What We Learned at Tipalti Illuminate 2023

The themes of Tipalti’s 2023 Illuminate virtual conference focused on several areas, including best practices for implementing scalable AP automation solutions, the evolving role of finance teams, and how finance and technology will impact one another over the long term.

Here are the top session highlights from this year’s Tipalti Illuminate conference.

Charting the Future of Finance and Technology

During this session, Herald Chen, the CFO of AppLovin, shared his thoughts on the future of finance and technology alongside Tipalti’s CFO, Sarah Spoja. Chen is informed by his diverse career, with roles across investments and executive leadership. 

Technology Can Be a Great Predictor of Finance

The emergence of new data tools and generative AI models has enormous potential for controller finance functions to use technology to predict forward-looking trends that provide insights for finetuning company performance.

New AI and LLM (Large Language Model) tools allow you to be a lot more creative more quickly, enabling you to spot trends you couldn’t see before. This ultimately drives revenue streams. For example, you may see a customer is going to churn because you see the AR doing this or the AP doing that based on predictions from a machine learning engine.

Herald Chen | CFO, AppLovin

Automation and Outsourcing Will Drive Efficiencies Further

Today’s uncertain economic environment means there is more pressure than ever for companies to demonstrate efficiencies and cut costs.

I don’t think the people who aren’t willing to change or adapt to the latest technologies in the most efficient forms will survive in this new world. What is interesting to me as well is how efficient companies can get. There’s an underestimation as to what a company can do in terms of outsourcing or cutting costs. We’ll see what the experiment at Twitter/X leads to, with just a fraction of the original headcount.

chen added

Step Out of the Back Office Function Mindset

Chen believes that automation efficiencies will help evolve the role of the back-office finance function to drive value across the wider business.

It’s exciting if you can make core back-office activities more efficient and can reallocate those resources to focus on the likes of driving efficiency in the sales force, driving price increases, and supply chain constraints using technology. Whether you’re an accountant, the controller, FP&A, or CFO, it really allows you to step up and out of that back-office function role or mindset and be at the fore.

Herald Chen | CFO, AppLovin

Unlocking AP Potential—Steps to a Strategic Global Accounts Payable Strategy 

During the AP panel, panelists discussed their views on how AP automation tools are streamlining processes to enable businesses to scale, access better visibility on cash balances, and support external auditors.   

Scale Without Adding to Headcount

Barbara Tang, assistant controller at Scribd, a subscription platform, implemented Tipalti to take care of AP and found that this allowed the company to process a growing volume of invoices with automation features exceeding human capabilities.

Without the software and systems we have in place, like Tipalti, we would be looking for someone who is a unicorn that is organized and a perfectionist. This is impossible when you’re talking about 600 accounts payable invoices, and you have to go through multiple approval flows and check them against budgets.

Barbara Tang | Assistant Controller, Scribd

Keep a Strong Eye on Cash

The post-growth at all costs era means companies are under more pressure to be self-sustaining by generating revenues with a pathway to profitability.

Bryan Rhody, Partner at BPM, an accounting and advisory firm, believes tools like Tipalti enable companies to benefit from a real-time cash view to optimize their working capital better.

A well-defined holistic AP process with proper controls in place will accurately articulate your company’s cash flow situation, which can help strengthen your banking and funding relationships. When you take it to that strategic level, it will lead to flexibility with payments that can align your outflows with your inflows.

Bryan Rhody | BPM Partner

Standardized Processes Benefit Auditors Too

David Fractor, CFO at ImaginAb, an LA-based biotech company, explained how the company’s use of Tipalti will save time during external audits.

The standardization that comes with an automated system is advantageous. When we get into the year-end audit, the auditors can test one or two invoices. They will find that the automated controls work, so they won’t have to do as much detailed testing in that area.

David Fractor | CFO, ImaginAb

The Evolving Role of Finance

The Evolving Role of Finance panel stressed the importance of the finance function needing to move beyond manual processing and adopt automation solutions to deliver fast and accurate management information while freeing up team members to analyze data and strengthen relationships.

Moving Up the Value Chain 

Shahid Khalid, Finance Manager at Spitfire Audio, a company that sells virtual instruments, has been able to devote more of his time to FP&A since digitizing the heavily manual royalties side of the business.

I now have much more time to spend on other areas of my role. This includes financial planning, budgeting, and other things that aren’t inputting data into spreadsheets and manually posting.

Shahid Khalid | Finance Manager, Spitfire Audio

Better Collaboration

Alexander Azarov, CEO of Clickio, a digital platform for publishers, is heavily involved in the finances due to the team being relatively small.

He’s found that saved time from automation has created bandwidth for finance to collaborate with suppliers and develop stronger relationships.

By communicating with suppliers, if something goes wrong, we can dedicate much more time and prioritize this a lot more. And this should hopefully result in higher satisfaction from suppliers.

Alexander Azarov | CEO, Clickio

Agile Decision Making

Cristina Escalante, Global COO at Outset Global, raised the need for finance leaders to demonstrate leadership through agile decision-making. 

However, she stressed that this is only a reality for companies that have end-to-end integrated systems.

The bigger pain point is connecting all the systems so that you have one set of clean data that you can use to have the transparency you need to have data analytics. This will enable you to make smarter decisions and quicker.

Cristina Escalante | Global COO, Outset Global

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