For Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Vice President of Finance Michael Schillo, winning the 2014 Accounts Receivable (AR) Innovation Award from the Institute of Financial Operations (IFO) at last month’s Fusion conference couldn’t have come at a better time for his division. With a new CEO coming on board at Sony, it was a great chance to make a strong first impression, and Schillo definitely did. “I was able to share how far we’d come the past five years, which was exciting to review,” he said. The opportunity to give the reasons why the AR automation solution was so successful impressed the new boss and paved the way for future automation solution efforts.

That Software as a Service (SaaS) solution – developed by DataServ – helped Sony reduce its bad debt reserve from $26 million in 2006, the year Schillo joined Sony, to $500,000 in 2014. Such dramatic success was met with a good dose of healthy skepticism at the IFO Fusion 2014 conference in Dallas. “There were many inquiries into just how the solution works and what the key drivers for success were,” said Schillo. “We experienced a big reduction, and when you see a number like that it’s easy to understand the skepticism – but we know firsthand at Sony how well the solution worked.”

As Schillo shared with other financial leaders at Fusion, organization is key to AR automation success. The speed in which companies handle AR inquiries directly impacts their ability to collect, so getting back to the customer as quickly as possible with the correct documentation is vital to reducing AR bad debt. “When you have 20 feet of paper in your office,” Schillo explained, “it’s harder to dig into the details of an inquiry. When everything is automated, it takes minutes instead of days or even weeks.”

Schillo also was able to calm the concerns of those at Fusion concerned about handing AR automation over to an outside company. Many companies hold fast to the belief that they need to rely on their internal resources to manage AR needs, but SaaS technology provides exceptional value and takes the burden off already stretched IT departments. However, as Schillo pointed out, it is vital that vendors like DataServ partner with company IT departments to ensure as seamless a transition as possible to the new solution.

So, after the great success of AR automation at Sony, what’s next for the finance division under Schillo? “I took over a new group recently that includes some accounts payable as well as some digital divisions, so there are new challenges in both areas that will need continued automation,” Schillo said. Thanks to the positive impression the AR Innovation Award made with Sony’s new CEO, however, it’s now far easier to get buy-in from the C-suite on the needed automation growth.

Congratulations to Michael Schillo and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment for winning the 2014 AR Innovation Award. We’re looking forward to seeing what you tackle next with a SaaS solution.

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