A 1-2-3 Approach to Tail Spend Management

600px-shutterstock_157405238To be able to drive down costs as well as reap the additional benefits of a more rigorous tail spend management process, procurement organizations must lead with a best practices approach.

This involves a three-step process of: centralize, analyze and standardize for ongoing transformation.

1. Drive Visibility Through Centralization

Scoping and understanding current contracts at all levels in the organization is critical. Poor data quality is the most common problem across industries and organizations. It’s not unusual to find companies that have procurement agreements issued at various levels and varying business unit entities without a single source of reference to validate agreements, terms and positions. Many times, where a contract application does exist, there is no connection to the procurement system, and once again visibility is thwarted.

Centralizing purchasing activities cuts through the complex and significantly large number of suppliers across procurement categories. Continue reading

5 Ways RPA Increases Data Security

Companies around the world can run the tightest ship, with enforced and strong compliance, there can be a protocol book given to every employee, but walk into any call center or collections center, and inevitably you will see agents with post-it notes or a notebook with client information.

Despite strict protocols, well-intentioned employees can put private and confidential data at risk. From emailing sensitive information —financial, customer, internal or otherwise— using a personal account because it exceeds corporate mailbox limits to chatting with friends about work in a public place, IT managers and compliance officers simply cannot get visibility into all the actions a human may take.

There is no way to gauge what data employees commit to memory, what they retain, what they forget or the knowledge they take with them when they leave for another job. Continue reading

CFO Risks on the Horizon: Regulatory Change

CFO risksFrom data integrity compliance to financial compliance and personal data compliance, the list of federal and regulatory compliance challenges only keeps growing. And, report after report indicates that CFOs are losing sleep over it.

In fact, the latest survey cites 535 global respondents (compromising board members and executives), wherein a full 60% pointed to regulatory change and scrutiny as a risk that will have “significant impact” in their organization in the next year.

F&A Complexity

In today’s busy finance environment, most F&A professionals are immersed in performing their “day jobs.” When the focus is on just getting it done, sometimes proper accounting documentation and process controls aren’t followed to the letter. Without strong internal controls and protocols, it’s easy for financial errors to occur, which can impact investor, customer and vendor relationships. Continue reading

Outsourcing Risk Mitigation Strategies

risk mitigationFor any company testing the waters of outsourcing the first time, a rough transition or an unforeseen risk can quickly sour a buyer-provider relationship. Often, poor transitions (and subsequent engagements) stem from inadequate risk identification and early mitigation.

Risks must be pinpointed, evaluated and prioritized, with a mitigation strategy in place. Here are strategies to help mitigate four of the most common risks associated with outsourcing finance and accounting functions.

Governance Risk: Issue escalation and dispute management

When issues and disputes are not handled correctly, it can present a risk to the client company’s end-user experience and negatively impact revenue.

Mitigation Strategy:
BPO providers must have concentrated focus on five key areas critical to avoiding or eliminating client escalations: Controls, Compliance, Quality, Transformation and Governance. A clear governance model for each phase of any engagement allows BPO providers to adhere to the contract with the client, deliver on SLA and transition work smoothly and in a timely manner. Without them, issues can quickly escalate and client satisfaction can plummet. (You can learn more about our evolving governance model here.) Continue reading

Improve Your Audit Trail with RPA

audit-trailNo matter what the industry, one thing is certain: regulatory requirements and compliance is constantly increasing. Yet, for enterprise organizations, a convergence of legacy systems, globally located F&A departments (many with diverse practices) and information that must be keyed in manually, all add up to inaccurate data and reporting, human error and business process activities that simply don’t have a reliable audit trail.

It’s little wonder that in survey after survey audit risk and compliance management are in the top greatest pressures facing the finance and accounting function. This is where Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can play a significant role.

How Robotic Automation Works

If you’re not familiar with RPA, it’s a ”virtual robot” that performs work, like finance and accounting tasks, in exactly the same way a human user does. Much like their human counterparts, the robots control a virtual keyboard and mouse and use the clipboard function to navigate between screens and around screens. They can click buttons, select from drop-down lists and to click on fields where data is either copied or pasted. In other words, they can do all that repetitive work that back-office talent shouldn’t be doing in the first place. Continue reading

The Evolution of Governance

Finance and Accounting (F&A) outsourcing is a mature service, and buyers are looking for something more than delivering on the agreement. This means never getting complacent and looking for new ways to drive further efficiencies through continuous improvements.

Today, clients aren’t willing to settle for costs reduction through labor arbitrage. No one wants to outsource poor existing processes and see the same outcomes, only cheaper! Today, performance improvement is critical. Clients want technology like automation; they want to know where Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can be applied to reduce manual tasks. Clients want process improvements, and a partner who will come to the table with an idea that is beneficial to both parties.

To deliver beyond table stakes, outsourcing must be governed accordingly.

Any governance model must evolve through the stages of the relationship to avoid “set and forget” stagnation.

Continue reading

Technology Spotlight: Customer Engagement Management Portal

Good business depends on good communication. Whenever an external supplier is involved, it’s inevitable that an extra layer of communication complexity is added.

Especially during transition, it’s not uncommon for massive volumes of email go back and forth every day. There is an avalanche of mission-critical information that needs to be accessible to key stakeholders – all while keeping tight control on the security of the “single version of the truth.” It’s critical that nothing falls through the cracks, no documentation is missed, no email overlooked, and that everyone on the team has visibility into the current status of KPIs and SLAs.

Clear, open communication is a building block for ongoing relationship-building, good governance and delivering on all promises.

Engaging Our Customers

One of the ways we support and enforce service delivery quality is through our Customer Engagement Management (CEM) portal. This portal provides a single site from which our clients can collaborate and share information with the Sutherland team. Through our patented SmartLeap dashboards, you’ll have instant access to daily performance processing and status reports. Continue reading

How Robotic Process Automation Improves Compliance

From mortgage originators who need to ensure compliance with the SEC and CFPB, to healthcare providers who must be in accordance with HIPAA privacy rules to financial services firms that guarantee PCI compliance – there has never been so many every-changing compliance rules and regulations. Data integrity compliance, personal data compliance, financial compliance, federal and regulatory compliance… the list goes on and on. And, report after report indicates that CFOs are losing sleep over governance, risk and compliance.

When providers talk about automation technology, like Robotic Process Automation, you often hear about it in terms of productivity gains (Volume), data quality and accuracy improvements (Veracity) and better transparency (Visibility).

This “3V” approach is a foundational base for stronger compliance. Here are a few examples of how we used RPA to help ensure compliance for our clients. Continue reading

F&A Client Satisfaction: Part 1: Controls

Around the world, BPO organizations run hundreds of client engagements at once, at a continuous high standard. Any slip-up in daily operational performance can lead to a client escalation, penalty or possible termination of the contract.

To ensure consistent delivery outcomes and ongoing client satisfaction, BPO providers must have concentrated focus on five key areas critical to avoiding or eliminating client escalations: Controls, Compliance, Quality, Transformation and Governance.

In F&A outsourcing, better controls have very tangible results. At their most basic, internal controls ensure that the company can:

  • Mitigate financial risk.
  • Remain compliant with laws and regulations, like SSAE16 (SAS70) and Sarbanes-Oxley.
  • Improve the accuracy and quality of financial reporting and disclosures.
  • Create an effective and efficient operation.

Failure to identify and test controls can lead to fraud or other catastrophic breakdowns.

Taking Control of the Situation

I thought I’d share what we are doing here at Sutherland to address all five key areas, starting with Controls, which is monitored by our CCQ (Control, Compliance & Quality) team. The CCQ team was established as a proactive approach toward consistent FAO delivery excellence. As an independent group, the team performs standard quality assurance activities, paired specifically with controls and compliance activities. Continue reading

Survival of the Fittest: The Evolving Role of the CFO

For CFOs, change has become one of the few constants. In the last several years, their role has continually evolved. And by all accounts, it will continue to do so over the coming decade. With such an ever-changing role, many finance professionals are looking ahead, hoping to predict what the future will bring.

A recent Wall Street Journal article, Five Ways the CFO Role Will Change, forecasts some of the key changes for the CFO in the next 10 years. Reasons for the expected shifts range from issues such as globalization and increasingly strict regulatory laws, to greater reliance on automation. But regardless of the root causes for the changes, most of them have something in common: outsourcing can help ease the toll they take on finance chiefs. Continue reading