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Financial Close Robotic Process Automation

Over the last couple of years, one topic has begun to dominate discussion in the finance community: Robotic Process Automation (or, because everything today has to have an acronym, RPA).

“Highly educated accountants and financial personnel spend 65%+ of their time on manual, low-value processes.” – The Hackett Group

So what is all the buzz about? Simply put, what RPA looks to achieve is the elimination of the need to perform menial and manual data tasks. Its ultimate goal is to free up a company’s highly trained talent for more important tasks like the analysis of data – giving it context and meaning – and consequently give them more time to apply that creative intelligence to tasks like problem solving and evolving the business. It is a solution that not only delivers improved value to the business, but provides the type of high value work most likely to attract and retain high quality people.

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Record to Report KPIs You Should Be Measruing Blog
What gets measured gets managed, or so the old adage goes, so as finance professionals, what should we be measuring when it comes to the Record to Report process?

The first thing is to understand what we are trying to achieve. The end goal is to prepare and report the overall accounts of the business to provide strategic and operational feedback on how the company is performing.

However, there are a number of sub-processes that go into achieving this, and to be able to give this feedback on company performance effectively, these individual processes need to be measured both separately and as a whole.

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working day in office. two businessmen at work.

As CEO’s increasingly become more aggressive on their approach to taking on risk as it relates to their strategic growth, the CFO’s role has quickly evolved from that of a number cruncher to that of a strategic partner working to help navigate the CEO in the right direction. Recently, CFO.com has expressed its view on the importance of the CFO’s expanding role and the key steps required for them to become the CEO’s most trusted strategic adviser. The full article from Kathy Crusco, Executive Vice President and CFO of Epicor, can be seen in full at the end of this blog.

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SpreadsheetsSpreadsheets have been the backbone of finance and accounting for decades, with companies relying on them for financial, analytical, and operational processes.

But, businesses can rely too heavily upon spreadsheets, so as to lose sight of the original purpose and best use of this tool. Instead they are using it to manage – in some cases – multi-billion dollar balance sheets, and subsequently risk making decisions or reporting figures based on manually gathered, erroneous data. The challenge is, how do you convince your CFO that changes need to be made?

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blog 6Recently, we’ve been discussing the road to financial transformation through technology and have put forward practical ways to assess your current level of maturity and key areas of focus for improvement.

The next big decision is how to implement. Will you opt for a staged evolutionary approach, or a big bang revolution? Through experience, we find that the answer often comes down to appetite within the organization itself. But really, the key thing above all is to try and move quickly, always within your resource constraints, but with the right methodology and systems to give yourself the best possible chance of success.

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bloggOver the last few weeks we’ve put forward the case that technology can be the only true enabler of financial transformation, illustrated by excellent examples like this AstraZeneca case study.

The big question is – how do you follow suit? We often encounter organizations that are discouraged from going further because while they’re using technology for some of their financial processes, this is often mixed up with manual processes that hold progress back.

If you find the prospect of untangling this web daunting, the best thing to do is to start with a clear evaluation of where you are today and where you need to improve to achieve your goals.

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One of the most common questions organizations ask when they want to embark on a financial transformation program is simply “Where do I begin?.” They understand “why” they need to do it, but struggle with the “how.”

First off, there are some practical requirements to consider. Have you received board level buy in? Identified internal resource requirements or identified external resource requirements such as your project team, your project lead or maybe your communication strategy?

These are vital considerations. They’re also very important to get right from the outset because they will help tremendously as your program rolls out. But more importantly – and this is often the most difficult part – you also need to identify best practices and develop a list of key requirements and objectives that you want to fulfill.

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As we’ve been discussing recently, the primary objective of any financial transformation project is to achieve process improvements that produce higher quality financial information with fewer resources.  

As the chart below shows, top performing businesses who have achieved transformation tend to spend over 50% less on processes. They also spend far less time closing and consolidating than average performing businesses that have failed to reform and modernize their approach.

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That’s the theory, but for the majority of organizations there are still big questions over what they’re really trying to achieve with a financial transformation.

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blog 2The vast majority of businesses know that they can achieve great things by transforming their financial management to improve processes. The big problem is finding the time. Yet it can be done, and with notably successful results.

This new eBook on financial transformation shows all key steps and questions you need to consider before you get started.  We also showcase the work of one company in particular – AstraZeneca – to show what’s possible with the right planning and the right application of technology. 

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Blog PicThe concept of financial transformation is nothing new.  The idea is simple: you improve processes so you can deliver cost savings while at the same time provide a higher quality and higher value service to the business. In other words, it’s the age-old requirement of doing more with less.

So if everyone has known this for so long, why is it that so many transformation projects still fail to improve either processes or quality in the way they intend?

According to research featured in CFO.com, the vast majority of companies say they have been engaged in a major finance redesign initiative. However, only around a quarter say they’ve been able to reap the qualitative and quantitative benefits they outlined in their business case. They say they’ve also not been able to maintain a majority of the cost savings for two years post-implementation.

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