Shared Services Role in Driving Intelligent Automation

Introduction

Since launching the Intelligent Automation Research Area in 2017, Peeriosity has featured member experiences on Peercasts and engaged members in discussions using iPolling to flush out issues, with new activities happening every month.  Because Peeriosity interactions include only Peeriosity members, without consultants or vendors getting in the way, discussions have been candid with an emphasis on the “true story” for what works and what doesn’t.  And, because Peeriosity maintains a 3-year history of content, current and new Peeriosity members can continue to leverage both ongoing discussions and a rich archive of research results and findings.

During the past 4 years, Peeriosity members have been busy developing their expertise in Intelligent Automation and guiding the implementation of hundreds of related projects.  Not surprisingly, because of the role that Shared Services (including Global Business Services and Integrated Business Services models) have taken to implement new technologies and drive improvements to underlying process designs; often with a focus on end-to-end process optimization, Shared Services is consistently either the primary leader, an equal partner, or a critical source of resources to drive the implementation of automation technologies. 

iPollingTM Results Review

Peeriosity’s iPollingTM was recently used to learn more about the role that Shared Services has played in driving Intelligent Automation efforts.   The first poll question asked members to characterize the role of Shared Services to drive Intelligent Automation efforts.  The results indicate that for 35% of Peeriosity member companies, Shared Services organizations are an important resource for Intelligent Automation expertise and solutions within Shared Services and in other areas as well.  An additional 35% go further, with Shared Services organizations either the primary leader for expertise and solutions across the company, or they are a co-leader with IT for expertise and solutions across the company.  Even for the remaining 30% of responses where the focus has largely been on processes within the scope of Shared Services, 17% indicate that Shared Services is the primary, with 13% who indicate that either IT is the primary leader (9%) or Shared Services is an important resource to IT (4%).  Here are the details:

With regards to the idea of training Shared Services staff to develop automations (i.e., as citizen developers), 35% report that they have had success using citizen developers, with 26% who are getting started and think the idea of using citizen developers has potential.  The idea also has resistance, with 30% who prefer to use other resources for automations and 9% who have used citizen developers with mixed success.

Here are some of the comments from members:

  • Citizen development has great potential but needs adequate governance in place to minimize rogue practices.
  • We started the RPA initiative in Shared Services, and while we are close partners with IT, we do lead this effort. To date we have been primarily focused on our Shared Services organization but have recently implemented some automations in the broader organization. Unlike many companies, we started with unattended automations, developed by the COE, and did that for two plus years before embarking in 2020 on the Citizen Developer program.
  • We are new to automation but are looking to expand the use of citizen developers.

Closing Summary

For Peeriosity member companies, Shared Services has played a significant role in the leading the charge to source and implement Intelligent Automation solutions.  For many, the scope of projects where Shared Services has played a significant role also includes projects that are outside the scope of Shared Service processes.  The implementation of Intelligent Automation solutions is an excellent example of Shared Services being a true partner in the company, providing leadership where needed based on a unique appreciation of the opportunities at play.  Such a role can only be accomplished with the permission and trust of business partners.

What is Shared Services role at your company regarding the implementation of automation solutions?  Is the leadership role focused on Shared Services processes, or is expertise shared more broadly across the company?

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?

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“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.

Peeriosity members are invited to log into www.peeriosity.com to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here.


Digital Enablement as a Priority for Global Business Services

Introduction

In the world of Global Shared Services, the emphasis on digital enablement is a very high priority for all Peeriosity member companies.  For Global Shared Services leaders, digital enablement efforts are focused on using digital transformation to automate processes, improve customer experiences, improve overall quality and accuracy, and generate new insights to assist business leaders.  In this effort a spectrum of technologies, tools and methods are used ranging from Robotic Process Automation, Data Transformation & Analytics, Data Visualization tools, Workflow tools, Document Collaboration, Intelligent Document Processing, Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning, to Chatbots. The spectrum includes rules-based solutions to more cognitive approaches where systems learn through experience, with the ability to improve their performance beyond their programming.

iPollingTM Results Review

Peeriosity’s iPollingTM was used to provide insight to Peeriosity member companies interest in digital enablement as a current priority, and the primary goal for digital enablement for the Business Services organization.    The results were compelling, with 68% indicating that “digital is a very high priority, we have identified and continue to implement key technologies of interest” and the remaining 32% indicating that “digital is a very high priority, but we are in early stages”.   No one selected options of “Yes, digital is one of our priorities, but not our main focus” or “No, digital is currently not a priority”. 

With regards to the primary goal for digital enablement, 54% indicated that the primary goal was to automate to eliminate manual tasks and reduce costs. Another 14% each selected the options of “Improved customer experience and satisfaction” and “General new insights to assist business leaders with key decision making”.  While no one specifically selected “Improved quality and accuracy”, that is partially captured with the 18% who selected “Hard to pick just one – all of the above”.

Here are some of the comments from members:

  • We are creating self-service options to improve the experiences and reduce human interactions/contacts.
  • While digitization is key in our organization – the key focus is to build automation without losing the human-kindness that makes it unique for each employee and each customer.
  • We actively pursue all these goals, essentially in the same order of priority as they are listed: Primary – Automation to eliminate manual tasks and reduce costs; Secondary – Improved quality and accuracy; Tertiary – Improved customer experience and satisfaction; and Other – Generate new insights to assist business leaders with key decision making.
  • We leverage digital for ‘all the above.’ With technology, we can approach work in a new, and holistic way, to gain more than cost reduction. A key watch out with tech is that the risk profile of the service changes, and investments are needed to ensure the automation is working, is working as intended, has strong change management, and has appropriate break/fix resolution times.
  • In our endeavor to be customer-centric, we see digital as a key enabler.
  • All the options are applicable — improve efficiency, improve quality, generate insights, and improve customer experience.

Closing Summary

For large companies will global revenues of $5B and above, and with tens of thousands of employees, Global Business Services continues to evolve and change rapidly.  While the descriptions might vary by company (e.g., Shared Services, Global Shared Services, Global Business Services, or Integrated Business Services), the emphasis on digital technologies to drive performance and achieve superior results is universal.  These efforts are expected to continue with increased emphasis and funding as available tools and approaches to leveraging them continue to achieve success.

What emphasis does your Global Shared Services organization place on digital optimization?  What are your primary objectives for your digital transformation efforts?  Where have you achieved success, and what are your current priorities?

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?

______________________________________________________________________________

“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.

Peeriosity members are invited to log into www.peeriosity.com to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here.


Improving the Manual Journal Voucher Process

Introduction

While there are many benefits to implementing integrated software systems and bolt-on technologies, significant performance improvements are often possible from a direct inspection and redesign of underlying work processes.  While it’s never a good idea to automate a bad process, it’s always a good idea to formally review process steps on a regular basis to capture quick-wins by eliminating costly work steps and bottlenecks.

The accounting close is a work process that happens frequently (typically every month), requiring significant resources.  It is also a work process that is difficult to benchmark because of industry and company-to-company differences.  No matter how diligent you are it’s hard not to end up comparing apples with oranges.  Rather than completing a complex benchmarking exercise that yields questionable results, at Peeriosity members can explore discrete differences in design using both Peercasts and iPollingTM, which support members’ efforts to explore specific topics in-depth, allowing them to quickly canvas leading companies to create a clear picture of design alternatives, and make informed decisions for a path forward that is right for them.  All without any influence or bias from vendors or consultants who might have a financial interest in the choices that are selected.

One area that often has unnecessary complexity in the accounting close is processes related to the creation of manual journal entries (also known as journal vouchers), where controlling the frequency and use of manual journal entries continues to be a challenge for most companies.  However, with a focused initiative to utilize process design and technology to simplify this area, companies can make significant headway in minimizing the number of entries that are required.      

Company Experience

A PeercastTM discussion in our General Accounting research area featured a large global manufacturing company with over $50B in annual revenue discussing their approach to improving the efficiency and business controls for their manual journal entry process over a 3-year period. At the start of the improvement project, they were processing 15,000 manual journal entries per quarter with more than 500 employees creating journal entries.  The manual journal entry process was heavily decentralized across geographies and organizations with little governance or oversight. 

In the first year their focus was to analyze and understand the landscape for manual journals and begin to layout a foundation for governance with defined policies and with support from senior management.  Initial results were a reduction in the number of entries by over 20% with a reduction in number of employees creating manual journal entries by more than 10%.  During the next two years they centralized much of the manual journal entry process and automated where possible, allowing them to achieve additional decreases on the volume of entries and a dramatic reduction in the number of manual journal entry preparers by more than 35%. 

iPollingTM Results Review

Peeriosity’s iPollingTM was used to provide supporting data for the Peercast, by asking members to comment on how recently their companies made a formal attempt to reduce manual journal entries, with a follow up question to explore which approach had the greatest impact. 

To the question about timing, 83% of member companies indicated they have projects that are currently underway, with the balance of 17% who had journal entry reduction projects that took place within the past two years.  Obviously, this in an issue that continues to receive focus and attention across virtually all large global companies. 

When considering what has had the most significant impact on reducing the number of manual journal entries, the top pick, at 55%, was to implement technology to automate journal entries.  The next most popular selection at 27%, was to implement a threshold or increase existing thresholds.  Other techniques commonly used but not cited as the most significant included targeted training to reduce errors that lead to manual journal entries, moving certain journal entries to a less frequent cycle, and limiting which employees can create manual journal entries.

Closing Summary

As demonstrated by our feature company, taking a formal project approach to understanding the manual journal entry process can yield significant results to both improve efficiency and increase business controls.  Many companies are actively making the effort to reduce the number of manual journal entries, and achieving impressive results from their efforts.

How recently has your company made a formal attempt to reduce the number of manual journal entries?  Which approaches have had the greatest impact?

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?

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“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.

Peeriosity members are invited to log into www.peeriosity.com to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here.


COVID’s Impact on Controls, Quality, and Technology Plans

Introduction

For Shared Services organizations around the world the impact of the global pandemic was both immediate and dramatic, with the requirement to shift as much of the work activities from in-office to work-from-home, using a workforce and technology infrastructure that wasn’t fully tested or ready for the location change.  Even those companies with robust contingency plans in place with formal testing protocols were challenged by the sudden shift in work requirements.  Creating secure connections from hundreds of separate locations wasn’t an easy task, particularly when one requirement was to rely on Internet accessibility and connectivity speeds that varied significantly between each employee’s home capabilities.

To better understand issues with Shared Services process controls and quality, and how technology plans might have been impacted because of the COVID pandemic, Peeriosity iPolling was used to get quick feedback from Peeriosity member companies.  Using iPolling, it is easy for Peeriosity members to draft an iPolling question and instantly find out how other members tackle the problem, with the ability to directly follow up with other participants for further discussion and dialogue.  With Peeriosity, your poll will go to hundreds of members for possible response, with those that have knowledge providing inputs that are likely to be directly on point to solve your issue, all at no cost to you.  Plus, the exchange is completely private, with only members whose companies provided an answer to the poll questions able to access the detailed results and findings.

iPollingTM Results Review

The first of two questions in the poll asked about the status of Shared Services’ process controls and quality during the COVID pandemic.  The results were impressive, with no responses to suggest that there was a negative impact of any kind.  87% of Peeriosity member companies responded that they were able to maintain process controls and overall quality, with basically no effect.  The remaining 13% of companies actually reported that they were able to make moderate improvements to process controls and overall quality.

The second polling question asked about the status of Shared Services’ technology plans during COVID.  62% of Peeriosity member companies reported that they continued to make progress on planned investments, with basically no effect because of COVID.  An additional 17% reported that they accelerated their technology investments, and the remaining 21% reported that they scaled back plans but still made progress.

Here are some of the comments from responding companies:

  • I still worry about the lack of controls over data which can be assessed at home too easily. When in the office, I think the control over data is better. However, the quality of work in general I believe has improved–especially timeliness.
  • We were in the middle of a multi-year service delivery model revamp when COVID hit, so we continued with those efforts which included both people and technology.
  • As a result of travel restrictions, Covid delayed the implementation of some of our technology plans, but we have not had to scale back.

Closing Summary

While the impact of the COVID pandemic created many challenges for Shared Services organizations, being able to respond to those challenges successfully was the outcome achieved by the vast majority of Peeriosity member companies.  While a large collective sigh of relief is well deserved, for Peeriosity members there can be significant benefit from completing a thorough post-COVID review to better understand the lessons learned, both based on their own company’s experiences, and based on wisdom and insights that are shared candidly by other Peeriosity members.

What impact did the COVID pandemic have on your company’s Shared Services process controls and quality?  What surprised you and what did you learn?  Did you have any changes to your technology plans as a result of the pandemic?

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?

______________________________________________________________________________

“iPolling” 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 Mail, members can easily communicate at any time with others who participated in iPolling.

Peeriosity members are invited to log into www.peeriosity.com to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here.


3-Year Comparison – Number of Fully Operational Bots

Introduction

More than three years ago Peeriosity launched a new research program for Intelligent Automation.   Since the launch Peeriosity members have participated in more than 50 Peercasts and over 70 best practice research polls.  This report highlights the progress Peeriosity members have made over the past three years, as measured by the number of bots that are fully operational. 

With hundreds of users participating, members of Peeriosity’s Intelligent Automation research area are able to participate in Peercasts featuring leading member companies, learn directly from others using iPolling, communicate with peers using Peer Mail, and access libraries of shared content and contributed research.  With the landscape of vendor solutions changing rapidly, and hype in the marketplace about Intelligent Automation solutions sounding “too good to be true”, Peeriosity provides members with a safe haven to get the real story and learn directly from peers on approaches that work best, where to get started, and how to set Intelligent Automation project priorities.

iPollingTM Results Review

In May 2018 Peeriosity iPolling was used to get tangible data on the number of bots that Shared Services operations had in place that were fully operational. This poll was repeated in May 2021.  While the number of bots isn’t a perfect way to measure the impact of Intelligent Automation projects, it is a leading indicator that can provide meaningful insights to the relative impact of results achieved. 

In our comparison, let’s first take a look at the poll results from May 2018. At that time, 34% of Peeriosity member companies reported that they had no bots that were fully operational, with 38% having between 1 and 5 bots.  14% were doing slightly better with 6 to 10 bots, and with no companies reporting that the number of bots were in the range of 11 to 50.  Interestingly, 14% reported that they had more than 50 bots in place. 

Now three years later, in May 2021, the results have changed with only 6% of Peeriosity member companies reporting that they had no bots that are fully operational, and with only 12% having between 1 and 5 bots.  25% reported that they have 6 to 10 bots, with 32% reporting that the number of bots were in the range of 11 to 20, with and additional 6% in the range of 21 to 50.  19% reported that they had more than 50 bots in place. 

Closing Summary

For most Peeriosity member companies, the promise of positive results from the implementation of Intelligent Automation solutions in Shared Services has become a reality, as the number of companies who are fully implemented with multiple bots in place during the past 3 years has increased significantly.   Not only has the number with no implementations dropped from 34% to 6%, the number of companies with more than 50 bots has increased from 14% to 19%, and the number of companies with between 11 and 50 bots has shown the greatest increase from 0% to 38% of member companies.

What progress has your company made in implementing Intelligent Automation solutions during the past three years?  Where have you achieved the most success and what does your prioritized list of opportunities for 2021 look like?

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?

______________________________________________________________________________

“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.

Peeriosity members are invited to log into www.peeriosity.com to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here.


Flexible Work Arrangements in Shared Services After COVID

Introduction

The impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic were immediate for everyone, with a dramatic and rapid shift to shutter Shared Services offices as much as possible, with work activities taking place remotely, and most often from employee’s homes, to ensure social distancing and reduce the spread of the virus.  As previously reported in other articles, the ability of Peeriosity member companies to respond quickly with little to no negative impact to quality or efficiency was impressive overall.

The question now at play for many is what happens next?  Once the requirements to work from home go away as the virus concerns are eliminated, what happens to the flexible work arrangements that were put in place as a result of the pandemic?  What decisions are leading companies making as they create their plans for a post-pandemic work environment?

Fortunately, for Peeriosity members, it’s easy to draft an iPollingTM question and instantly find out how other members tackle the problem, with the ability to directly follow up with other participants for further discussion and dialogue.  With Peeriosity, your poll will go to hundreds of members for possible response, with those who have knowledge providing inputs that are likely to be directly on point to solve your issue, all at no cost to you.  Plus, the exchange is completely private, with only Peeriosity members from companies participating in the poll able to access the detailed results and findings.

iPollingTM Results Review

Recently a Peeriosity iPollingTM question was created by a senior Shared Services leader at a Peeriosity member company to better understand the approach member companies are planning regarding communicating a post-pandemic work plan to employees, and whether or not the plan includes a formal Flexible Work Arrangement policy or agreement.

While only 32% of Peeriosity member companies have developed and communicated a plan, it’s interesting to note that none of plans that have been communicated so far will require all employees to return to the office full time.  20% indicated that their communicated plan includes options for hybrid work only with no options for employees to be full time remote, and an additional 12% have plans that include both full time remote and hybrid options.  Finally, another 12% have plans that have been developed but have not yet been communicated, and the balance of 56% have not yet finalized plans.

Regarding the question about having a post-pandemic plan that includes a Flexible Work Arrangement policy or agreement, 65% report that they either haven’t decided on a plan, or they have not yet made a decision regarding whether or not a formal policy or agreement will be included.  The balance of 35% of companies have made a decision, with 19% indicating they have a formal policy and agreement that the employee signs if they choose to participate, 8% have a formal policy but employees are not required to sign an agreement, and 8% will not be utilizing a formal policy or agreement.

Here are some of the comments from responding companies:

  • Our Business Services group is following corporate guidelines (still being developed) and health/government guidance by region.
  • We had remote work arrangements prior to COVID so it is expected that they will continue, and that additional people will opt into working remotely.
  • Policy effective 1 June, it requires employees to complete an application, subject to approval by line manager subject to operational requirements.
  • We landed on a 50/50 policy, so up to 50% WFH. This is up from ~20% WFH prior to COVID.
  • Flexible workday and hour arrangements are possible. Employees can work remotely up to 2 days per week.
  • We had fully remote and hybrid work options in place before the pandemic, so we expect to continue them.
  • We’ve communicated a global corporate plan however local markets, including shared services, are determining what works best in terms of implementation.  We had 50% WFH arrangements prior to COVID and are expecting to expand it as we localize our plan.
  • We have been very fortunate in NZ, with the exception of international travel, that life has been back to ‘normal’ for some time. Covid and lockdowns accelerated our path to more flexible working arrangements. The new normal is for our operational teams to be in the office a minimum of 2 days a week, most people and project leaders are in the office 3+ days. There’s no formal policy as such, we have allowed team leaders and managers to manage accordingly. So far it is working well.
  • Similar to other comments, we had various arrangements prior to the pandemic. Our Shared Services group will follow corporate guidelines that will comply with health/government guidance by region. We anticipate adjustments as the situation evolves, but currently will offer more arrangements than our pre-pandemic options.

Closing Summary

With an aggressive move to Flexible Work Arrangements as a requirement for doing business in 2020, as companies make plans for a new post-pandemic normal, insights to how companies will respond are emerging as more Shared Services organizations formalize and communicate their plans to their employees.  While many have yet to finalize plans, early indications are that few (if any) companies will be requiring their employees to return to the office full time.

Has your company made decisions regarding where Shared Services work will be performed after pandemic related requirements are no longer an issue?  If you do decide to implement a Flexible Work Arrangement, will you create a formal policy that requires an agreement that is signed by your employees?

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?

______________________________________________________________________________

“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.

Peeriosity members are invited to log into www.peeriosity.com to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here.


Paying Invoices with Immediate Payment Terms

Introduction

Shared Services work processes, like Accounts Payable (P2P) have hundreds of detail work steps and many required policy differences depending on the type of supplier, negotiated terms, industry standards and legal or regulatory requirements.   As companies work to implement the most efficient processes possible, understanding the details for how other peer companies handle similar situations can be very valuable.

Fortunately, for Peeriosity members, it’s easy to draft an iPollingTM question and instantly find out how other members tackle the problem, with the ability to directly follow up with other participants for further discussion and dialogue.  With Peeriosity, your poll will go to hundreds of members for possible response, with those that have knowledge providing inputs that are likely to be directly on point to solve your issue, all at no cost to you.  Plus, the exchange is completely private, with only members whose companies provided an answer to the poll questions able to access the detailed results and findings.

iPollingTM Results Review

Recently a Peeriosity iPollingTM question was created to better understand the approach member companies take to paying invoices with immediate payment terms.  Note that the assumption is that immediate payment is approved and appropriate, and not made simply because the invoice indicates “Net 0” or otherwise the payment is required upon invoice receipt.  Even so, when approved and appropriate, “immediate payment” obviously suggests quickly, but likely doesn’t often meet requirements to drop everything and process a wire-transfer with the bank or create an on-demand check for manual signature.  So, in other words, if it’s not “right now” what does “immediate payment” really mean?

Based on the approach taken by 39% of Peeriosity member companies, “immediate payment” is to make the payment on the next payment run after the invoice is received and processed, regardless of the invoice date.  An additional 44% make the payment within a fixed number of days, with 33% basing the number of days on the invoice date, and 11% basing the number of days on the date the invoice is received.  The balance of 17% follow another process, which typically is one of the listed options, with ability to make adjustments as required to meet business needs.  Here are the details:

To further understand the responses, for companies who were in the category of paying based on a fixed number of days from either the invoice date or the date the invoice was received, the question was asked for insight to how many days would be typically allowed to be considered as paid-on-time.  The differences here were significant, with 45% indicating 1 to 2 days, and the balance of 55% indicating anywhere from 7 to 10 days.

Here are some of the comments from responding companies that provides additional insight to the approaches member companies take to these types of transactions:

  • Business-critical suppliers (Utilities/Rents) are paid as soon as possible after the required internal approvals have been completed. Most of the suppliers with immediate terms do not require Purchase Orders. For suppliers that utilize Purchase Orders, default payment terms are Net 30 unless otherwise negotiated in the agreement/contract and the negotiated terms are set by the Buyers when issuing the Purchase Orders.
  • Invoices are paid within a fixed number of days of the invoice date (standard terms); however, we have a manual Prompt Payment process whereby our Purchasing associates can manually request a more immediate payment term, if a valid business reason is provided.
  • For most of our businesses, we do daily payment runs. Very rare to approve any out of cycle requests when you’ve got daily payment runs!
  • There should be no vendors with N000 terms unless business critical. Business critical (for example, utilities and taxes) are paid in the next payment run after received. Currently there is no approval on N000 terms so there are vendors set up with these terms that shouldn’t be. Invoices are physically impossible to go thru the AP process immediately especially if the 3WM requirements aren’t complete or other PO related issues. We don’t pay vendors daily, so vendors with N000 terms may be paid after they have been designated as “due”.
  • If payment terms are due immediately, the invoice will pay on the next scheduled payment run which is typically 1-2 days.

Closing Summary

Large multi-billion-dollar companies aren’t immune from the daily challenges and questions about how to fine-tune their processes to make them better.  Many times, the issues are the same as those faced by companies with a smaller scale; however, for larger companies, because of the volume of transactions the impact of even a modest change can be significant. Being able to quickly identify the details for how leading peers approach similar challenges is a real advantage for making the types of changes that will create the greatest impact.  This is certainly true when it comes to understanding different approach for processing vendor invoices with immediate payment terms.

How does your company handle vendors with immediate payment terms?  When you dig below the surface, when is immediate payment required and what does it actually mean in terms of timing for when the payment is made?

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?

______________________________________________________________________________

“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.

Peeriosity members are invited to log into www.peeriosity.com to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here.


Leading and Developing Your Remote Workforce

Introduction

 With COVID-19 creating a new priority for companies to create work-from-home delivery for as many Shared Services processes and activities as possible, new challenges are created for leading and developing your remote workforce.  For many, the move from an in-office workforce to a workforce that was working-from-home took place almost immediately.  With a business-first focus on “getting the work done”, what steps have companies taken to adjust processes for managing their team, and completing the annual review and development planning processes that are so important to employee morale and retention?

Remarkably, during the COVID pandemic, employees at Peeriosity member companies are positive regarding their manager’s ability to evaluate their performance and support their development, even though their worked shifted to being remote. 

Company Experience

Recently a Peeriosity member company with global operations and over $10B in annual revenue discussed their experiences in leading and developing their remote workforce, where their primary Shared Services center for North America of roughly 500 people is located “near-shore” in Central America.  In early 2020, the team successfully transitioned to a work-from-home model over a two-week period at this location, in part because they were already staffed with a supervisor of Leading & Development, with specialized skills is assisting Shared Services center leaders, and in the many important issues related to employee development.

For the feature company, regarding the topic of leading (instead of the more traditional term of “managing”), it was important that the new processes to lead remotely included clear objectives with defined expectations and productivity goals, and with communications that were authentic, transparent, and continuous. Leaders also needed to act quickly to respond to employee needs as they occurred.

Regarding the topic of development, it was important that new processes for development be collaborative, complete with interactive meetings, including the ability to adapt to remote learning by rethinking development workshop activities, and the process for creating meaningful development plans.

For details, Peeriosity members are encouraged to sign into the members’ area to view the complete presentation and listen to the recorded Peercast.

iPollingTM Results Review

The results from a recent Peeriosity poll created using the iPollingTM technology looks at, from the employee perspective, how effectively their manager has been able to understand and evaluate performance and how they have been able to continue to develop professionally as remote workers. These results were delivered and tabulated using a “masked view” so that respondents could answer openly without others (including their managers) seeing how they responded.  While no employees reported that their managers had greater insight to their progress and performance than before, 96% indicated that their manager maintained his/her ability to understand and evaluate their performance.  Only 4% indicated that the managers ability to understand and evaluate was “not as good” with no one indicating there was a significant or noticeable decline.

The second poll question asked the employee to make a self-assessment regarding their personal development as a result of working remotely during COVID-19.  Interestingly 30% indicated that they actually had more time and/or opportunity to develop, and an additional 52% indicated that there had not been any noticeable difference in either the time or the opportunity to develop. For those reporting a less positive result, 11% reported a decline in time and/or opportunity for development, and 7% reported that the decline was significant.

A few of the comments from members include:

  • We have made a special effort to maintain communication and measure performance.
  • The pandemic has provided opportunities to contribute outside of my normal scope of responsibility which has created development opportunities.
  • Ironically, I think communication has gotten better during the pandemic. As far as development, there are many factors that drive this – including the global economy and the impact on our specific industry.
  • There has been a substantial increase in communication, and ‘pushed’ trainings – several specifically targeted at Covid. Routine trainings have also continued – we strive to keep them one hour or less. Several people have expressed concerns on being evaluated, and we address these as needed since it is often a personal concern. All standard ratings, reviews, etc. continue.
  • Opportunities for personal development have reduced as a result of not being able to travel internationally.
  • Since all our work is project driven, and we communicate regularly via brief daily sprint calls and longer weekly team meetings, there has really been no appreciable difference in my manager’s ability to evaluate my work.
  • It’s a double-edged sword. The organization promotes development and growth for staff, but there seems to be no time to do it and during COVID we were all asked to cut expenses which means that budgeted dollars for career development were not as readily available or accessible.

Closing Summary

While the rapid transition to a global work from home strategy for Shared Services was forced on everyone, the good news is that for most, the change was implemented successfully, with limited overall negative impact, both in the short term, and when it comes to processes for employee performance review and development, likely in the long term as well.  Out of sight doesn’t mean out of mind, and from the perspective of Shared Services employees at Peeriosity member companies, the review and development processes implemented for a new, almost instant, remote workforce are with few exceptions effective with positive results.

How effective was your company’s Shared Services organization in responding to the new demands for reviewing performance and developing your employees that were created by COVID-19 and the shift to remote working?  When the virus threat is over, what does the “new normal” look like for you, and can the leading practice of your peers help you shape your strategy?

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 iPollingTM.

Peeriosity members are invited to log into www.peeriosity.com to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here.


COVID-19: Saving Millions by Consolidating Unused Airline Tickets

Introduction

The hot topic for the last year for everyone has been adjusting to the new realities for conducting business in a world facing the COVID-19 global pandemic.  While the business impact varied by industry, with airlines, hospitality and restaurants taking biggest blow, every person and every company has been impacted.  With new work-from-home requirements impacting all of Shared Services, the processes for travel, including bookings and expense report processing, took a direct hit with an unprecedented decrease in transaction volume.

In the mix of chaos comes opportunity.  For example, one of the many financial impacts to Corporations was the cost of unused tickets, where reuse or exchange was complicated by manual processes with the potential loss of millions of dollars related to trip cancellations and changes.  This research paper highlights how a Peeriosity member company designed new process to control the losses, achieving a net saving of more than a million dollars as a result.

Company Experience

A recent Peeriosity PeercastTM featured a global company with over $15B in annual revenue discussing their Travel Services strategy, and specifically their response to reduce the financial impact of unused tickets which resulted a million-dollar savings to the company.   

The company’s stated travel vision is to “Enable travelers to compete and win every day by providing safe, comprehensive, east to use, and cost-effective global travel solutions”.  Their mission statement is broken down into three components including achieving a best-in-class customer experience, driving savings and compliance, and expanding Travel Services’ global offerings and footprint. 

The opportunity addressed by the company’s Travel Services team was to create a better process for eliminating costs related to unused airline tickets.  In the pre-COVID-19 world, unused tickets were valid for one year, with stringent reuse requirements and a very manual process for reuse.  Post-COVID-19 the volume of unused tickets went up dramatically, with airlines waiving change fees including name changes, with the process remaining both messy and manual.  The solution developed was to consolidate unused ticket costs to one credit card per airline and use the credits for any future travel by any employee.  Considerations to address included potential employee or cost center dissatisfaction and confusion in the expense reporting process.

The project started by getting approval and alignment within Finance and with functional leadership.  Next, they negotiated with key airlines to consolidate unused ticket value to one credit card, followed by communicating the changes to impacted travelers.  The new process automated ticketing to use one credit card per airline, and when an employee travels they receive notification that the credits have been used and the associated pre-paid expense has been processed as a travel cost.

For details, Peeriosity members are encouraged to sign into the members’ area to view the complete presentation and listen to the recorded Peercast.

iPollingTM Results Review

The results from a recent Peeriosity poll created using the iPollingTM technology provide additional insight to how companies are responding to the impact of COVID-19 more broadly.  The first question in the poll asked Peeriosity member companies about how companies are handling business travel as restrictions for COVID-19 are relaxed.  For 53% of Peeriosity member companies, many employees have developed new ways of working without travel, with the expectation that travel levels going forward will be lower than they used to be.  An additional 42% see continued need for significant travel requirements, with the expectation that they will be cautious about ramping up travel to ensure employee safety, with a slow ramp up of travel expected.  Here are the details:

The second poll question asked about the impact for employees who are responsible for Travel Expense processing, and the primary changes, if any, that have been made to their work roles during the pandemic.  Responses were fairly evenly split, with 37% indicating their roles were partially shifted to other projects and work within T&E that needed attention, 27% indicating that their roles were partially shifted to other areas where additional resources were needed, and 26% indicating that there had been no significant changes.    

A few of the comments from members include:

  • We have also outsourced most of the activities of this area to our BPO partners with a corresponding reduction in workforce.
  • We have had our staff working on some project activities within our card functions but over the next few weeks we will be reducing the workforce in that team with some people coming off fixed term contracts which will not be renewed, and others will be redeployed to other functions within our Shared Services organization.
  • Like others, we have learned how to work effectively without travel, so suspect not only will we ramp up slowly, but we will also scrutinize where travel is necessary vs remote connectivity.
  • We had already reduced travel in recent years, so not a big change.

Closing Summary

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses globally can’t be understated, with reductions in revenue and new requirements for how work gets done.  Responding to the challenges created by the pandemic can create new opportunities for cost savings.  For example, one of the large financial impacts was the cost of unused tickets, where reuse or exchange was complicated by manual processes with the potential loss of millions of dollars related to trip cancellations and changes.  A solution discussed in detail by a Peeriosity member company was to consolidate the value of all unused airline tickets to a single credit card, creating an efficient and effective way to maximize the value of the unused tickets.

What approach does your company take to maximize the value of unused airline tickets?  Overall what changes has your company made to business travel in response to COVID-19?

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 iPollingTM.

Peeriosity members are invited to log into www.peeriosity.com to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here.


Creating a Continuous Improvement Culture In Shared Services

Introduction

Does your Shared Services organization have an embedded culture of personal and collective accountability to deliver increasing value to your customers that gives them a strategic advantage in their markets?  For a Shared Services organization to evolve and move up the value-chain, a continuous process improvement (CPI) foundation is critical to shaping the organization and fostering a self-sustaining value creation culture. Most importantly, it creates a mindset of personal and collective accountability to deliver results. 

Company Experience

One attribute of many successful Shared Services operations is a well-established continuous improvement program that is ingrained into the culture of the operation. A recent Peeriosity PeercastTM featured a global company with over $10B in annual revenue discussing their approach to making “continuous improvement the way to work every day”.

Prior their efforts to fully imbed continuous improvement into the Shared Services culture, their status quo included:

  • A limited number of continuous improvement tools were available
  • There was no formal continuous improvement recommendation process
  • Improvement efforts were isolated, with little visibility or awareness
  • Improvements were often not sustainable
  • There was no clear tracking of the impact or benefits of continuous improvement projects

After discussing in detail the steps to complete their implementation, the following benefits and results were discussed:

  • They were successful in creating a continuous improvement mindset within Shared Services, including a standard language towards processes improvement opportunities, and where continuous improvement is not a project but rather recognized as being inherent to how the business runs.
  • The successfully created a defined pipeline for improvement ideas, with a clear structure for how ideas are proposed and prioritized.
  • These efforts were carefully integrated with automation efforts, where the improvement mindset can both facilitate and drive automation, with a strong structure in place to analyze and prepare automation opportunities.

For details, Peeriosity members are encouraged to sign into the members’ area to view the complete presentation and listen to the recorded Peercast.

iPollingTM Results Review

The results from a recent Peeriosity poll created using the iPollingTM technology provide additional insight to this topic.  The first question in the poll asked Peeriosity member companies about the extent to which their Shared Services organization demonstrates a culture of continuous improvement.  The results indicate that 55% of Shared Services organizations demonstrate a continuous improvement culture to either a high extent, where everyone understands the importance and it is widely used, or to great extent, where a culture of continuous improvement is essentially the foundation of every work activity.  An additional 41% select the response of moderate extent, where everyone understands the importance but there are some gaps in practice.  Here are the details:

The second poll question asked what would be the biggest help to the Shared Services organization to be able to increase continuous improvement as a part of their culture.  The top three responses were to have staff who are knowledgeable in tools/techniques to lead others (23%), making participation in continuous improvement projects a higher priority (22%), and making participation in continuous improvement projects a requirement (19%).  

A few of the comments from members include:

  • We have many CI initiatives that we worked on in 2020. We certainly can use additional focus and training on process improvement as most of our CI is around RPA development and reducing manual tasks. I feel that working with a remote workforce challenges CI as process people need to find a new way to watch the processes and look for gaps and opportunities. Challenging to try to do that through Zoom.
  • Important to have a leader with a clear vision for how processes should work most efficiently and accurately then tools to track whether it is being done that way. Tracking of errors or deviations would be extremely valuable, as well as efficiency related tracking.
  • I think we do a good job in supporting continuous improvements and leveraging all of the above to an extent. That being said, resource limitations are always still an issue.
  • The challenge for us is looking at it from end-to-end perspective.  Most employees look at it internally within their own team and they are not consistently looking at the bigger end-to-end process.
  • Adopted in theory, but in practice capability, tools and process gaps prevent us from properly embedding it as part of our culture so far.
  • Continuous Process Improvement, if the employees are equipped appropriately, will go a long way in streamlining the processes and having a long-term positive productivity impact.
  • Instilling this in a culture means it has to flow from the top down (giving tools and resources) as well as bottoms up (encouraging and supporting ideas from the individuals who perform the tasks every day). The larger the company, the more difficult I find it is to make change – more functions need to be involved, and IT support is frequently needed to automate a formerly manual process. Every leader needs to consistently send the message that new ideas are encouraged and supported, and then work with their team to drive them to conclusion.
  • Global Operating Model (ERP systems & processes) of continuous improvement is a core strategic tenant of Finance Shared Services with heavy attention to inclusive and systemic governance programs in place.

Closing Summary

Continuous improvement can reap significant benefits when the appropriate focus is placed upon it by Shared Services leadership.  As was well demonstrated by our feature company, if there is a vision for how the program should operate and a concerted effort to make this an inherent part of the day-to-day operation of the Shared Services organization, great things can be achieved with a reasonable commitment of time and resources.

Have you implemented an effective continuous improvement program in your Shared Service operation?  If so, is it reaching its full potential or are adjustments necessary?

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 iPollingTM.

Peeriosity members are invited to log into www.peeriosity.com to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here.