multi-tenant SaaS architecture/platform, meaning it is secure, scalable, available, and resilient. There are two clear benefits for customers, the AR department, and your colleagues in IT:

a)    The platform and solutions continuously improve from each deployment and are not built from scratch for each customer. For Cash Application, we have created approximately 200 different rules that are ready for deployment, so no customization is needed. This means we can deploy far quicker than before and with less reliance on IT.

b) The platform upgrades seamlessly, resulting in:

  • No need for regular upgrades that absorb IT resources
  • No downtime for the AR team, and the ability to test new features
  • No risk of specific customized features being missed or overlooked in the upgrade 

All of this is further supported by ISO90001, providing assurance that we have effective management on systems, SOC 2 and ISO27001, and how we manage data and information.

All of this provides confidence to the CIO in partnering with BlackLine.

Time to Raise the Bar 

Raising the bar will have a different meaning for everyone, from overcoming the challenges ahead to achieving results not seen before, either in their business or industry.

As someone who has been close to the development of the business, first as a customer, then as an employee, the transformation has been great. And as BlackLine continues to invest, build, develop, and evolve the AR solutions, the future becomes more and more exciting.

This is why we are seeing an increasing number of customers across the globe partnering with BlackLine to use our world-class unified AR solutions platform.

Find out more about how accounts receivable automation can raise the bar at your organization and drive world-class order-to-cash processes.   

Brian Morgan

Modern Accounting