One phrase resonates with every finance professional in the labyrinth of numbers, spreadsheets, and countless revenue calculations:
“Being bogged down in the weeds.”
Have you spent hours poring over manual entries, chasing discrepancies, or grappling with a complex spreadsheet system? If so, you’ll understand the need for trusted, accurate evidence to support finance regulatory requirements.
And here’s the reassurance: automation brings that evidence to the forefront.
This article will delve deep into Lead-to-Ledger Automation and why it’s the beacon of efficiency and accuracy for Financial Controllers.
Systems, Process and Flow
Let’s paint a familiar picture: A deal goes through multiple stages before it translates into cash. During this process, various systems come into play:
1. CRM (Customer Relationship Management System): Think of it as the central repository for customer data. Salesforce, a leading name in this domain, ensures that all customer interactions, past transactions, and correspondence are housed in a single, accessible platform with audit tracking.
2. CPQ (Configure Price Quote): This is where the magic of order formulation happens. From the product details to the order intricacies, CPQ acts as the backbone for defining and finalising deals.
It’s not just about the price list; it’s about understanding discounts, handling line items, managing different products and having those guardrails in place to simplify the approval process.
For those unaware, the importance of CPQ cannot be overstated.
Without an efficient CPQ system:
- Version control goes haywire. Have you ever been in a situation where two versions of the same order are circulating, and you’re unsure which one is the latest?
- Consistency evaporates. When order handling becomes manual, discrepancies become the norm rather than the exception.
- Authorisation breakdowns: Without built-in guardrails, there’s a risk that unauthorised discounts or changes could be made, impacting profitability and going against company policies.
- Optimal downstream systems are compromised. A seamlessly working CPQ system ensures that downstream processes are set up for success.
CPQ brings in a slew of controls. Whether it’s around item numbers, quantity, formatting, or version control, this system ensures that you’re not selling outdated versions of a product and that every order aligns with the set standards and requirements, including finance guardrails.
Contract Lifecycle Management
Transitioning from the importance of CPQ, subsequent stages are equally crucial in the financial flow.
It’s not just about capturing the order but about managing its life cycle, ensuring timely billing, and recognising revenue correctly. Here’s the continued journey:
3. Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM): Once a quote is generated and terms are negotiated, the contract becomes the tangible embodiment of that agreement. Contract Lifecycle Management ensures that every contract phase – from initiation, drafting, negotiation, and execution to renewal – is streamlined and efficient.
A well-structured CLM process:
- Reduces risk: It ensures compliance with company policies and external regulations.
- Optimises turnaround time: It speeds up contract reviews and approvals to complete the deal quicker.
- Enhances visibility: Stakeholders have a transparent view of contract statuses and obligations.
- Ensures accountability: Every phase has designated ownership, ensuring responsibility.
Once a contract is in place, automated order processing ensures that the required actions (be it procurement, manufacturing, or service provisioning) commence without delay.
Efficient and Accurate Billing
The billing process begins after a contract is signed and an order is created. Invoicing systems come into play here, creating detailed bills that outline the agreed-upon prices, taxes, discounts, and any other financial nuances.
4. Billing: Is about more than just sending an invoice. You are pulling data across a proliferation of systems, performing complex calculations, and repeating the process for every billing period.
80% of invoice disputes negatively impact customer experience and lifetime value. Source: Revenue Enablement.
The significance of billing being included as critical customer touchpoint is often overlooked, yet it ensures:
- Cash flow consistency: Efficient billing ensures that debtor payment revenues come in at the expected intervals, aiding financial planning.
- Customer satisfaction: Accurate and timely invoices reduce disputes, enhancing the customer experience and freeing the finance team to add business value rather than wasting time resolving unnecessary errors.
- Reduction in errors: An automated billing system reduces errors, ensuring accurate financial statements for compliance and stakeholders.
Automating Revenue Recognition
At the heart of financial operations lies a concept central to accurate accounting: Revenue Recognition. Often termed as “Rev Rec”, it is more than just an accounting buzzword. It dictates when and how much revenue from sales is recorded in the books.
But what does this really mean? At its core, revenue recognition involves a methodical assessment of a sales transaction, taking into account:
- Timing of cash receipt: Whether the cash has been received upfront, at the time of delivery, or is expected at a later date.
- Rights and obligations: Understanding the responsibilities each party holds in the transaction. For instance, is the seller obligated to provide future services, or is the buyer entitled to future products?
- Goods or services delivered: How much of the promised goods or services have been provided to the buyer? Partial deliveries might mean partial revenue recognition.
- Associated costs: The costs of producing and delivering those goods or services.
Ensuring that revenue is recognised accurately and timely is the zenith in the financial journey.
With changing accounting standards and regulations, it becomes imperative that revenue is recognised in accordance with the set guidelines and fiduciary duties.
Why Spreadsheets aren’t Sustainable
As customer relationships have gotten more complicated and new business models emerged, like the rise of B2B subscriptions, companies have recognised their ERP can’t keep up.
- Volume and variability: As a business grows, the sheer volume of revenue entries with varying degrees of revenue recognition complexities and their associated timelines can become overwhelming for a spreadsheet-based system.
- Error-prone: Manual entries or adjustments in spreadsheets increase the risk of errors, potentially leading to financial misstatements.
- Lack of real-time updates: With multiple hands on deck, ensuring everyone’s using the latest version of the spreadsheet is challenging, leading to data discrepancies.
- Security concerns: Financial data in spreadsheets can be easily tampered with, making them less secure than specialised integrated systems.
- Compliance nightmares: With evolving financial standards, ensuring compliance on a spreadsheet, especially for complex upfront payment schedules, becomes a Herculean task.
To alleviate these concerns and issues, system integration is critical.
Unified System: A Single Source of Truth
By having the entire process, from lead to revenue recognition, in one unified system, Financial Controllers can ensure:
- Seamless data flow: No need for manual data transfers, reducing errors.
- Real-time reporting: Generating real-time financial reports that you can trust due to effective guardrails becomes straightforward with all data in one system.
- Enhanced compliance: Adhering to accounting standards, especially with regard to revenue recognition, becomes more manageable.
- Stakeholder confidence: Accurate revenue recognition enhances stakeholder confidence, whether investors, board members, or external auditors.
- Strategic decision-making: With accurate financial data, top management can make informed strategic decisions.
In the world of finance, questions are plenty, and the stakes are high. “What’s our revenue policy?” “Do we have a requirements document?” “How quickly can I review this contract?”
The answers lie in embracing the future – defined by Lead-to-Ledger Automation.
When the above systems are automated and integrated seamlessly, the benefits are multifold:
- Efficiency and speed: Gone are the days when contracts or orders meandered through various departments, resulting in delays and potential errors. Automation streamlines this flow.
- Accuracy: With automation, discrepancies in data handling decrease dramatically. This means fewer errors to rectify and more accurate financial statements.
- Enhanced control: Automation brings with it a host of controls. These are not just about keeping errors at bay but ensuring that every process is consistent, standardised, and in line with company policies.
It’s time to move out of the weeds and ascend to a vantage point where time isn’t wasted on manual interventions and repetitive tasks. And where your financials are transparent, auditable and evidence-backed.
Moving Forward with Expertise
Embarking on an automation journey can seem daunting, but the right partner can make all the difference.
As a Salesforce Billing Approved Systems Integrator Partner, PhiX Technologies belong to a select group of companies sanctioned by Salesforce to implement their state-of-the-art Billing solutions.
Why does this matter?
Salesforce Revenue Cloud connects your CRM to your CPQ, Contracts, Billing and Subscription Management system, all with a single log-in.
Offering businesses a path to greater alignment across teams, increased billing accuracy, rapid invoicing and a seamless revenue management process.
If you’re aiming for a future of streamlined operations, improved compliance, and superior customer experience, our expert team at PhiX can guide you through.
Speak to a member of our team to modernise your revenue operations.