Escaping the Transaction Time Trap

marketing-board-strategyAsk any finance leader how much time their people spend on transaction processing and the answer will be “Too much!” Regardless of organizational size, a recent APQC survey shows that about half of finance teams’ time is spent on transaction processing.

In the last 15 years, more than 50% of Fortune 500 companies have been gobbled up by competitors, gone out of business or simply vanished. The cause? Digital disruption. The “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” characterized by new technology and digital connectivity, is upon us.

Executives and managers understand that in today’s rapidly changing world, excellence is not defined by the throughput of transactions. Keeping pace with change and deliver on outcomes are at the top of everyone’s list. In short, the finance department needs to be faster and more accurate in predicting threats and opportunities. They need more time spent on decision support and analysis.

The Feast or Famine of F&A

Yet, the feast-or-famine cycle of F&A continues to negatively impact an organization’s ability to get the most out of their teams. Highly skilled talent is often underutilized during non-peak times. (It’s not uncommon to see well-paid FP&A analysts performing many manual tasks and rekeying in data.) And, when the quarterly peaks hit, they are often overworked and heading toward burnout.

The staff follows processes and practices that have been in place for years. While these processes may not be “broken,” there are new approaches that can be employed. A recent whitepaper from Blackline predicts that while only 25% of F&A talent is spending time on analysis in 2016, by 2020 that figure will rise to 75%.

Automate for a Productivity Boost

It’s a matter of unleashing the chains of manual accounting work that consumes so much time currently. When mid-market as well as Fortune 500 companies can automate many of their current manual processes, it puts more thinking time — as well as time for creativity and innovation — into the hands of their people.

Automation reduces costly errors caused by overworked staff members and labor-intensive work like rekeying data. Digital technology, workflow tools and smart automation, also enforces a move away from paper-based administrative tasks that show F&A processes to a snail’s pace.

Digital technologies, when combined in tandem with process transformation, have the possibility of automating much of the transactional work that F&A talent are paid to perform. Isn’t it time you got more from your people?

To find out how Sutherland can work with your teams to bring smart automation and better processes to your organization, we’d be happy to advise you and offer an expert assessment of your current practices.

transformation-roadmap

Transform or Be Left Behind

You’ve no doubt heard the famous Tom Goodwin quote, or a riff on it:

“Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.”

It seems that every company wants to be “the Uber of X [insert industry here].” These digital disruptors are today’s cool kids, to be copied and envied.

Yet, for many enterprise-level—often highly traditional—global organizations laden with various levels of bureaucracy and clinging to entrenched operating models and processes, achieving this goal is a near impossibility.

Traditional (think insurance companies, banks, mortgage firms, etc.) businesses are placing customer experience and transformation high on their strategic agenda. However, they seem to be at a distinct disadvantage when compared to newer, highly nimble, technology-based competitors. If they fail to innovate and evolve, there is the risk of being left behind, as their market share is stolen out from underneath them. Continue reading

The Art & Science of Data-Driven Finance

office-sceneYesterday, Sutherland’s Jon Sunthimer, Vice President, F&A Global Technology Leader, co-hosted a webinar with Veena Gundavelli, the Founder and CEO of Emagia Corporation. The topic? Data-driven finance.

More than ever, finance organizations need to eliminate data silos, turn data into insights (and decisions), and digitalize and automate the Order-to-Cash (O2C) cycle. Finance executives are under increasing pressure to improve performance, with key drivers for finance transformation boiled down to the “4Cs”:

  • Cost
  • Control
  • Compliance
  • Cash flow

After an introduction by Ms. Gundavelli, Mr. Sunthimer pointed out that transformative is imperative. Digital technology isn’t limited to the domain of high-tech companies. Today, every company is a digital company, and those that aren’t have a limited shelf life.

Mr. Sunthimer elaborated on how today’s hot commodity is data. Companies sit on massive amounts of structured and unstructured data, and there is a strong desire to turn that mound into usable, actionable knowledge. 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

F&A Forecast: 2017 Predictions and Predilections

processesAs 2016 draws to a close, businesses are peering around the corner in anticipation of what the New Year will bring.

Here, we present our predictions for what 2017 will mean to F&A.

Higher Salaries = Greater Demand for Value

Salaries for accounting and finance positions will continue to rise in 2017. That’s the news according to the Robert Half 2017 Salary Guide. Fueled by an increased demand for skilled professionals, starting salaries will increase in range from 3.0% to 4.3% in 2017, conditional on the position. The 2017 average clocks in at 3.7%, one of the highest in the past decade.

The direct outcome of this will be an increased desire (and demand) to get rid of the redundant work that reduces employee output and doesn’t create any value. Robots (from RPA to cognitive) will help humans do more of the innately human work—the work that requires creativity, abstract thinking or human judgment. Continue reading

2017: What’s Your Email Resolution?

startup-photosAccording to a recent study by McKinsey Global Institute, the average American worker spends 28% of the workweek reading and answering email. The report didn’t specify which departments they polled, but if you ask anyone in the F&A department, many people might respond that they strive for a mere 28%.

For finance professionals, trying to stay on top of email is a losing battle. Just as you read and reply to one, another one (or two) pours in. And the very act of replying can be self-defeating as it inevitably results in a response email, increasing the futility of Inbox Zero.

Another part of the problem is that email is addictive. The anticipation or rush of new emails can trigger a surge of the chemical dopamine, a key player in our information-seeking behavior.

Perhaps even worse, email can dumb us down when it comes to performing our work. Neuroscientist Daniel J Levitin is quoted as saying: “When trying to concentrate on a task, an unread email in your inbox can reduce your effective IQ by 10 points.”

If all this sounds frighteningly familiar in your F&A department, it might be time to consider putting this atop the New Year’s resolution list: Break the email habit. Continue reading

F&A: What Have You Done for Me Lately?

As we head into 2017, and into the fourth generation of business process services, there is little doubt that the F&A market has matured, dropping to six percent in 2015 after double-digit growth three years earlier. This will no doubt influence the year ahead, in both how process services are offered, and what clients are looking for.

With improvements having been achieved from a best-practices approach, location strategy and access to F&A tools, clients are now indicating that cost savings and existing productivity gains are very nice and well, but there is a deep desire for delivering on business outcomes.

Providers as Capacity Catalysts

Organizations are asking providers “what have you done for me lately?’ and are eyeing the ability to add capacity to their business in four strategic ways:

Actionable Intelligence: Some companies, for instance, want to tap into business insights to improve the customer experience, better their market performance or quickly respond to industry trends. There is little doubt, in our experience, that 2017 will see an increase in the application of analytics. Continue reading

The Future of Financial Reporting

reportingCFOs and financial controllers are feeling increasingly vulnerable as they struggle to produce forward-looking insights amidst ever-changing regulatory environment and ever-growing amounts of information.

According to a new report, “How Can Reporting Catch up With an Accelerating World?”, released in October from EY, 66 percent of respondents say the increasing volume and pace of data is significantly impacting the effectiveness of reporting. That’s up from 57 percent in 2015. The annual global report polls 1,000 CFOs or heads of reporting of large organizations across 25 countries.

Increased Complexity

These financial professionals noted that in 2016 the organizational environment intensified in complexity, as organizations added more legal entities, business units and reporting systems. A full 64 percent reported a surge in the number of reports requested by shareholders. Yet the survey goes on to say that reporting teams don’t have access to the technology or tools needed to make sense of —and actionable decisions on— vast oceans of incoming data. Continue reading

The Weekly Roundup: Technically Speaking

F&A weekly roundupTechnology is always in flux, and given its prominent role in F&A, that means the finance function must always be in flex mode. Accountants need to adapt to the cloud while considering its hidden costs. They must juggle robots and automation, and develop a solid understanding of technology while questioning its true benefits. Here, Sutherland presents a selection of articles that explore some of the latest technology issues facing finance. Enjoy the reading! (Feel free to tweet us or follow us @Sutherland_iBPO to continue the conversation.)

Accounting for Tomorrow

Cloudsourced Accounting cofounder Blake Oliver recently attended the first annual CPA Practice Advisor “40 Under 40” ThinkTank Symposium. In this article, he presents his five key takeaways from the event. “Accounting is still about the numbers. But we’re moving beyond compiling and reporting those numbers to offering insights about those numbers.” Continue reading