Elevate Your Order to Cash to The Front Office: Tips and Strategies from The Page Group

Roeland Smets

Roeland Smets

Global Order to Cash Director
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"He is currently responsible for the O2C process for Page globally,overseeing the activity in the four SSC's (Barcelona, London, Singapore and Buenos Aires)."

Session Summary:

Takeaway 1
Strategies to get your back office up to the same level with your front office
Key Points
  • Enable a 360 degree visibility into the department’s daily operations
  • Connect with the proper senior individuals in the business who can help you make the best decisions with your operations teams.
  • Transform your department into a high-performing team, and become a valued business partner.
Takeaway 2
How can you leverage back office and front office to create a more effective and efficient organization?
Key Points
  • Revenue Generation : Automate all areas so that the company can stay on track and focus on its goals.
  • Transfer time-consuming administrative activities to the O2C team, and improve data quality to provide the necessary amount of insight to the business.
  • Customer Experience:Create a team of specialists with strong communication skills that understand the business and your clients.
  • Present a new set of KPIs that will help you to easily identify concerns in certain areas.
  • Strategic Evolution: Reduce the amount of exceptions while simultaneously saving time on transactional processes.
  • Use cloud-based software to accommodate changing company demands rather than IT-intensive on-premise solutions
Takeaway 3
How PageGroup’s cash allocation function enables revenue generation, improved customer experience, and strategic evolution with automation.
Key Points
  • Automation allows the cash allocations team to focus on more complex responsibilities by removing low-value-added procedures.
  • It provides a more precise portfolio for the collections team to work with
  • It helps resources to be reallocated to more strategic duties like collection.

Roeland Smets
My name is Roeland Smets. I’m the Global Director in order to cash in Page. I joined the company a couple of years ago, starting in Europe, and now I have the global responsibility in collections billing, a cash app, I mean, the typical order to cash, you know quite well, yeah. So that’s me, I’ll say a bit more about the Page in one of the next couple of slides.

But, we do have a poll question to start off. So I’m pretty sure I’m going to see quite a lot of the same color I do. Assume I’m going to see quite a bit of the same color.

So all your back office operations, like order to cash or service lifecycle management, asset management, automated to certain extent.
If that’s a yes thumbs up and then No, not at all that would be done with a thumbs down.

Okay, thanks for that.

Now, talking about the front office and about the back office, I mean, it’s a topic that is quite passionate one for me. It is something that people know me a bit better. They know that I have some very strong opinions about that. So I’m happy to be able to talk and share a bit some of my experiences on the topic with you. Yeah, so we talked about back office and front office. Obviously, we think about sales in the first place in the back office, obviously, in a room full of order to cash people, I will say or cash. And what are the key words that then come that don’t come to mind? Obviously, back office is the more transactional environment, front of is the more strategic one, front of is the one that typically focused on revenue. On the back office side, we look more on the cost side of things. Front offices, I mean, putting the customer at the heart of the operations, we’re in the back office again, we think about it as an admin function here. Now, obviously, this is the typical traditional way of thinking in front of his back office. Obviously, what I’m going to talk about is how can we move away from this? Or how can we leave this bit more of a model of the past, rather than a model of the future? One thing I would like to add on this one is that when we look at the back office, we also look at, where we typically are stronger in quality of the process, and controls. And that is something where when we look at the front office, it is not always there, in the same way. So this is a bit what happens when the focus is really going into the front office, I mean, on the right hand side, you can see IT investment, but you can obviously make it much broader. And if the focus is going to the first part of of the end to end, then obviously, and you don’t focus on middle office and back office functions, then obviously you can do really well, when it comes to the business side of things, but your end product is still going to be not that great. Yeah. So that is something as well to take into account to work on to develop. And as well for us, I mean, as millio to see professionals. We also have our pride. Yeah. And I don’t think any of us wants to be here. Yeah, we also want to be in the area where the company the organization is focusing on.

So a couple of things that we’ve done in Page in the SSCs, and particularly in order to cash to make sure that we are leveling up with our front office organization. So in the first place to make sure that we are feasible, and not that we are the typical black box, something is happening in Barcelona, something is happening in the SSC London, they do stuff, they probably try to do it right. We’ve got no idea what they’re doing. We sometimes don’t know why they are doing it. And we have really no idea what the end result will be. So make sure that as an organization, we are visible, that we share what we do, that we share our results, but also that we confront the front office. When need be? I remember in the end when we started with the SSC, in Barcelona, I joined in 2017. In the beginning, I mean, let’s face it, not everything was great. Yeah. So when I knew about a certain country that was thinking like, oh my god, oh my God, those guys Oh, shit. Yeah. I said, that’s fine. I’ll come to your boards, I will talk about it. Yeah, I’ll be there facing up to you. And we will look each other in the eye and say what is wrong, and how we can improve it, how we can make things better. Yeah, so creating that level of visibility on different levels. Second point, what we invested in a lot is to make sure that we have that we are anchoring to the right senior people in the front office, so that we have our seats at the table, that we are part of the decision making process, not a result of the decision making process. So that is also something that on a personal level, as senior managers are investing in a lot, building that relationship, and making sure that you are taken seriously.

Then where do you put the bar? Where do we put the objective to our teams? Yeah, so in the very beginning, we focused on making sure that we are doing fine as a transactional team, we are managing our SLAs and we are managing our key KPIs. But kind of that feels like well, I mean, the world can be more exciting than this. So let’s, I mean, let’s move up the bar. And let’s make sure that we are considered as a team of excellence in the sense that everybody knows that we are going to do the month and closing fine in every country, every month, everybody knows that we have our DSO under control in every country, every month, so that it’s taken for granted that you are delivering those good results, to move to the really trusted partner of the business, where everybody respects you, for you being the expert in the process. Nobody will ever ask a question about how you manage collections, because they know that we will do it much better than anybody in the business can think of it. Yeah. So now, of course, going to the store level, that is not something that you can always have. And my goal for the team, really is that we move a bit between that level of excellence and that trusted partnership, because you also depend on I mean, you’re good people and sometimes you’re good people, they move to different positions in the organization, they sometimes move out of your organization that happens as well. So I mean, you know that but the goal for me for the team is really that we are somewhere between those two, but we really move away from a monthly awkward discussion on Have you reached your SLA. Yeah, that we are really past. Beyond that.

Then just a little bit about the page. So we were historically known as Michael Page. Yeah. So we rebranded 12 years ago to a page group. To just make it clear that we are, I mean, working as a recruitment company, on different levels, our Page Personnel are more clerical Michael Page, the historical business that we have. And then Page Executive while the name says it itself, that is standard more senior positions and Page Outsourcing. That’s the brand that we use for larger contracts where companies will work with us on a number of, of a variety of positions or larger numbers of positions. So the company’s a bit more than 40 years old, originally started here in the city, they’re in the city.

And I mean, we are a global company, in all the continents, around 40 countries that we are active in. Now, one thing to know about the Page, and that’s what I tell people that start, there is something that makes this company a bit different than most of the other companies, and that is that 80% of our employees are salespeople. So you’re going to start in a pretty sales driven organization. That means that I expect you To be strong, and to stand up and to hold your position and to know what you’re doing. And that’s what you need to do, because otherwise, the business is going to run all over you. Because there are a lot, we are actually very few. Yeah. So that is something that you need to take into account. 80% of the employees are salespeople.

Basically, until 2015, we have been a completely local based organization. We started in 2015, with the SSC in Barcelona and we added 10 in 2016. 2017, the other regions to the SSC model, in the beginning 100%, regional the SSCs have nothing to do with each other. So we had four different organizations that grew from a local organization into a regional one. And that then developed completely on a regional level. As of 2018, we started looking at things in a more global way. So my position didn’t exist, a global order to the cash director, it didn’t exist. Yeah. So now we are scaling our service on to a much more global level. And we look at things, two different strings in order to cash P2P, R2R from a global level, obviously, technology enabled that, because obviously, we needed to be on one system for the different processes. In order to do that, I mean, if all the regions are using different systems, you’re not really going to get there anyway. We are now evolving into the next step. And we are building a hybrid model between back office middle office and front office into the SSCs, that means that part of our business activity will be generated from the SSCs. And of course, we keep all the historic back office middle office functions in the SSCs as well. It will, of course, help us because we will be much closer to at least part of the business, we will be really close because they will be just sitting, I mean, in the same location.

So that’s about how we evolved in terms of structure, then, I mean, when we look at an organization, we look at what is important for the front office, if we look at how we can leverage back office, on to a more I mean, front office based approach. And that’s, I mean, then three areas that are quite normal to look at: revenue generation, customer experience, and strategic growth. Yeah. So what have we done? In Page in order to cash to support the revenue generation. So, we are a service company. Yeah, we are not shipping any goods. We sell people. Sounds a little bit bad, but we do sell people. So we are giving a service. Now some of us, novice, some of us have you might use us. But that means that we actually, we are luxury products. Yeah, I mean, let’s face it, anybody, any organization can do recruitment themselves. You would hire us because you think we can do it better? And of course we can. But I mean, so that’s a good reason to do this. And of course, all because you want to concentrate or you want to have your HR departments concentrate on, and on other tasks. So how do we earn money? I mean, we deliver a service and we charge a fee for that. Typically, that’s a percentage of the yearly package of a candidate. I mean, you all know how this works. Now, how can we earn more money? It’s by basically charging higher fees. Yeah. So where we are key in this process is that we own much of the data. And much of the data quality is dependent on order to cash processes, particularly in the sales order, revenue invoicing area, and that data is crucial for the business to see where there is more potential on the market. Because at the end of the day, we depend on how valuable our services are to our clients. The more valuable it is, the more we can charge for it. I mean, you can feel that it is a bit unfair, but that’s how business works. Yeah. seconds to make sure that the business, our sales people, our consultants, they can concentrate 100% on their clients and own their candidates and they do not need to worry at all about getting an invoice paid, making sure that their revenue is correctly booking booked into the system, that they have the right numbers allocated to them. So they get the right bonus, etc , etc. To make sure that we have 100% control and ownership of the process that frees up not just time and energy, but also peace of mind into our salespeople. And then, sir, to make sure, obviously, and that’s what we all do, make sure that we’re not as a company taking stupid decisions. Yeah. And doing business with people that we know, in the end, will not be able to, to pay us.

So that on revenue generation on customer centricity, the importance of hiring the right people has been raised a couple of times during the day, obviously, that’s what we want as well, yeah, we want individuals in the billing teams in the collection teams that can speak at the right level, with the right communication skills, with the right level of understanding the business that can speak to our clients, but also that can talk in the right way. To our consultants, I want to set before 80% of our employees are salespeople. That means that I need to have some pretty strong people in order to cash in order to deal with the guys, with the consultants that we have. I mentioned controls before as something that I mean, as a back office is something that we are typically much stronger in than than the front office there as well, making sure that in all the aspects of the process. We have good control elements built in. Okay, so that we know that what we do we do it right, we do it right the first time. Because again, most of what you touch in order to cash will have an impact on the clients. invoicing wrong, no goods, messing up yourself billing process, not goods, contact, contacting clients for invoices that have paid no good. Well, I mean, you know, all the things that are no good that we could, that we could be doing. And then also making sure that we have KPIs that we have data that we have reporting to make sure that whenever something is going wrong, that we can as quickly as possible spot it, that can also be internally where we need to make sure that we keep our business on the right path. Because as we are a service company, we can’t tie our process to what is leaving a warehouse. No, we tie our process to a service that delivers something that is not as tangible as an Adidas shoe, shipping out of the warehouse. Yes. So that’s what I was looking at right now. So then before we go to the next part.

Another quick question. I mean, in the pandemic, obviously, the world changed basically from one day to the next, almost seamlessly simultaneously across the world. So how do you feel that the A/R, as a function, has become more important in the office of the CFO, as when the pandemic started?

So I think that’s everybody. Yes.

Absolutely. I mean, we are a company where working capital is not like the end of the world in the sense that we are a pretty rich company, which is what has sometimes made my life easier. But when the pandemic started, of course, that’s when I was constantly called by everybody in the organization. Runa, where is the cash? So I mean, so that is something that from one day, then to the next changed, but of course, it put us much more on the map. And it’s a map where, obviously, we are willing to stay there. We do our best to make sure that we stay there.

Then when it comes to strategic growth, how can we support the company? So one of the things, one of the key messages always is make sure that you do not have to grow at the same pace as the business is growing. Yeah, because, again, luckily, I’m in a company where we have over the years healthy growth, but that also means that there is an expectation in order to cash them, that we can cope with that growth without constantly having to ask For bigger teams, yeah. So there I mean, we have started with technology. Absolutely not as far as advanced as some of you in the room that I’ve been that I heard during the day. But we have taken a number of steps in that area.

And I will talk a little bit more about it. Cash apps with HighRadius for our collections process we work with a different supplier. But we are using artificial intelligence, we are using much more automation than we did a couple of years ago, particularly in the early steps of the process. And yes, obviously we are when we look at solutions, we look at cloud based solutions. I mean, we don’t look at anything else anymore. Then. So when we talk about cash apps, because that’s where we are where we started using HighRadius, I think it’s exactly one year ago, then one year ago. Yes. So we didn’t roll out in three or four regions. And then APAC we did for a couple of months. A couple of months later, we’re still pretty far away from the 99%, which I heard during the day. I think if we ever hit the 99%, I will climb up the slides. But I mean, so yeah, obviously. I mean, we are leveraging the cash apps solution to make sure that also a topic that has come up in the past, we want to get rid of the lower value added tasks on cash apps that we are now unable to do with cash apps. So we can basically level up the profile from the people that are doing that job. Because it’s a tough job to recruit for if 90% of what you do is very basic, and very repetitive. But 10% is actually pretty complicated. Yeah. So let’s make sure that we can eliminate most of that 90% level of the people, give them a more important interesting job, and be able to find the right profile for that as well. When it comes, how is this impacting the clients, I mean, obviously, the worst thing that you can do in your collections process is approach a client that actually has better information about that account, and you have, yeah, so automating the asset solution does allow us to make sure that we are at our best level when we have that interaction with the clients. And then as well, I mean, it does allow us to support the growth in business. Yeah, without having to ever increase the size of the team at the same level, or we can use those resources in a different way. So I mean, for me, it’s, it’s, it’s a lot about how we can be not just at the end of the process, but how can we be that I mean, trusted, feasible, strong partner in the organization. And, and that is what we are talking about a lot. I’m pointing a little bit into an interaction of my colleague there, so that what we are talking about a lot is how we can then use automation in the future to make sure that we continue to go down that path. Yeah. So that’s it for me. Obviously, if there are any questions, feel free to shoot.

Questioner 1:
Just do a quick question for me. I’m just wondering, you’re from where you started from. And you’ve gone through obviously, this journey. Do you have any timeframe or any prediction about how long it’s going to take you to go through this transformation?

When we went through the transformation, you mean.

You say you are on a journey, you’ve started this now you’re invested in automation, you’re moving that way? You started with a cash application a year ago? What’s just wondering what the sequence is and what your end goal is? How long do you expect it to take you to get there?

Roeland Smets:
I mean, so on the one hand, let’s say that in one region out of the four, we are where I want us to be, in terms of how we position ourselves as an order to the cash department compared to the rest of the organization. So one element is that we still have quite a bit of work to do in three out of the other four weeks. Yeah. And second when it comes to automation, honestly, we have no not a particular end goal. Yeah. It also is very important on how the organization is growing, which in the sector as we have it, which is very short term. Yeah, it is really unpredictable. So to that extent we go a little bit flow. Yeah. But we want to be ahead of the curve. That’s not a very concrete answer. But that’s a bit how we operate. Yes.

Questioner 2:
Thank you, Roland, you spoke about the Center of Excellence?


We are, I didn’t see the year. But is that already set up? Are you going to be set up next year? Whatever, right?

Yes, Well, it started this year.

Oh, yeah. Of course. It’s a name. Yes. Yes.

Yes. I point out that I was going to ask you, is that just a nice label for the next iteration of a gobbler Global Business Services? Or do you have a specific automation related function that you set up the Center for?

Roeland Smets:
I mean, this is really on the SSC level. Yeah. And when we started with the SSCs, obviously, we put financing there. Yeah. But we also have marketing. So we don’t have an SSCs organization that is less typical than most of the companies. This is more of a rebranding. Yeah. Moving away from the SSC, I mean, as the old name and that is the link to incorporating particular activities that are more linked to the business into the SSCs Yeah, where we will also go for, I mean, more locations, we are for locations now, we will go for more locations. But we will not necessarily have every function in every location. But it’s more about integrating that business aspects into the SSC model, rather than linked to automation.

Thank you very much.

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