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It’s always nice to optimize the money coming in and minimize the money going out. The more my wife and I are able to do that, the more free money we have for savings, paying down debts, or finally getting that new set of tires for the car. Unfortunately, in my house, there’s only a limited number of options we have for controlling both sides of that equation—my wife and I can ask for raises or take on extra work or additional jobs if we want more money, and we can cut back on the non-fat lattes from the local Starbucks or increasingly expensive movie nights at the theater (where one large soft drink now seems to equal a day’s pay). The process itself is still a relatively straightforward task—there isn’t that much money coming in and there are only so many ways that we spend it (even if it does go quicker than we imagine), so when it does come time to review our income and expenses it’s relatively easy to keep track of where we might be able to cut back on expenses and increase our earnings, and project how much money we’ll have next week or next month.

The picture isn’t quite that clear however for most large companies—in fact the larger and more distributed the company is, the more difficult this type of analysis becomes. For organizations this challenge becomes one of optimizing their working capital and cash flow by monitoring and managing key payment and receivables processes and process cycles such as Order-to-Cash and Procure-to-Pay.

Based on conversations I’ve had with multiple enterprise executives, in 2006 and beyond we will continue to see the business trend of organizations looking for ways to drive down costs and improve internal efficiencies. Areas such as cash flow management and balance sheet improvements are increasingly important, as are the general needs to be able to connect, consolidate and manage previously fragmented financial processes and disconnected systems. Connecting these disconnected systems and gaining clearer and faster financial perspective can be difficult for a number of reasons—from systems that simply aren’t integrated to poor cross-departmental communications to reactive collection policies and difficulties in forecasting and managing procurement projections or invoice disputes. For years, organizations have used ERP systems to keep track of transactional business processes and data, storing all types of critical business and financial information, yet these don’t always provide the visibility and capabilities needed to optimized complex processes such as Order-to-Cash. Some organizations even have more than one ERP system, making the job of identifying and leveraging the flow of cash from inflows to outflows even more difficult.


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