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Digital Revolution Transforming Finance Function, ISG Says

Cloud, automation, analytics and blockchain delivering greater insights, efficiency ISG Provider Lens™ report evaluates 19 FAO providers across 5 buyer archetypes

The digital revolution is rapidly transforming the finance and accounting function, with enterprises embracing such technologies as cloud, automation, analytics and blockchain to gain real-time – and predictive – insights into business performance and to streamline work, according to a new report from Information Services Group (ISG) (Nasdaq: III), a leading global technology research and advisory firm.

The newly published ISG Provider Lens™ FAO Digital Outsourcing Services Archetype Report reveals the speed and flexibility required by today’s agile business models are prompting CFOs to seek expert advice, support and technology platforms from outside the organization as they rethink traditional finance and accounting processes within the framework of the entire business.

“Today, agility is one of the biggest contributing factors to an organization’s success,” said Esteban Herrera, partner and global leader of ISG Research. “Enterprises must transform themselves from the outside in, starting with the customer and moving all the way through the organization to the back office. The need for rapid response is growing exponentially, especially among members of the C-suite who need access to real-time information to make critical business decisions.

“Digital technology is enabling this shift. The CFO, in particular, is moving well beyond the scorekeeper role to become a strategic business leader empowered by real-time performance data.”

ISG notes cloud solutions are being leveraged to provide real-time information and access to data anytime and anywhere, while CFOs are relying increasingly on prescriptive analytics to support quicker, fact-based decision-making. Finance teams are leveraging such technologies to mitigate losses, reduce days sales outstanding and improve cash flow, among other benefits.

Automation also is having a big impact on the Finance & Accounting Outsourcing (FAO) space. According to ISG Research, robotic process automation (RPA) will automate more than 50 percent of finance and accounting processes by 2020, including order-to-cash, procure-to-pay and record-to-report processes and transactions. The impact is most significant in order-to-cash, which requires an average of 43 percent fewer resources after being automated, ISG said.

Artificial intelligence, moving beyond optical character recognition (OCR) technology to natural language processing (NLP) capabilities, is enabling the automation of more complex work, such as fraud detection and exception handling, the report noted. While AI adoption currently is low, ISG forecasts usage will surge within the next two years – with 47 percent of enterprises, on average, looking to adopt NLP, machine learning, autonomics, virtual customer agents and related technology in that timeframe.

ISG sees blockchain as a “game-changer,” with significant application in finance. While still in its nascent stages, providers are investing heavily in blockchain, ISG notes, identifying IBM as a “big player” and noting other providers, such as Wipro, making significant investments in the distributed-ledger technology.

In terms of buyer expectations, enterprises are seeking greater industry specialization from their providers, the ISG report said, and are leaning toward transaction- and outcome-based pricing models, while moving away from FTE and fixed-fee arrangements now prevalent in the FAO market.

The ISG Provider Lens FAO Digital Outsourcing Services Archetype Report evaluates 19 global providers across five buyer archetypes:
Transaction Archetype – First-generation outsourcers looking to source less complex finance functions that are repetitive and transactional; focus is on reducing costs through labor arbitrage.

Automation Archetype – Enterprises looking to outsource more of their critical functions, not only for cost-savings, but to gain deeper insights to support decision-making from a blend of automation and intelligence.

Transformation Archetype – Buyers looking to transform their F&A operations to be ahead of the curve, improve customer experience, and gain real-time insights for quicker decision-making.

Vertically Focused Archetype – Enterprises operating in highly regulated or competitive environments and seeking not only best-of-breed technology, but specific industry expertise.

Holistic Archetype – Buyers looking to outsource end-to-end F&A functions to a strategic partner so they can focus on their core business activities.

Among the providers ISG evaluated, only Cognizant, Genpact, Infosys and Wipro were named leaders across all five archetypes. Accenture, EXL and IBM earned top marks in four of the five archetypes.

The ISG Provider Lens FAO Digital Outsourcing Services Archetype Report is available to ISG Insights™ subscribers or for immediate, one-time purchase on this webpage. Customized versions of the report also are available from Cognizant and Infosys.