Optimising financial processes

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Highlights from the Shared Services Leaders Summit in Atlanta 2019

I recently spoke at and attended the very insightful North American Shared Services Leaders’ Summit in Atlanta. Once again, I learned a lot, met some inspiring people, shared experiences, laughed, and paused for thought.

It was a privilege to speak on Day 1, and the positive collective feedback was gratefully received. The whole event was immersive, informative, enjoyable and even challenged some received wisdom.

The summary of my highlights from the conference follows below. I hope these themes resonate with you and I always enjoy the debate and discussion. If you have any comments, disagreements or additions, please let me know.

We discussed and brainstormed a number of issues over the two days and many of us came away with some new perspectives and ideas to nurture and action within our organizations. We had incisive talks from hard-earned experience at CVS Healthcare (Aetna), Home Depot, Coca-Cola, Cisco, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Molnlycke, Mercury Marine, Genpact, Tungsten Network, IBM and a key benchmarking update from The Hackett Group.

Not bad for a day and a half!

We should acknowledge great kudos to Susie West and the SharedServicesLink team. This was not ‘death by Powerpoint’ or a stream of “you should buy this/that/the other product” commercials.

In the spirit of accounting being as much art as science, I summarized my Top Ten Takeaways from the event in 13 points!. For your peace of mind and preservation of the natural order of things, I apologise!

  1. Smart “process thinking, supported by data” is critical. We had a great talk about AI in credit and collections, which demonstrated the importance of analysing and understanding a business process and where the best return on effort is. The AI solution supported this with a strong data focus, and it reflected the need for deep process understanding.
  2. End to End Process thinking and alignment is core to delivering VALUE to the business. Shared Services leaders are looking to develop a reputation for value creation as well as cost reduction. Process understanding and insight, not just the sub stream we operate, is essential to the future of Shared Services as well as business as a whole. But ‘Global Process Ownership’ is hard and may be a claim too far! Deliver value first, claim ownership later. Aligning goals across end-to-end processes and stakeholders is key!
  3. Are we aligned with the strategy of the company? We had great breakout sessions on this topic and the need to understand and align with the “North Star” of the organization.
  4. Number of RPA BOTS deployed is NOT a measure of performance or success. Beware the lure of the “Shiny New Thing’ and focus on critical business outcomes. We heard this common refrain from many of the presenters and during the round-table debates. RPA has it’s place in the tool box, but don’t replace the whole toolbox with one screwdriver. “Don’t lead with BOTS”. ERP still remains a strategic technology platform – make sure you get the best from it!. Never forget that “Elimination is the best Automation”
  5. Electronic Invoicing is delivering strong results in the “Last Mile” of P2P. From 58 to 8 FTEs in AP in Mohawk is a tremendous achievement!
  6. “Think Big – Prove Small” – for all process changes and technology initiatives. And remember GIGO or “Garbage In – Garbage Out”
  7. “Data Hygiene” is moving up the priority stack. Data cleanliness is a critical enabler of all automation, whether it is ERP, e-Invoicing, RPA or Blockchain. Data is the fuel for transformation and process optimisation. Data-driven decision making is the key to progress. Bad. data, makes a “Bad Process, Worse, Faster”.
  8. Team, Leadership, Customer and Respect – these key qualities came out as clear message from Debbie at Home Depot. An example to us all, especially as she started her career at such a young age! When doing the right thing, be prepared to “Ask for Forgiveness, not Permission”
  9. Change Management starts at the Business Case. It is not a delivery challenge; it needs executive focus from inception!
  10. AGILE approaches require rapid decision making, so be clear on your RACI (Responsible, Accountable Consulted, Involved)
  11. “Getting Buy-In, Building the Roadmap” is key to all strategic initiatives, not least in building GBS. Engage the stakeholders in developing the business case.
  12. Skills – we discussed the need for better process and data skills, and the skills for engagement as a Business Partner needs some focus.
  13. There are no “silver bullets”. Only the aggregation of what may be multiple marginal gains, drive sustainable success.

If you would like a copy of “Burning down the House”, please let me know and we will get it to you.

In the midst of the frenetic pace of change, and associated stresses, you might want to listen to some science of Happiness – its true, there actually is some science to happiness! It might just add an extra boost to your transformation initiatives!…