For years, a global pharmaceutical company had outsourced its procure-to-pay finance activities, such as processing invoices and paying suppliers. Savings from low-cost labor and improved processes had yielded savings, but managers were eager to explore whether automation could unlock new opportunities. After assessing for themselves how much work could be automatable, estimating the value at stake, and calculating the investment required, they challenged the company’s offshore business-process outsourcer (BPO) to show that it could compete with an automated model. In the end, the pharmaco managers decided not to bring the outsourced elements home to automate. But they did renegotiate the company’s BPO contract, saving 40 percent or more over the next three years.
Offshoring, outsourcing, and centralization have been the bread and butter of improving the finance function’s productivity for decades. As the pharmaco’s experience shows, tech-savvy CFOs are now considering automation to propel a new wave of efficiency and performance.