Location Strategy: Do You Know What You Don’t Know?

For finance professionals, it might be surprising to learn that the three hardest words in business don’t involve terms like “KPIs,” “reconciliation” or even “regulatory.” In fact, for most F&A leaders, the hardest words to grapple with are, “I don’t know.”

No one likes to admit they don’t know the answer to something. It can signal vulnerability or a lack of authority. But the best leaders are open to different perspectives and willing to benefit from others’ experience. It’s essential that they have the confidence to look elsewhere for answers when they can’t provide them on their own, because eventually, even the savviest of CFOs will need input from someone else.

So the question is this: What issues or challenges have you thinking, if not saying, those three big words?

Location, Location, Location

If you’re like many businesses evaluating or looking to increase your global footprint, you might be asking yourself: “Do I have the right resources in the right locations around the world?”

It’s a fair question. As branch offices continue to expand, business functions like Accounts Payable or Accounts Receivable are grouped together across a few key hub locations to reduce costs. And although companies need to be wary of the costs of setting up shop in metropolitan cities, there is the danger of moving so far out that skilled F&A labor becomes scarce or is unwilling to commute. 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

Location Strategy: Focus on Outcomes

As the global economy continues to gain momentum, we find ourselves living and working in an increasingly competitive environment. While opportunities abound, so do challenges. In addition to delivering to its customers, an organization must deftly oversee global operations across all functions ensuring consistent outcomes.

To stay ahead of the competition, continue to thrive and keep up with the brisk evolution of technology, many companies are continuously looking for ways to future-proof their business.

The emphasis is less on cost reduction and more on higher performance, greater flexibility and agility. Continue reading

2017: The Year We Engage

What’s up for 2017? Higher wages, that’s what’s up.

The staffing agency, Robert Half has just put out its latest Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance , which shows salaries levels are expected to rise an average of 3.7 percent in 2017. For example, an entry-level staff accountant (or general accountant) is expected to increase in 2017 by up to 4 percent, with starting salaries at a large company, ranging from $58,750 to $75,750.” Other positions in demand are controllers, financial analysts, business analysts, and senior accountants.

In a press release Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half said, “With skilled professionals in high demand and short supply, more employers are willing to negotiate compensation with potential hires. Top candidates are receiving multiple job offers and will lose interest when faced with a lengthy hiring process.”

In other words, everyone wants to find, retain and keep the best talent.

Beyond Talent: Engagement & Productivity

However, once organizations acquire the talent they are seeking, how do they fully engage them and get the very best work from their people? One of the best ways is to move away Continue reading

Getting The Right People into the Right Job

Access-to-Talent.jpgWhen companies look to hire, they are highly concerned with getting the right people with the right skills into the right position. It’s their people that drive value to the organization and propel strategy and vision forward. Achieving that perfect mix is mission-critical.

In the business process transformation industry, it’s no different. One of the first questions clients ask us is “how will you find the right talent for us?” So, I thought I might explain a bit about how we do that using a recent example from our Tail Spend services in Barranquilla, Colombia.

Cultural Fit

Our client is based in the United States and has a strong Hispanic presence and client base. Their employees are fluently bilingual, and so when it came to trying to reduce procurement costs, delivering services from Barranquilla, Colombia, made complete sense, and was an easy first step.

One of the make-or-break aspects of a new partnership is cultural fit. Relationships need to bond quickly, and language and the ability to innately grasp and understand culture is key. Our job is to form, create and promote our client’s culture within our organization. So, another factor in cultural fit is company characteristics. We need our people to mesh with the client’s team seamlessly. Continue reading

Overcoming Barriers to Change

DigitalChange (1)There’s no denying the routine of the status quo is a comfortable groove. But if organizations want to create a culture of innovation —from new product development to the continuous improvement of processes— then the status quo won’t cut it. Change is inevitable.

Yet even with decades of change management models and theory to draw from, the failure rate of change management initiatives is still pegged between 60-70%. The problem with such a high failure rate is that not only will falling short of the end goal result in lost opportunities, but there are will also be wasted resources, and skepticism, as a result.

The fact is, change has always had a remarkable way of affecting people that can often result in resistance, pushback or sometimes outright hostility.

Change is scary. It’s not just dipping your toe into unknown waters, often it’s a deep dive. When companies implement a new RPA program, there can be a dramatic shift in how work is performed. At the operational level, employees worry about robots taking their jobs, or about whether they have the skills needed to successfully navigate their way through the process reengineering. Continue reading

Service Delivery Leadership: The Top 5 Qualities Clients Want

innovationThe BPO provider selection process should include a careful evaluation of the cultural fit between the two partners, and more specifically, around the service delivery team that will be interacting with an organization’s retained staff.

Strong leadership is the backbone of any organization, and the service delivery executive is the person who is the client’s advisor and advocate, working to help shape, drive and oversee solutions that meet their most pressing needs, and keep their operations humming along while continuing to improve.

Once the contract is signed and transition is complete, the service delivery executive is the first point of contact and, in many ways, the “buck stops here” person in charge of realizing client objectives.

Clients are looking for a unique mix of those intangible leadership soft skills in combination with someone who as walked in their shoes and has in-the-field, earned-my-stripes credentials. The service delivery role encapsulates the skills required not only to deliver optimized operational processes but also provide value and influence business outcomes.

When working so closely with a service delivery leader, there are a few key qualities that help cement excellent partnerships and outcomes. Here are some of the top qualities clients are looking for:

  1. Creates a Climate of Trust: It doesn’t get any more mission-critical than this. While trust is built over time, during the initial meetings – and throughout the engagement– clients want straight answers and complete transparency. No transition is a walk in the park. There will be challenges, and a leader in service delivery will set expectations and work closely with the client and their engagement team to mitigate any risks. As the teams work together, any successful innovation requires a strong trusting bond, so it is essential that the groundwork begin at the very start.
  1. Strong Customer Focus: One of the traits consistent with a consultative approach is the ability to get inside a client’s mind and understand their pressures and challenges. This requires effective listening skills to truly hear the text and subtext of the client and then ask questions to clarify objectives and priorities. Built into this customer focus is a persuasive communication style to convey these needs to the delivery team, and encourage teams to work together and achieve more than they thought was possible.
  1. Business Acumen: Process knowledge, strong F&A skills and credentials as well as the expertise that comes with experience over a wide range of clients are all key to a successful engagement. Every client wants to know how their organization compares to industry standards, and are looking for a point person who can help them understand where they are on that scale and will lead the transformation to best-in-class.
  1. Vision: The service delivery leader is forward-looking, a person who sees possibilities. While keeping one foot firmly planted in the daily operations, this person must also see the big picture of each engagement, and effectively communicate to the teams where they are going and what needs to be accomplished. The creation of this compelling vision inspires, clarifies and focuses the work, so that everyone understands what needs to be done to move the needle for the client.
  1. Entrepreneurial Drive: Clients are seeking to work with people who are champions for change and will never let the relationship stagnate. They want a partner who will execute on their vision and then actively look for new opportunities or share insights gleaned along the way. They want someone who can deliver value and innovation, and be the catalyst for financial transformation.


CFO Risks: Attracting, Training & Retaining Talent

No matter the industry, one thing is critical to all businesses: People. Having the right personnel for the job is essential to ensuring top performance and high customer satisfaction. But what happens when companies can’t find or retain those valued employees?

The modern workplace is a battleground for highly skilled workers. Best-in-class businesses have thrown down the gauntlet, challenging CFOs everywhere to join the fight in retaining top talent.

Recent findings from Protiviti and the North Carolina State University Enterprise Risk Management Initiative reveal that, for board members and executives worldwide, the talent war is one of the most pervasive risks they face. Among respondents, 52% reported having succession challenges and difficulty attracting and retaining top talent.

Every indication shows that staffing obstacles for F&A leaders will only get bigger. Recently, the HR agency Robert Half reported that there is more competition than ever for new hires, and that the hiring process takes longer than in the past.

Citing the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the report reveals that there were more than 5.4 million job openings at the end of November 2015, up from 32% two years ago. That’s promising news for prospective employees, but less so for executives. Fully 60% of CIOs and 58% of CFOs say that it’s somewhat challenging or very challenging to find the skilled professionals they require. Continue reading

Strategic Sourcing Locations: Spotlight on Clark, Philippines

A strategic delivery solution provides a unique blended delivery model that enables clients to benefit from the best talent available – anywhere. At Sutherland, we draw on world-class F&A personnel from across our numerous global delivery centers. One of these locations is Clark, Philippines.

Clark is among the most cost-effective destinations for F&A business process outsourcing, combining low operational and labor expenses with skilled professionals who deliver exceptional results. The city’s labor pool includes highly trained individuals who are hard working and familiar with Western culture, making Clark an offshore solution that has a decidedly onshore feel.

Why Choose Clark, Philippines for F&A Outsourcing?

Skilled Workforce – With Clark’s strong collegiate and academic presence, Sutherland has access to a tremendous pool of F&A talent. The city is home to several educational institutions, including the University of the Philippines, Angeles University Foundation and the Clark Institute of the Philippines. Continue reading

Free Your Mind (and Your Soul)!

virtual workforceWhenever there’s talk of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), it’s usually in terms of productivity gains, quality improvement and cost reduction. Or the dialogue is focused on how it impacts jobs.

But it’s also important to note that RPA also supports and empowers people, within our own organization as well as those of our clients. At its core, RPA is a journey to more human ingenuity, creativity and innovative thinking.

Can’t See the Forest for the Trees

Often our clients’ F&A teams are stuck in the process of pushing out work, and checking off the boxes of their job description. Yet, what every company wants (and needs) is for its people to get out of the tactical and become more strategic. The ability to automate low-value, transactional work gives the client’s employees more time, shifting the paradigm from “doing” to “thinking.” It allows their people to dig a little deeper and find opportunities for growth and increased performance.

More Engagement

Let’s face it, no one has ever said “I find retrieving information so fulfilling.” Working in a digital environment with robotics running in the background can be a boon to employee engagement. People work better when they can apply their skills, their hearts and their minds to the task at hand.

Lost productivity due to disengaged employees costs companies millions of dollars. While there are other factors at play –workplace environment, compensation, etc. –when human capital can get away from the tedious work and the mounds of paper, and dig into something meatier, it increases employee satisfaction and staff morale.

From Our Perspective

While the BPO industry was traditionally a lower cost, labor-based way to execute manual processes that could not be automated, it’s evolving. The same benefits outlined above apply to our own talent.

It’s an exciting time; because when we can remove the work that people really shouldn’t be doing anyway (the dull, unfulfilling work of cutting and pasting between systems, etc.), we can focus on developing higher skills sets and rethinking processes. To remain nimble and agile in our own BPO space – and do our best work for our clients – Sutherland must be a learning organization, investing in the skills of our people and encouraging them to contribute and seek out new ways of upping the value we deliver to our F&A engagements.

As well, to achieve the “Future State Nirvana” all companies are looking for, processes must be viewed as a synergistic whole. When we implement an RPA strategy, we look at upstream and downstream processes. People still view RPA as a technology solution, when it’s really a solution designed around end-to-end process change.

People hear the word “robot” and think “automation” as if it’s not very different from OCR or other automation solutions. It’s far more than that: it’s about re-engineering processes altogether and getting the right people into the right roles.

More Than 24/7

Many times the conversation around RPA centers on the fact that the robotic unit is capable of working around the clock, doesn’t leave for vacation, or require benefits. However, while true to a point, it’s missing the bigger picture. RPA doesn’t only accelerate the speed and quality of processes, it also accelerates our human capabilities as well as our capacity to think, learn and question. And, that’s pretty awesome.