You can’t manage what you don’t measure. To measure your cash flow, you need to track Days Sales Outstanding (DSO). DSO is the average age of your accounts receivable — and ideally, you’d like that number to be as low as possible (4-5 is considered quite good). A higher DSO is an indicator that customers are slower to pay and could result in uncollectible accounts. What are some tools and tactics your company can deploy to help lower DSO — and what role might an AR Automation application play?
Know What You Don’t Know
Every day you hold onto an account receivable, you have less cash at your disposal to grow your business. Several years ago, the Harvard Business Review performed an analysis revealing that accounts receivable 60 days outstanding adds 10% to every dollar owed. At 90 days, that increases to nearly 20% and hikes up to 27% for 120 days overdue. For a $5,000 invoice, that’s an extra $500 for 60 days past the due date and $1,350 for 120 days delinquent. At that point, you essentially have a lost receivable.
Do you actively monitor DSO? It’s a critical KPI, but many organizations are not continually measuring their DSO. You can calculate DSO by dividing the average open accounts receivable balance by the total credit sales for a period, then multiplying the result by the number of days in the period. For example, let’s say over a 90-day period, your average receivable balance is $1.5 million, and your credit sales are $2.5 million. You can calculate your DSO for that period as follows:
• 1.5 divided by 2.5 = 0.6
• 0.6 multiplied by 90 = 54
• Your DSO for this business in this period is 54
While most accounting applications have reports that report on an individual invoice or customer’s average days to pay, not all report on DSO. AR Automation applications provide this type of information — usually in helpful dashboard form — along with other valuable metrics to help you best manage your cash.
Make it Easier to Pay
It still surprises us to see how many companies choose to mail invoices and wait for checks. To lower DSO, make it quick and simple for customers to review and pay their invoices. Send all invoices electronically and offer electronic payment options, including accepting credit and debit cards online and supporting ACH transfers.
Some accounting solutions, such as Sage Intacct, support bank feeds, allowing you to directly connect to thousands of U.S. banks, bring in transaction data and perform “soft” reconciliations as often as you wish — even daily. The result is a much more accurate picture of your organization’s financial standing along with much less work at month-end.
Look at the Invoice Process
Obviously, you need to present an invoice to the customer to start the collections process, so it makes sense also to ensure this process is quick and efficient. If you have a complex billing structure, including subscription billing with revenue recognition ramifications, for example, it may take longer to complete your monthly billing cycle.
A robust and flexible accounting application like Sage Intacct simplifies even complex subscription billing, helping you generate accurate and timely invoices.
Automate Reminders and Collections
Manual collection efforts take time and money. Plus, the further an invoice strays from terms, the more effort and energy is required to bring the account current. This is time your team members could be spending on other value-added projects.
AR Automation applications can eliminate the need for your staff to micro-manage routine receivables by automatically sending customized reminders that help you stay out in front of receivables. For example, the system can automatically send email reminders in advance of the due date, one on the due date, and another one week later if the invoice hasn’t yet been paid.
Predictive AR Management
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are showing up everywhere, and AR Automation applications are no exception. Here these technologies add value by using their ability to digest large volumes of data and make “intelligent” predictions about what comes next. We’re seeing the best AR Automation applications use AI and ML to:
• Predict payment dates to help you plan short-term expenditures and investments
• Provide payor trends to evaluate payment activity over time
• Perform risk profiling to identify risky customers and focus your collection efforts where they’re needed
• Deliver real-time cash forecasting through dashboards that deliver timely insight into your cash situation
With improved insight and control over your company’s collection cycle, you’ll save valuable time and gain quicker access to the operating cash you need. Not all AR Automation applications provide the same level of functionality — we can help you evaluate and select the best application for your organization.