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Transformation of Finance Communication with Vendors Using AI | Featuring Ayo Fashina | CFO Insights

Find out interesting insights with:
Ayo Fashina, 
CFO & Strategic Advisor

Moderated by :
Emily
Digital Transformation Consultant at Hyperbots

Don’t want to watch a video? Read the interview transcript below.

Emily (Host): Hello everyone, this is Emily, a Digital Transformation Consultant at Hyperbots. I’m really pleased to have Ayo Fashina on the call with us today. Ayo is the CFO at Kobo360, and we will be discussing the transformation of finance communication and coordination tasks with vendors and customers using AI. But before we dive into the details, Ayo, could you please introduce yourself?

Ayo: Yes, thank you, Emily. It’s good to be here. My name is Ayo Fashina, and as Emily mentioned, I’m the Group CFO at Kobo360. At Kobo360, we are an e-logistics company that matches goods owners to transporters, operating in seven African countries. I oversee the finance functions for all these regions as well as our operations in the US. It’s a pleasure to be here, and I’m looking forward to our discussion on the transformation of finance communication and coordination tasks using AI.

Emily: Thank you so much, Ayo, and welcome to our discussion. To begin, I’d like to understand how AI has impacted communication and coordination tasks within the finance department of your organization.

Ayo: Thank you, Emily. AI has significantly impacted our communications and coordination tasks in various ways. As a tech-enabled logistics company, we have integrated AI to alleviate pain points inherent in logistics—a traditionally manual and cumbersome sector. AI helps us track various items that might otherwise fall through the cracks, monitor payment due dates, and automate communication with customers and vendors.

For instance, AI algorithms read invoices to extract key information such as due dates, amounts, and contact information. Automated notifications are sent out when invoices are issued and as they approach their due dates. This ensures our customers are reminded to make payments on time, which is crucial for our cash flow management.

Emily: Got it. What were the primary motivations behind integrating AI into your finance communication and coordination processes?

Ayo: The main objective was to ensure nothing fell through the cracks. Initially, we faced issues with delayed payments to vendors, which affected our relationships with transporters—our primary vendors. We also needed to optimize our cash flow by managing payment timings more efficiently. By integrating AI, we improved our reminder system for customers and automated advance payment requests from transporters. This has significantly enhanced our cash-to-cash cycle and overall cash flow management.

Emily: Understood. How has AI specifically transformed vendor communication and coordination processes within your finance operations?

Ayo: AI has greatly enhanced our vendor management system. We can now send real-time messages to vendors about available orders, automate the matching of transporters to trips, and process advance payment requests. We also use AI to scrape information from SMS and WhatsApp to integrate customer orders into our platform, ensuring seamless coordination even when customers do not use our online portal.

Emily: Could you share specific examples where AI has significantly improved vendor interactions or transactions?

Ayo: Certainly. For example, we use AI to process advance payment requests and manage our fuel voucher system. When a transporter picks up goods, they can request an advance payment through their phone, which AI processes in real-time, considering the trip details and truck location. This automation has reduced the advance payment processing time from 24 hours to just five minutes, greatly benefiting our transporters by allowing them to refuel and continue their trips without delay.

Emily: That’s impressive. Now, what challenges did you encounter when implementing AI for vendor communication, and how did you address them?

Ayo: One major challenge was ensuring that AI could communicate through various channels, not just smartphones and emails. Many of our drivers do not have smartphones, and those that do often face battery issues on long hauls. We had to enable AI to communicate through SMS and WhatsApp to accommodate these limitations. Another challenge was ensuring the accuracy of information scraped from messages, which we addressed by refining our algorithms and ensuring thorough testing.

Emily: What lessons have you learned from overcoming these challenges?

Ayo: The key lesson is the importance of understanding the needs and limitations of your users before developing a solution. Engaging with customers and vendors to understand their pain points ensures the developed solution meets their needs. Additionally, an iterative process involving continuous feedback and improvement is crucial for success.

Emily: How has AI enhanced communication and coordination with customers in your finance department?

Ayo: AI has given us better control over our cash flow by improving visibility and tracking of invoices and payments. This has reduced our receivables days from 100 to 20 days and shortened our cash-to-cash cycle from 40 days to around 10 days. Automated reminders and notifications have also improved our collection process and reduced errors in payments.

Emily: Can you share any notable instances where AI-driven customer interactions led to improved outcomes or customer satisfaction?

Ayo: Certainly. By automating reminders and payment notifications, we’ve significantly improved our receivables days. Our transporters appreciate the timely advance payments and fuel vouchers, which have made their operations smoother. These improvements have enhanced overall customer satisfaction, as evidenced by positive feedback during focus groups and surveys.

Emily: What are the primary benefits your organization has experienced from leveraging AI in finance communication and coordination tasks?

Ayo: The primary benefits include better coordination with vendors and customers, improved payment timing, enhanced reporting accuracy, and overall improved cash flow management. These improvements have not only streamlined our operations but also contributed to our goal of achieving sustainability more quickly.

Emily: Have you observed any quantifiable improvements in efficiency, cost reduction, or other key performance indicators since implementing AI?

Ayo: Yes, we have observed significant improvements. Our cash-to-cash cycle has reduced from 40 to 10 days, and our receivables days have decreased from 100 to 20 days. Additionally, the time to process advance payments has dropped from 24 hours to five minutes. These metrics highlight the efficiency and effectiveness of our AI implementation.

Emily: How do you ensure data privacy and security while utilizing AI for communication and coordination with external parties?

Ayo: We comply with privacy standards such as GDPR and ensure sensitive data is not included in automated communications. We use AI to redact sensitive information and employ strict access controls within our platform. Only authorized personnel can access sensitive financial information, ensuring data privacy and security.

Emily: Are there any specific AI technologies or tools your organization has adopted to enhance financial communication and coordination?

Ayo: All our tools are developed in-house by our engineering team. We initially explored off-the-shelf solutions but found them inadequate for our niche requirements. Our custom-built tools are tailored to our specific needs and continuously improved based on feedback from our finance and operations teams.

Emily: What metrics or key performance indicators do you use to measure the effectiveness of AI-driven communication within the finance department?

Ayo: We track accuracy and effectiveness of communication, read and open rates of messages, delivery time of reports, and improvements in financial metrics such as receivables and payable days. These indicators help us evaluate the success of our AI implementation and identify areas for further optimization.

Emily: Have you identified any areas for further optimization or refinement based on these performance metrics?

Ayo: Yes, we are continuously optimizing our tools based on feedback and performance metrics. Currently, we are exploring the use of chatbots to handle standardized queries from vendors, which would further enhance efficiency and reduce the need for human intervention.

Emily: How do you envision the future of AI in transforming finance communication and coordination tasks?

Ayo: I see AI enabling more personalized and empathetic communication, leveraging advanced algorithms and machine learning to foster meaningful connections. AI will continue to evolve, offering more nuanced responses and insights, ultimately transforming finance operations to be more efficient and customer-centric.

Emily: What emerging trends or developments in AI technology do you believe will have a significant impact on finance operations in the coming years?

Ayo: Data-driven processes will become more strategic, and virtual assistants and chatbots will be more mainstream, providing 24/7 support. AI assistants will handle more complex issues and connect with customers in a natural manner, reducing the need for a large customer service team and improving overall efficiency.

Emily: Thank you, Ayo, for sharing such valuable insights. It’s been a pleasure discussing the transformation of finance communication and coordination tasks with AI. Any final thoughts?

Ayo: Thank you, Emily. It’s been a great discussion. I believe AI will continue to play a crucial role in enhancing finance operations, and I’m excited to see how these technologies evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of our industry.

Emily: Thank you, Ayo. And thank you, everyone, for joining us today. Until next time, stay tuned for more insights on digital transformation.



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