But for Agreement Express Chief Financial Officer Max Broedlow, the goals of digitization extend beyond the back office and indeed can often be rooted in the effort of bridging the gap that separates the back office from the front.
As the finance lead of an organization designed to optimize back-office workflows for its own corporate customers, Broedlow said there is not necessarily one particular process he’s focused on digitizing at the moment. Rather, as he told PYMNTS for a Voice of the Digital-First CFO discussion, his organization already has a culture in place to embrace technology.
That doesn’t mean his job is done, however. As he explained, a CFO’s efforts cannot merely be digitization for digitization’s sake. Rather, deploying a strategic method of implementing technology with an eye on using data to bridge gaps and overcome silos can achieve a multitude of goals all at once, from streamlining B2B payments to arming sales teams with richer insights.
Ditching The Data Friction
Having been at Agreement Express as CFO for nearly two years, Broedlow noted that the back office has always embraced technology to promote efficiency in a variety of workflows, from customer contract-to-cash to vendor management.
But embracing digital platforms and FinTech solutions alone won’t necessarily lead to optimized workflows. The inability to manage and integrate data can become a major barrier for these tools to deliver the most value.
“In any new role that I’ve stepped into, you take a fresh look at processes, systems and people, and evaluate where are the biggest bottlenecks, where are there inefficiencies?” he said. “I hate situations where you have double or triple entries of the same information because from experience, it’s always going to introduce the potential for error and problems up- and downstream.”
That integration is particularly important for Broedlow when it comes to the ability for key platforms like enterprise resource planning (ERP) or customer relationship management (CRM) solutions. Similarly, it’s vital for the ERP and the CRM themselves to be connected in order to provide the greatest visibility to client services and sales teams.
Using data to bridge the front office to the back office means driving data integrations not solely for the purpose of cutting down inefficiencies and automating workflows. It’s also about unlocking valuable insights for team members across departments, whether they’re working with vendors or with customers directly.
“It’s a driving goal of seeking that utopia of having a seamless integration,” Broedlow added, “or having the ability to at least share information back and forth between applications.”
Leading By Example
While back-office digitization can have positive effects on the front office, the implications of such efforts reach far beyond the enterprise itself. And with barriers to modernization coming down as more businesses and their employees embrace the opportunity to optimize, having a positive impact both within an organization and upon its business partners and customers is now more attainable.
In B2B payments workflows, for instance, Broedlow said there is significantly less resistance among suppliers to allow the sharing of bank account information in order to receive electronic payments.
“I can recall instances in the past where a vendor, and maybe a less sophisticated back office, might say, ‘I can’t provide you with my bank information,’” he said. “That resistance has completely gone away.”
It wouldn’t be a leap to say that for many businesses, their influence over vendors to embrace their own digitization efforts like electronic payments acceptance or eInvoicing is on the rise. For CFOs who are leading these changes, there must be an understanding that the influence reaches far beyond their own finance department. For Broedlow, it extends into Agreement Express’ own corporate customers, too.
“The CFOs of our customers and prospects can be key advocates as our solution seeks to replace manual processes for underwriting new merchants,” he said, noting that through automating and optimizing onboarding processes for the firm’s FinTech customers, there is an opportunity to bolster revenues and lower abandonment rates among their own clients.
For Broedlow, digitizing the back office means optimizing the enterprise as well as leading by example to empower partners and customers to embrace their own modernization efforts.