As corporate debt becomes more expensive, working capital management will become increasingly important. Some organizations have let working capital performance slide since interest rates hit historical lows. Debt is cheap, and companies may see little benefit in holding excess cash. But now that interest rates are heading slowly upward, many companies are finding that the time is right to place a renewed emphasis on improving their working capital management.

The winners of this year's Alexander Hamilton Awards in Working Capital Management demonstrate the benefits of focusing resources on improving the cash conversion cycle, the crucial role of technology in achieving those benefits, and the importance of well-thought-out project management.

Both consumer lender DFC Global and communications services conglomerate Omnicom Group operate diverse, and widely dispersed, businesses. The key to improving working capital management for both companies was consolidating data from across the company. At DFC Global, implementation of new treasury management and loan management systems enabled the automation of many banking processes, which streamlined internal operations and accelerated the company's funding of customer loans.

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Meg Waters

Meg Waters is the editor in chief of Treasury & Risk. She is the former editor in chief of BPM Magazine and the former managing editor of Business Finance.