The possibilities are immense. With advances in Robotic Process Automation (RPA), AI (Artificial Intelligence), BI & Data Analytics, CFOs have access to a wide range of tools that can accelerate the process of business process transformation. Finance leaders who succeed in leveraging the opportunities offered by new technologies and new ways of working will play a critical role in the survival and the success of their organization.
Turning these airy possibilities into concrete realities, however, is a different ball game altogether. CFOs and finance leaders are already battling a number of major challenges:
- Recruiting and retaining skilled accounting staff
- Steadily rising salaries
- Ever-changing government policies and regulations
- Economic uncertainties – Brexit; prospect of lengthy trade wars
- Difficulty of implementing transformative technologies to improve finance operations
Battling these issues, finance leaders often do not have the bandwidth to effectively engage all these areas at once. And they do not feel confident in their team’s ability to manage such a mammoth task: a survey by Robert Walters found that only “39% of CFOs feel their team are able to work effectively as strategic business partners.”
To achieve the goal of transforming the finance function against this backdrop, many businesses are forging or expanding partnerships with shared services providers or specialist finance & accounts outsourcing companies, with some going far enough to build and scale offshore Finance Center of Expertise/Excellence.
Role of a Global Shared Service Centre in Transforming Finance & Accounting Functions
With the maturing of shared services and outsourcing models for finance & accounting, timely delivery, reduced costs and transactional proficiency improvements are taken for granted. Today’s shared services providers are able – and expected – to deliver a lot more value. For instance, the ability to solve the most persistent challenges faced by large organizations spread over multiple locations is now a common expectation. Such challenges often include:
- Lack of standardised accounting procedures across locations, making it impossible to get an overall view of the enterprise
- People-driven processes instead of systematic and well-documented processes
- Lack of a strategy for digital transformation, often leading to uneven technology adoption
Consolidation of finance functions into a single integrated unit, at times under the banner of Center of Expertise or Centre of Excellence, can often help eliminate such challenges. Finance leaders today are eyeing global shared services providers to step up and help resolve these challenges. Some of the common expectations include:
- Ability to implement RPA and intelligent automation
- Support financial data analytics and management
- Reduce cost by leveraging digital technologies
- Develop functional / industry-specific expertise
- Deliver more transparency over work done
- Consolidate, standardize and optimize processes
In fact, businesses lagging behind in implementing technology can leapfrog several efficiency improvement steps by partnering with a shared services provider or F&A outsourcing company experienced in implementing new technologies and optimizing processes.
Core Benefits: a lot can be accomplished with a Global Shared Services Centre
By centralizing the finance and accounting functions, businesses can rapidly and aggressively implement innovative solutions for efficiency and performance. Let’s look at some of the primary reasons why companies choose to set up a global shared services centre.
1) Process optimisation and standardisation: Large companies that see a lot of their accounting activities taking place at multiple locations spread across a country or across the globe often end up with siloed finance and accounting processes. It is not uncommon to see several different methods and steps employed by accounting teams to perform the same task. Needless to say, one of these method is better than all the other; in some cases, it may be possible to devise an entirely new method that trumps all the existing ones.
So, a number inefficient people-driven systems need to be transformed into reliable process-driven systems. By creating a centralised accounting function with a specialist, it is possible to identify, document and standardise finance and accounting activities. Not only does this lead to less time consuming and more accurate accounting, but it also makes it much easier to provide granular financial analytics to the decision makers.
Over time, as newer technologies are implemented and process optimization is achieved, process automation becomes possible.
2) Effective implementation of innovative technology: Several accounting teams working across the globe, either mired in paper-based processes, or separated by different software platforms, cause considerable headaches for CFOs. Integrating the existing software, or turning the page and replacing it all with innovative solutions, is a necessary yet painful and laborious activity.
By partnering with a specialist finance & accounting services provider, organisations can benefit from their expertise in identifying and implementing digital technologies. This includes understanding the business problem, identifying the most effective technologies, finding the best solutions from the market and ensuring a smooth transition. The end result? Improved efficiencies, reduced costs and access to insightful data for better business decisions.
3) Unlocking business value via analytics: Access to accurate, relevant and reliable enterprise-wide data is one of the wonderful knock-on effects of implementing technology along with process standardization and centralization. With the systems in place, the finance and accounting staff is able to shift focus on manual labour and invest energy into finance analytics, facilitating better decisions-making across the enterprise.
Would you like to know more about how an F&A outsourcing partner can help you build a centralized shared services centre? We function as a de facto finance CoE for a number of our clients and are guiding them on their journey towards F&A transformation. Get in touch with us and speak with our experts to understand and quantify the value your organization can derive from choosing this approach.