Enabling Finance and IT Collaboration To Achieve Your A/R Transformation North Star

The collaboration between your Finance and IT team can either make or break your transformation project. This session highlights the actionable strategies to ensure successful transformation.
Jason Vetters

Jason Vetters

Senior Director, Finance Continuous Process Improvement, Cox Automotive
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Session Summary:

Takeaway 1
Define a clear end goal for your finance transformation project amidst constantly shifting goals and expectations
Key Points
  • Ensure finance operations readiness before undertaking transformation project
  • Build agile processes that can adapt and evolve with time
  • Ensure that your vendors are ready to scale with your growing business
Takeaway 2
Enable a clear framework for collaboration between Finance and IT departments by aligning them to a standard organizational vision
Key Points
  • The key benefits of cross-team collaboration
  • Common challenges when Finance and IT teams work together
  • How to eliminate these challenges for improved collaboration
Takeaway 3
Manage conflicts between teams effectively and in real-time during implementation and go live
Key Points
  • The need to appoint a leader with overall project responsibility
  • Defining and outlining desired project outcomes
  • Establishing transparency and communication between the teams
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Jason Vetters 00:01
So for you guys in the audience, has your business defined the North Star to realize the outcomes that you want to achieve with transformation? Finance, transformation, HR transformation, whatever it is.

Facilitator 00:20
42% think that we can do better 28% Partially, and everybody else is split, Yes and no

Jason Vetters 00:26
Wow, that’s not the responsive, I thought I was gonna get that I was gonna get a lot more just a yes’s or no’s. So that’ll help the conversation, suddenly skip through that. So when we thought about the the goal of this centralized, standardize, and optimize process, we walked through a lot of different questions or comments or concerns around what it’s going to take to get us there. And for us, historically, we have leaned on external consultants for everything, right? Whether that system implementation and partnering with our for IT teams, just business transformation, or just project management, we invested a lot of money in third-party consultants that as you all know, they don’t leave any of that intellectual capital behind. They want to, they want you to keep going to the well. And so what we wanted to really look at was finding a way to eliminate dependency on outside people were at all possible. We also wanted to look at how we can achieve long time scalability at reduced costs. Now, a lot of that is actually being driven internally by our IT partners. So our IT partners, we have a really strong relationship with them. And so they’re continually looking at what they’re doing and what they own. So it’s not always about looking for a different solution. It’s also looking internal, and making sure that we’re always optimizing our internal solutions as well. Number three, building robust processes that adapt and evolve over time. That’s just your tip, continuous improvement wheel, right, you’ve always got to be looking at your processes, your systems, your tools, and your people to make sure that we’re continually looking to adapt and evolve as the business changes as system changes as technology changes. Number four, centralized multiple processes and systems across global geographies. That’s up here, we have not done that. That is not something that we have done. That is one of the things that we want to get to from a Northstar perspective, but it just hasn’t made the top of the list. And we know that it stays on the roadmap. And we’re going to continue to have that on our roadmap because it is extremely important. The last is ensuring operational readiness across finance operations during expansion project. So there’s a lot of words there. But really, what that is, is ensuring that we have a change management lens across everything that we do. I will say one thing about Cox Automotive that I’ve been extremely impressed with is that we have invested time and resources in this section. I’ve worked through a lot of different places where change management and change is an afterthought. And you get what you pay for. So if you invest in this operational readiness type of activity, you’re going to reap the benefits all the time. Okay. So, in order to achieve our Northstar as it relates to Order to Cash transformation, or automation, or HighRadius implementation, we looked at three high-level buckets of opportunity. One was that just outsource the process, just give somebody your mess for less, right, we know that that doesn’t work. That’s not the best process. Listen, I was a provider at one time, I don’t want your mess for less, right? We want you to optimize it before you hand it over because it makes everybody lives better to build an in-house solution. Oftentimes, that is the absolute best solution. Sometimes it’s not. And we have to always look at that. And I will say what we do from a Cox Automotive perspective is that we always want to look internally first, we want to look to see what our tools and processes can do for us. But there are just certain things that we just may not be built to do. And we have to be smart about that. And we have to recognize that there are companies like HighRadius that do things really well and you may want to look at the best practices Some processes that are at your disposal, which took us to work with a third party vendor. So in this particular situation, that’s what we did, we went with HighRadius. So I’m not going to drain these, you guys know these things, right. So when you think about just outsourcing our process, it’s just outsourcing it you’re not getting, you’re getting a little bit of value, but you’re gonna, you’re gonna do yourselves a disservice, if you haven’t done it right, the last thing you want to do is have negative customer impact. So that was really the key driver for us that we didn’t want to go just straight to outsourcing. Build an in-house solution. We looked at this, we looked at our internal tools and processes, and felt like that it was going to be more complex than it probably needed to be. And so it’s not even fair to say how much work was put into this from a process and technology perspective. But that was the probably the key driver on that is that we can build it. But is it going to be sustainable? Is it going to be the most scalable process? Or should we look at something else. And that’s what really took us to the next one, which was working with a third party. So for us, it was more about that. It’s easy to do, relatively, it’s we get support from the vendor, we get the benefit of their continual improvement and their processes for improving their technology and driving that back to their customer base. We knew that there were some cons. And we’ll talk about some of the cons. And some of that is we as a Cox Automotive company didn’t necessarily do the best job of aligning all of the resources that needed to be involved with it from the beginning. And that was an aha for us. But it’s a key learning as we continue to implement, whether it’s more HighRadius modules, or if it’s other technology where we’re partnering between a third-party provider, core IT organization, and a finance organization. So finding the right solution. What we wanted to ensure is that from the very beginning, the vendor understood the expectations and the goals. I was in a breakout session earlier. And they talked about that HighRadius actually came to the table with a very robust implementation plan. And that’s true. That was true. That was something that when we implemented our Cash Application process, it was very defined, we had a very tight relationship with them. But as we started to expand the relationship, we knew that we had to continue to build that out and make sure that we weren’t just going with the standard, the standard process that was delivered, we had to work with HighRadius to make sure that we modified that plan to meet our goals and not just their goals from an implementation perspective. Number two, consider vendor support as a criterion while evaluating vendors. This was something that was important, we felt like the ongoing support that HighRadius offered was extremely important and valuable for us. We did a lot of discussions with other clients of HighRadius, and we got very good feedback from them. We also got a lot of really good lessons learned from those, those partners as well. And we made sure that we bake those into the conversations that we had with HighRadius, as we were finalizing our deal. And then the other was just checking to see if they’ll be able to scale with their business. And I think that this is something that’s really important. We heard it in the keynote speech today. They are continuing to invest in their platform, they’re continuing to invest in their technology. And we’re going to reap the benefits of their continued investment in that space. There were others that we talked to that we just didn’t feel like they were really focused on the future. They were focused on the right now. And we need to be in partnership with third-party suppliers that are forward-thinking because we’re a very forward-thinking company. We’re looking we’re trying to continue to expand our business and we need somebody who’s in it with us as we move forward.

Jason Vetters 09:41
Okay, so I’m not going to drain all of these because I only have a few minutes. But one of the things that we talk about is why we need to work together as finance and accounting teams as we go through these. If we don’t work together, we’re not aligning our goals and our objectives. And if we don’t align our goals and objectives, we’re not going to get alignment around what the priority of the work is. That’s a key lesson for everybody here is as you’re building out these plans for implementing something like HighRadius, err on the side of ensuring that you have the right people at the table from the very beginning. Your IT partners know much more about the IT system and the infrastructure and the architecture and knew a lot more about it, then the finance people do, and even more than the third party provider who is trying to implement into your system. So make sure that you are working with your IT teams to come together and be as collaborative as possible. These are some of the high-level common things that people say around why finance and it don’t work together. You know, there’s a lack of trust, there’s poor communication misaligned goals across departments. What I will say about our process within Cox Automotive, we don’t have a lot of these problems, we’ve worked over a long period of time to ensure that we do have a collaborative environment between our operations teams, and our technology teams to make sure that this stuff aren’t the key derailers. In our process. Now, we know that you’ve got things like misaligned goals and priorities across the board. But as long as you have open lines of communication, and you’re driving towards that Northstar, you can eliminate a lot of these challenges just by having the conversations and the right people at the table. So for us, it’s exactly what we what I just talked about, we had the support, we have the support across all of our organizations, whether it was finance, accounting, or operations, we define the communication methods and channels, which goes back to that operational readiness concept. We organized the right team, we felt like we have the right team at the right time to do the work. As we’ve started to implement new modules, we’ve recognized that we need to probably pull in some additional people as well, right? The people that we had involved in our Cash Application implementation aren’t probably the same people that need to be in there for Credit and Collections, we need to, we need to take a step back and make sure that we’re evaluating the core group of people and having the right people in the room at the right time. And the last around gaining enterprise-wide visibility, we need to make sure that when we’re coming to the table, we’re doing it jointly, that this that a HighRadius implementation is not just finance driving it, right. It’s a technology solution. And we need to work together jointly to have that common voice when we’re trying to get new modules approved when we’re trying to get priorities assigned to this work. That’s extremely important to voices and alignment are much better than one when it comes to getting approval, at least in our organization. So last one here is just our best practice for effective collaboration. We have, we’ve got a single point of contact from an executive leadership perspective, we’ve defined our clear project outcomes. Again, these are our best practices, I’m not going to tell you that we did this every time, right, every project has challenges. And I’m not going to stand up here and tell you that everything went perfectly. But these are the things that we always want to measure ourselves against. So if we implement the next module and something that doesn’t go right, we’re all in it together, we can make sure that we’re debriefing and doing post-mortems on the implementations to ensure that we’re continuing to get better and better every time we do something.

Jason Vetters 14:19
All right. So where are we at today? So what we’re doing today is we’re leveraging about 70%. SMEs from internal to Cox Automotive, the other 30% are really around the HighRadius, the HighRadius partners. We have not looked to bring in any additional third-party contractors or consultants to do the work. We feel like we’re doing a good job as a collective Cox Automotive to be able to implement this. We have completed one phase and we’re about to actually go live with our Collections process for our largest business unit. So we’ve gone live With Cash Application for that business unit, we’re about to go live with Collections. And we’ve got a very robust roadmap that will probably take us through I think 23. Correct me if I’m wrong on other business units within Cox. So we’re very happy with the level of support that we’ve gotten a lot of lessons learned. And we’re going to continue to get better with HighRadius. And we’re going to continue to get better with our ability to collaborate as finance organizations and technology organizations as we move forward with other large cross-functional projects.

Facilitator 15:35
Thank you all for being here. I think Jason did a fabulous job for saving the best for last

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