Automation is becoming ubiquitous across payment transactions and treasury management processes. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, bots, contactless technology, and real-time connectivity are just a few of the innovations driving digital efficiency today, with even more on the near horizon.
The best examples of automation and frictionless processes are often simple and elegant. They’re the kind of workflows or apps that make you say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Authenticating users by facial recognition or fingerprint match rather than cumbersome passwords and tokens is an example.
Getting to this effortlessness, however, takes a lot more than the wave of a magic wand. How effective next-generation treasury tools and payment mechanisms are actually depends a lot on humans. Behind every innovation are the smart thinkers who review and reinvent the workflow; systems and machines just bring it to life.
Innovators reinvent from the ground up
Automation has been a priority for businesses large and small, but COVID-19 is creating new urgency. Companies are hungry for streamlined digital solutions that support work from anywhere environments and keep employees, customers, and suppliers safe.
As a result, product developers are digging deep to remove even more pain points from accounts payable (AP), accounts receivable (AR), cash positioning and working capital management.
Just how do these innovators make it happen?
It’s not enough simply to convert an inefficient paper process to digital, or to take the way a legacy system functions and move it to the cloud. The improvements you remember—the ones that really change lives—reinvent a workflow from the ground up.
Consider straight-through processing for commercial card payments. As single use virtual account numbers grew in popularity, some AP departments grew frustrated by the time and effort required to enter these transaction numbers one at a time into their suppliers’ payment portals.
Instead of automating this process “as is” to make it faster and less manual, the product development team bypassed it entirely. Now, participating companies simply sign up. When payment is due, their B2B customer pushes the virtual card payment “straight through” to the payee’s merchant acquirer who then deposits funds into the payee’s bank account—all without manual intervention. It’s a “machine to machine” solution designed to minimize the work effort for both AP and AR teams.
Driving innovation with real-world insights
Steps like these ensure new tools and solutions maximize their potential:
- In-depth examination of a process. It can take an excruciating amount of detail to achieve automation. That’s why developers put every step of an activity under a microscope, looking for connections, pain points, and inefficiencies. They’re constantly asking “why?” to get to the underlying needs that will ultimately spur a better way to work.
- Considering the butterfly effect. It’s also important to look at a new process or platform in context. Savvy developers want to understand how even a small change might impact other operations upstream or downstream. For example, streamlining invoice information that sits in the middle of a payment flow could impact downstream reconciliation processes.
- Balancing automation with control. Giving an organization a faster or smarter way to work often meets resistance rather than excitement. One reason is a perceived lack of control because so many steps now occur without human intervention. Tools that build in checkpoints and are transparent in their architecture solve this issue, giving users, approvers, and leaders confidence.
At Wells Fargo, we apply these and other methodology on a daily basis. Our comprehensive business process reviews with longstanding clients arm us with robust insights that jumpstart our product development process; there’s simply no substitute for real-world experiences.
Some of the best innovations solve pain points customers didn’t even realize they had. These come from intimate knowledge of customers’ businesses.
Next time you use cutting-edge tech or evaluate new systems, consider the source and the smart thinkers who made efficiency, automation, and innovation possible.
For more information, contact your Wells Fargo treasury management representative or fill out the Contact Us form on this site.