Several years ago, I noted the importance of gaining resilience in managing supply chains. The world had entered a new era of trade following the financial crisis of 2007, as multilateral relationships were steadily fragmenting. For decades, sourcing and supply chain management was focused almost exclusively on achieving the lowest cost, and the world’s trade environment supported this approach. However, I observed that the new era of trade, supply chain planning and execution, would be more complex, and organizations needed to shift focus to emphasize business continuity and sustainability, accommodating change with the least disruption at the lowest cost. Sourcing decisions, logistics and product design would be crafted with an eye to a far-from-perfect and changeable world. Higher costs would be balanced against necessary resilience and sustainability, supported by the ability to make changes rapidly with assurance and limited risk.
Over the past decade, how organizations manage processes and record data related to transactional events captured by an enterprise resource planning system has undergone a significant evolution. Some of the more recent changes have been the result of a steady migration to the cloud, since these systems are typically updated frequently, require less maintenance, have better performance and are more readily available than those operating on-premises.
A looming challenge for companies in the developed world is price inflation, an issue periodically fretted over – but not experienced at a macroeconomic level in most developed economies – over the past four decades. Price inflation has been a frequent bugaboo that never emerged because of persistent disinflationary forces in the world economy over the past forty years. It remains to be seen to what extent recent price rises are persistent or transitory but “what if?” was the most important phrase organizations used in 2020. What if this time it really is different?
A year of business uncertainty, lockdowns and operational disruptions forced finance and accounting organizations to adapt and change in many ways that are proving to be permanent. The need to operate virtually resulted in some organizations accelerating their adoption of technology, bringing them closer to achieving a transformation of the finance and accounting function: reshaping the department into an organization that is more forward-looking and strategic. Strategic in the sense of providing greater visibility into how the company and each of its business units is performing and insight into how to achieve better results going forward. Its focus is on what is happening next and not merely on what just happened. It does not only explain past results but uses that context to provide guidance about the choices executives and managers have, and the likely impact of those choices. To truly achieve this degree of transformation requires a different departmental structure, one that incorporates a Finance IT capability.
Topics: Office of Finance, Business Intelligence, Data Governance, Data Preparation, Business Planning, Financial Performance Management, ERP and Continuous Accounting, blockchain, robotic finance, Predictive Planning, AI and Machine Learning
These days it strikes me that the motto of successful salespeople – "ABC: Always Be Closing!" – should apply equally to corporate controllers, albeit in the accounting sense. This is a reference to an approach to managing the finance department that I have been advocating, which I call "continuous accounting." It is a holistic way of managing the accounting function that, in large part, emphasizes using technology to distribute workloads more evenly over an accounting period, spreading closing activities as evenly as possible over time rather than waiting until the end of the month or quarter. Continuous accounting also stresses improving staff efficiency by automating repetitive processes as well as enhancing organizational effectiveness by improving data integrity in finance processes.
Business process reengineering (BPR) was a consulting fashion in the early 1990s that spurred many companies to purchase their first ERP systems. BPR proposes a fundamental redesign of core business processes to achieve substantial improvements in market and customer responsiveness, productivity, cycle times and quality. Those early ERP systems provided a platform to manage cross-functional business processes with much greater flexibility and efficiency than had been possible in the past, partly because it took advantage of the commercialization of relational database technology, the graphical user interface, client-server networks and event-driven programming. ERP and other digital systems support business process reengineering by guiding the step-by-step execution of the redesigned process to ensure that it is performed consistently. They also automate the handoffs between individuals and departments as well as manage approvals and exceptions to accelerate completion of that process and permit supervisory personnel to spend more time focusing on matters that require their judgement and experience and less time on administrivia.
Ventana Research defines intercompany financial management as a discipline for structuring and handling transactions within a corporation and between its legal entities. IFM is designed to maximize staff efficiency and accounting accuracy while optimizing tax exposure, minimizing tax leakage and ensuring consistent tax and regulatory compliance. Today, IFM is an obscure topic, but I assert that by 2025, one-half of organizations with 10,000 or more employees will have implemented intercompany financial management to achieve tax, risk-management and financial close benefits.
The objectives of zero-based budgeting are well aligned with what I call integrated business planning, a technology-enabled approach to managing the forward-looking activities of a corporation including forecasting, planning and budgeting. IBP enables every business unit to plan their business in a way that makes sense to them but also makes the numbers in those plans available for company-wide planning, budgeting analysis and reporting. IBP combines operational planning and financial budgeting using models constructed around the things that managers manage, translating those elements into a financial budget. This approach can compress the time required to create and update operating plans from days or weeks to hours or minutes. Our Next-Generation Business Planning Benchmark Research found that IBP is a superior approach.
Unit4’s Financial Planning and Analysis (formerly Prevero) is a planning and budgeting application designed for the requirements of midsize corporations and the public sector. These organizations are challenged in buying software because they have almost all the requirements of larger enterprises but have a smaller budget and limited technical resources.
Topics: Office of Finance, embedded analytics, Analytics, Business Intelligence, Business Planning, Financial Performance Management, Price and Revenue Management, Digital Technology, ERP and Continuous Accounting, AI and Machine Learning, collaborative computing
IBM Planning Analytics, formerly known as TM1, is a comprehensive planning and analytics application designed to integrate and streamline an organization’s planning processes. It can support multiple planning use cases on a single platform, including financial, headcount, sales and demand planning. The software automates enterprise-wide data collection to make it repeatable and scalable across multiple users and departments. It supports sophisticated driver-based modeling that enables rapid what-if or scenario-based planning, while its built-in analytics provide deep business intelligence capabilities. This enables senior executives and managers to work interactively to immediately assess their current position and consider the impact of various options to address opportunities and issues rather than laboring through a lengthy process.