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.
FourQ is an intercompany financial management (IFM) Solution-as-a-Service provider. IFM is a discipline for structuring and handling transactions within a corporation and between its legal entities, and 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. Here’s why:
The ERP system is at the core of nearly every organization’s record keeping and business process management. Its smooth and uninterrupted functioning is essential to an organization’s accounting and finance functions. In manufacturing and distribution, ERP manages inventory and logistics. Some organizations use it to handle human resources functions like tracking workers, payroll and related costs.
Organizations have long sought ways to achieve a fast but “clean” (accurate) financial close. The most widely accepted benchmark is to be able to close within one business week. Organizations that close within a business week are almost always more competent in how they manage the process and therefore use resources more efficiently. Also, organizations that close their books within six days after the end of the quarter are more likely to provide executives with timely information and respond to markets and competitors with greater agility. While there have been some improvements in efficiency from modern accounting systems, our research shows that one-half of organizations still take more than a business week to complete their quarterly close.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has emerged as a core digital technology for finance and accounting organizations. It can drive significant gains in productivity and efficiency by automating mechanical, repetitive accounting processes in a continuous, end-to-end fashion. RPA improves efficiency, ensures data integrity and enhances visibility into processes.
Ventana Research recently announced its 2021 market agenda for the Office of Finance, continuing the guidance we’ve offered since 2003 on the practical use of technology for the finance and accounting department. Our insights and best practices aim to enable organizations to operate with agility and resiliency, improving performance and delivering greater value as a strategic partner.
Topics: Office of Finance, enterprise profitability management, Business Intelligence, Collaboration, Business Planning, Financial Performance Management, ERP and Continuous Accounting, Revenue, blockchain, robotic finance, Predictive Planning, AI and Machine Learning, lease and tax accounting, virtual audit, virtual close