Setting Goals, Meeting Targets: KPIs for the Win

qualityIt’s a fierce business world out there. The stakes are getting ever higher, with growing competition and an increasingly integrated landscape. It’s essential that companies have key performance indicators (KPIs) that can help drive operational improvements, accurately assess performance across all levels of the organization and deliver long-term value.

The only way to achieve all that is to have an effective process for selecting and monitoring KPIs.

The KPI Uncovered

These indicators show how a company or group is performing on its goals, measuring specific activities against a set target or benchmark. Remember, if a measurement doesn’t directly influence the achievement of business goals, it’s not a KPI; it’s merely a metric. Continue reading

The Weekly Roundup: By-the-Numbers No More

weekly roundupAccounting practitioners and finance leaders have their hands full this year, navigating new standards, changing expectations and even some surprising trends. Here are a few articles that explore the evolving world of F&A. Enjoy the reading! (Feel free to tweet us or follow us @Sutherland_iBPO to continue the conversation.)

Accounting for Tomorrow

This February, the most powerful leaders in the accounting profession will gather in Indianapolis for the 2017 Thought Leader Symposium. The annual event is hosted by CPA Practice Advisor and brings F&A thought leaders together to discuss emerging trends, technologies and workflow practices. “This exclusive event provides a unique opportunity for key members of the accounting profession who are taking the reins and moving the profession forward to share ideas and insights, consider changes and trends in the profession, and discover new and innovative ways in which they can work together to education and improve the profession as a whole.” Continue reading

If Time Is Money, Where Are Your F&A People Spending It?

office-sceneIt’s Friday, and, dear F&A professional, look around. As F&A offices around the world wind down for the weekend, there’s an uncomfortable truth lurking under that general sense of weekly accomplishment.

In a 2015 assessment of 832 companies’ finance organizations, “How Finance People Spend Their Time,” APQC asked finance leaders how much time they spent on transaction processing, control, decision support, and management activities. The survey revealed, that regardless of company size, approximate half (49%) of the workday is taken up by routine transaction processing.

Lost Time, Lost Human Ingenuity

Over the course of a workweek, that means that from bright and early Monday morning until Wednesday just around lunchtime, your highly paid F&A people are just keeping things ticking along. Paying bills, reconciling accounts, and doing all those other tactical tasks that keeps a company in good standing.

Necessary work, no doubt, but work that does not add value to the company as a whole. What finance professionals and CFOs want to see are for their teams to be focused on initiatives that drive revenue and profitability—initiatives that are aligned with strategy. Continue reading

The Case for Convergence in F&A Transformation

600px-shutterstock_149939726In today’s globalized world, many companies have F&A departments spread throughout a range of geographies, including the Americas, Europe and Asia. Such widespread corporate presence opens the door to markets across the map. But international access presents its share of challenges—especially when it comes to managing cash.

When we’re asked to address client challenges like improving working capital or delivering higher quality, timely reporting, many times one of the first root causes is the “run your own shop” approach to regional and global F&A departments. It’s not uncommon to find each finance function operating its own processes and technologies. As a result, many globalized businesses suffer from significant – and costly – F&A disruptions, needless repetition, undue human error and frequent reporting delays.

The Transformation Essentials

You hear a lot these days about business transformation, in the finance department and throughout any organization. Usually the conversation is in terms of digital transformation. The idea of the F&A function requiring minimal technology is going by the way of the dodo. Business leaders know that automation is key to all areas of success, including the formerly paper-heavy, manual finance function. Continue reading

The Weekly Roundup: F&A Update

F&A weekly roundupWith the New Year just getting underway, Sutherland’s Editorial Team gathered a selection of articles to help finance professionals prepare for the next 12 months. These pieces reflect on 2016 and look ahead to what 2017 could bring, including fresh perspectives on reporting and business fraud, as well as what changes might be in store for the Tax Code. Enjoy the reading! (Feel free to tweet us or follow us @Sutherland_iBPO to continue the conversation.)

Financial Times: The Year in Review

For finance professionals, 2016 came with a slew of changes. There were new Financial Accounting Standards Board rules on lease accounting and credit loss reporting, a new chief accountant at the Securities and Exchange Commission and an updated CPA exam. The question is: Did you stay on top of the latest F&A news stories last year, or are you playing catch-up? Find out in this seven-question quiz from the Journal of Accountancy. Continue reading

Fortune Favors the Transformed

As we boldly march into 2017, there are few things that are certain. And, one of these certainties is uncertainty. If there is one thing all the economists, pundits and industry commenters can agree on is that the future is coming faster than ever before.

The 2017 —and foreseeable future— business environment will be characterized by constant change, from fluctuating markets to political disruption to new technology. The C-suite is feeling the pressure from all sides, and large global corporate entities (with firmly established and entrenched procedures) are expected to be as nimble as a Silicon Valley startup.

In a recently published report, Future-proofing the CEO: Why Chief Executives need to adapt in an unpredictable world, 71% of those polled thought that technology and digital would be the biggest driver of change in their industry over the next 10 years, yet only 40% thought their businesses were currently well prepared for this change.

For companies looking to stay ahead of the competition, acquire or merge with another company, or create new business lines, this ability to keep pace with technology and digital change is a Number 1 priority.

The Process Principle

Yet, technology is not the sole factor in digital transformation, whether it’s the Finance department or any other area of business. Real transformation cannot happen without the underlying processes changing. Outcomes can be aligned with strategy, but unless there is a serious rethink about how things are done, technology will never reach its full potential. Continue reading

7 F&A Resolutions for 2017

600px-shutterstock_140576308As the calendar is about to flip to January 2017 in Finance & Accounting offices around the world, it’s a good time to reflect on the past year. To take a look at what worked and what didn’t, and how your F&A department can do even better in the New Year.

With that in mind, here are seven resolutions every F&A department head should be making.

1. Improve Cash Flow with Analytics: Predictive analytics can not only help companies understand which customers will pay, which ones will delay or who is more likely to default, it can also transform an Accounts Receivable department, vastly improving cash flow. At Sutherland, we have seen up to 15-20% improvement in accounts receivables management (credit period, delinquencies, etc.) simply by analyzing current and historical payment data. 

2. Reduce Reliance on Spreadsheets: While Excel can be great for one-off calculations and on-the-spot simulations/models, it’s not intended for many F&A tasks. Despite new web-based technologies, the majority of U.S. companies still use spreadsheets when a centralized F&A system would tighten data security, remove organizational silos and reduce errors as it allows all of the primary activities and reporting to draw from the same database of financial information. This ensures that the financial data you need is always current and available to the people who need it most. Continue reading

The Weekly Roundup: The New Year in Finance

F&A weekly roundupCompanies can expect big changes in 2017. A host of events and advances, including the Brexit vote, the surprising presidential election, a slowing economic recovery and increasing global unrest, not to mention the ongoing technological revolution, have executives guessing as to what the financial landscape will look like in the New Year. Here, Sutherland presents a few articles that outline some of the key issues and explore how finance leaders plan to adapt. Enjoy the reading! (Feel free to tweet us or follow us @Sutherland_iBPO to continue the conversation.)

Risky Business

A new survey from consulting firm Protiviti and North Carolina State University’s Poole College of Management shows that, for 2017, executives are most concerned about the possibility of economic unrest and limited growth opportunities due to global developments. Of the 735 board members and executives polled about risk issues that are likely to impact their companies in the coming year, 72% rated “uncertain economic conditions” as potentially having a significant impact. Continue reading

The Whys and How of AP Transformation

invoicingIn the past, the Accounts Payable (AP) department was viewed as a necessary cost center. Yet, best-in-class companies understand that by refining AP processes and technology they can realize significant cost savings, drive up the number of transactions processed and reduce errors.

The Why of AP Transformation

CFOs, Controllers and accounting department managers need to be able to accurately evaluate how their teams are performing. Companies often look to benchmarking surveys or their process partners to get insights on how their internal finance processes stack up to other organizations in terms of cost-efficiency, transaction speed and error rates.

Recently, APQC, an authority in benchmarking, best practices, process and performance improvement, and knowledge management, released a survey of 997 organizations concerning the costs of AP processes. The member-based organization calculated the metric based on “the annual process cost divided by the total number of invoices processed annually.”

The result makes a strong case for investing in automation. Why? Manual labor is still rampant in the AP process. APQC notes that manual labor accounts for 62% of total AP costs. This need for human intervention is triggered by PO, shipping and receiving data errors, and invoices requiring employee involvement.

When this all shakes out, laggard AP departments spend two and a half times more than top performers spend on invoice processing.

The How of AP Transformation

Today, AP has become a significant strategic component in successful enterprises. By leveraging AP strategically, they can achieve additional savings by utilizing discounts and avoiding penalties.

AP operations can fulfill a more strategic role in the enterprise and realize significant cost reductions while increasing efficiency when you deploy these improvements:

Centralization & Standardization—Key to realizing significant improvements in AP functions is consolidating and creating consistent processes. Unifying multiple geographic locations has a three-pronged effect: 1.) It reduces variations within AP processes; 2.) It eliminates redundant costs; 3.) It provides stronger internal control over the overall AP process.

Digitalize—Invoice data entry and other aspects of the average AP process are both low-valued and labor-intensive. OCR technologies, e-invoices, EDI are some key initial steps to digitalizing the intake process, and avoid drowning in paper. For faster, more efficient and direct AP processing, automated workflow technologies, RPA and more advanced business process management (BPM) technologies can stitch together all the transactions steps and build business (matching, routing) rules around them. This allows for “hands-free” automated purchase order matching.

Optimize—After the initial gains in transaction speed, reduced costs and decreased errors have been realized, it’s important to not get complacent. Once a new benchmark is set in terms of veracity, volume or velocity of AP transactions, ongoing work is needed to not only monitor existing KPIs but to constantly look for new ways to improve the process.

Do your AP processes, benchmarks and KPIs measure up? We’d be happy to offer a free assessment of your current practices.


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