Utilizing Third-Party Tools to Better Manage the Closing Process
Even with the proliferation of ERP systems in recent years, the accounting close continues to be a major resource drain for most companies. To streamline this critical process, many companies have adopted the use of a variety of third-party tools that are now available in the marketplace that are designed to seamlessly interface with the major ERP systems, such as SAP, Oracle, and PeopleSoft.
A recent Peeriosity PeercastTM featured a major energy company operating in approximately 80 countries, with over 80,000 employees and a variety of different brands. Considering the size and complexity of this company, it would be an understatement to say that the accounting close is anything less than challenging, even with well-developed processes and leading-edge technology in place. Also, to assist in this monumental effort, a significant portion of the General Accounting function has been outsourced to Accenture, a leading global professional services company.
As part of the Accenture relationship, the feature company is provided with access to the Accenture Planning and Control Tool (APC), which is a comprehensive and collaborative task management control tool that enables management and process owners to capture and track critical path activities and issues in a real-time environment. Some of the functionality of this tool includes the following:
- Supports multi-business unit and multi-location environments
- Repository for key reports, policies and procedures.
- Automated emails reduce manual intervention.
- Provides one consistent format reducing calls and meetings.
- Identifies process owners and contact information.
- Tracks status of activities, bulletins, system issues and job failures in real-time.
- Houses external and internal audit requests and responses.
This functionality has been applied to the accounting close, which allows the company to effectively administer and monitor the entire closing process. The dashboard homepage is used to provide a status reference guide of active tasks and timetables (Close Checklist). The user is able to view the current day’s activities (Action List) and the complete list of tasks setup under various checklists (Active Checklists).
The APC tool also automatically triggers tasks: The task will automatically set to “in progress” when the start time is reached. E-mails will be sent to users with the task details. The task will automatically be set to “late” when end time is reached. If task is “late” the assigned user must add a comment indicating why before the task can be completed.
The feature company then went into extensive detail regarding other important capabilities of this solution, including workflow dependencies, task metrics, signoff and review, and reporting, all of which can be found in greater detail on the Peeriosity member website.
For this company, a comprehensive solution was found that has made dramatic improvements in their ability to manage the accounting close. While the APC tool is a great example of an effective third-party solution, there are likely to be other alternatives in the marketplace.
As part of the research conducted by Peeriosity in this area, two poll questions were developed utilizing the iPollingTM technology. The first question looked at the extent to which third-party tools are being utilized to improve the periodic accounting close process. While 66% of the companies are utilizing third-party tools in this area, the extent of their use is fairly evenly spread from limited to extensive usage. This shows that there is still a significant opportunity to further leverage this type of solution for the majority of companies.
The second poll question then asked those companies that are utilizing third-party tools as part of the periodic closing process what the impact was of doing so on the quality and timeliness of the close. Certainly, there are a number of factors that could influence a user’s perception of the value of a specific solution, including its stage of implementation, the degree to which its functionality is being utilized, and the quality of the systems with which it interfaces.
Reviewing the results, 62% of the companies indicated that their third-party solution had either a Very Significant or Significant impact on the closing process. Additionally, 31% responded that they had experienced limited impact on the quality and timeliness of the close, and 7% said that it had no impact at all.
To what extent is your company utilizing a third-party solution to improve the accounting close process? When was the viability of these types of solutions last reviewed by your organization?
Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?
“PeercastsTM” are private, professionally facilitated webcasts that feature leading member company experiences on specific topics as a catalyst for broader discussion. Access is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from attending or accessing discussion content. Members can see who is registered to attend in advance, with discussion recordings, supporting polls, and presentation materials online and available whenever convenient for the member. Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, attendees can easily communicate at any time with other attending peers by selecting them from the list of registered attendees.
“iPollingTM” is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from participating or accessing content. Members have full visibility to all respondents and their comments. Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, members can easily communicate at any time with others who participated in iPolling.
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