Bye-bye, paper invoice: Digital financial processes are becoming more and more common. While digital orders and online payments are well established in the B2C sector, the B2B sector is trailing behind in some areas of digital financial transactions. Accenture, one of the world’s leading consulting firms, sees a great demand for consulting services and was curious about how the students of the Cologne Business School – digital natives with the latest business school expertise – see the market and the possibilities. Therefore, Accenture mandated the business project “Digital transformation of finance processes in B2B businesses” at CBS, led by Prof Dr Laxmi Remer, Professor of Finance, and Prof Dr Wolfgang Wiesmann, Professor of Accounting. Business Projects at the CBS are part of the curriculum both in Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes and an important link between academic theory and business practice.
Four fields of research, four teams
Which new and improved digital solutions can be used to optimise financial transactions in businesses? How does the solution provider landscape look like? What is the outlook for the future? 37 students (12 Master, 25 Bachelor) worked on this business project for almost five months to deliver a compelling study to Accenture – specifically tailored to the target industries of commodities and chemicals. Prior to the project’s start the entire team also faced the extra challenge of developing processes and reporting. The students decided to work in four dedicated teams, divided into three sub-teams each. The “Procure-to-pay” team dealt with order processes and invoice processing, the “Order to Cash” team with sales processes and claims management, the “Record to Report” team with financial statements and reporting, and team number four worked on “Financial Planning and Analysis”. “The students have not only created relevant knowledge, but they have also learned to manage a major task by making advantage of the complete skills and talents within the team,” says Prof Dr Wolfgang Wiesmann.
Creating success on your own
The students gained deep insights into the financial processes of companies and were able to identify and evaluate innovative solutions in their study. They found that the market for digital financial process solutions is huge, fragmented and difficult for companies to understand. Matching demand with supply is a challenge. Progressive providers already offer complex automations or develop blockchain architectures. At the same time, some businesses first need basic functionalities. Another important experience for the students was that they presented both their interim and final results in person to Accenture representatives and learned how to deal with expectations and feedback. Accenture was so impressed by the performance of the students that the firm is already planning further business projects with CBS.