Member Case Study # 8 – Our Intelligent Automation Journey

Introduction

On a frequent basis, Peeriosity member companies share details and insights regarding their efforts in the Intelligent Automation space in order to help other companies facing similar challenges.  During a recent PeercastTM, a member company shared their experiences in implementing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in their Shared Services organization and what they have learned to this point in their Intelligent Automation journey.

Company Experience

The member company featured on the PeercastTM  is a large global corporation with over 50,000 employees working in 50 countries.  Their Intelligent Automation Center of Excellence (CoE) is one of five pillars found in their Automation & Process Optimization (APO) Eco System, along with ERP Process Deployment, ERP Data Governance, Control Configuration, and Process Engineering.  This matrix framework has some key benefits, including an integrated process approach, an agile structure, robust solutioning, being quick to market, and providing financial leverage and resource optimization.

The company started their Intelligent Automation journey in late 2016 by investigating the capabilities of RPA and holding vendor meetings and product demos (including a proof of concept on their vendor master file) over the following several months until Automation Anywhere was selected as their provider in August 2017.  The Automation Anywhere environments were stood up and configured a few weeks later, and resources were recruited for the RPA Team.  An Intelligent Automation Solutions CoE was established in January of 2018 and the first automation went into production in February 2018.  By the end of 2018, they had 15 automations in place, providing $3 million in benefits.

When assessing the viability of a potential automation, a threshold requirement was that the benefits have to justify the creation and support of the automation.  Those benefits can be hard savings, cost avoidance, and process productivity and are identified as part of a detailed automation assessment process.

Intelligent Automation is driving value at the company in the following ways:

  1. Higher Quality – Human errors are eliminated, compliance is improved, and there is higher staff satisfaction as the team can better focus on customer service.
  2. Productivity Boost – Average handling times have been reduced by 40% and are monitored around the clock.
  3. Cost Saver – An 80% reduction in processing costs in certain areas has been realized, with payback on the original technology investment occurring in months, not years.
  4. Implementation Speed – There is a rapid implementation of new processes as process elements are often re-usable among the different automations being implemented.

Additional details regarding the feature company’s journey, including a listing of assessment questions and metrics around the automation process, can be found on the Peeriosity member website.

Closing Summary

Our feature company provided members with another great example of what a focused effort on implementing Intelligent Automation can result in for a major corporation.  Their obvious commitment from the inception of the project to make this effort a success has resulted in significant cost and productivity improvements, along with higher service quality results and an increased attention by employees on customer service.

What is the status at your company regarding fully taking advantage of the benefits of Intelligent Automation?  Is your current IA effort progressing at an acceptable pace or is an increased focus necessary to achieve your objectives in this area?

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. 

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.


Translating Shared Services Communication Materials

Introduction

Many Shared Services organizations span multiple geographies, with a requirement for team members who speak multiple languages. In addition to supporting live conversations, internal communication materials for team members including periodic newsletters and reports to the Global Shared Service organization are often provided. For some companies, these materials may be published in one language only, and, for others, written team member communication materials will be provided in multiple languages. This research abstract looks the issue of companies translating Shared Services team member related communication materials, and specifically to what extent, and by what means.

iPollingTM Results Review

A recent Peeriosity poll generated using the iPollingTM technology provides some interesting details around what Shared Services operations are doing in the area of communication material translation.  The first of two poll questions looked at whether Shared Services organizations translate team member related communications into more than one language.  Overall, 57% do translate materials into more than one language, with 19% doing so for all applicable languages and 38% to just certain languages.  The remaining companies have either not considered doing this (27%) or their employee base only speaks one language (16%).

The second poll question then addressed what the primary resource was for translating the team member related communications.  Reviewing the results from this poll question regarding resource utilization, 25% of companies rely solely upon internal resources for their translation capabilities, while 13% completely outsource this effort to an external provider.  However, the vast majority (62%) of companies utilize a combination of internal and external resources.

Some of the member comments regarding this poll include the following:

Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals, Biotech Member: We primarily use TransPerfect and then have internal local market resources validate.

Manufacturing Member: For Europe we have outsourced some functions that provide local language support. In LATAM / APAC we use local language almost extensively.

Travel, Recreation, and Leisure Member: Our Corporate Learning and Development Department sends out translations if needed. Mostly only EU French and French Canadian, Italian, German, EU Spanish and Dutch. As well as smaller communications will be translated in country by leader to send out to their teams as needed.

Manufacturing Member: Our Shared Service locations are in North America and the UK, so only the English language is required at this time.

Retail Member: Translations as needed are completed by the individual markets.

Closing Summary

With an expansive scope of operations being more and more prevalent as Shared Services organizations continue to evolve and mature, regardless of whether the basic operating structure is global or regional, the need to ensure that Shared Services team members are effectively communicated with should be a top priority.  While the translation of communication materials to all applicable languages may add some complexity to the internal communications process, in the long run it may very well be worth the effort.

What is the status at your company with respect to translating employee communications into all applicable languages?  Is it time to review your approach in this important area?

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 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


Time Collection for Hourly Employees

Introduction

Within HR Shared Services, Payroll is almost always within scope, since the process is transaction intensive and rules based, where centralization of payroll experts and the leveraging of technology solutions across business units and locations can yield both lower cost and higher quality processes.  However, because the Payroll process impacts every employee in a significant way, it’s more than just cost and quality, with employee satisfaction being a major requirement for any payroll related process or technology.  Collection of time information is one part of the Payroll process that remains distributed, with various methods used to collect and record time and attendance information. While the impact on cost may not be as high, because the process directly touches every hourly employee, the impact on employee satisfaction is significant.

iPollingTM Results Review

Recently a Peeriosity iPollingTM question was created to provide insight to how this high-touch employee process is performed at member companies.  The results indicate that while 10% still use paper time sheets, and additional 15% use a standard punch time clock for hourly time reporting, 40% of member companies are using web time reporting, and 25% use a badge scan.  Here are the details:

Regarding the specific solution, 40% are using Kronos, 15% are using SAP, and 15% use an internally developed solution.  The balance of companies us a variety of solutions ranging from ADP to Workday.

Here are some of the comments from responding companies:

  • We primarily use Rhumbix for our hourly time.
  • We use Centricity for time reporting, scheduling, and productivity reporting.
  • We have an in-house system which integrates with Infor.
  • No standard mechanism or system used to capture and record time clocks. Varies by country and sometimes by business group within country. Harmonization has proven to be a challenge given the number of stakeholders and the cost of transitioning.
  • We are currently moving from paper time sheets to mobile, web, and badge scan.
  • In-House system integrated with SAP.

Closing Summary

By leveraging technology, better process design, and the transition to HR Shared Services, companies have made significant improvements in the Payroll process over the past decade.  While the impact on transaction cost may not be as significant, the impact on employee satisfaction and morale suggests that processes for time collection of hourly employees should continue to be an important consideration when reviewing the overall effectiveness of the Payroll process.  Comparing your approach with other leading companies is an excellent way to objectively evaluate this opportunity.

What process do you use to perform time reporting for hourly employees?   When was the process last reviewed, and what are you plans to make additional changes or improvements?

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.


Thresholds for Automatic Settlement of Customer Deductions

Introduction

For customer payments, many companies allow short-payments from customers to automatically settle outstanding invoices, assuming they do not exceed a pre-established threshold.  They have justified this threshold as the funds which may be recovered my lowering or eliminating the short-payment have been more than offset by the additional costs required to administer collection.  Based on a review of how short-payments are typically resolved, if in the overwhelming percentage of cases they are resolved in the customers’ favor, unless there is sufficient benefit to a root cause analysis to improve underlying work processes, establishing a meaningful threshold is probably a very good idea.

iPollingTM Results Review

Recently a Peeriosity iPollingTM question was created to better understand how prevalent tolerance thresholds are for customer deductions, and when thresholds are utilized, the relative dollar amount that is used.  The results indicate that 94% of member companies have implemented and are using a tolerance threshold that allows for short-payments from suppliers to automatically settle outstanding invoices without intervention or special approval, with the remaining 6% of member companies in the process of implementing tolerance thresholds. 

The actual amount of the threshold varies, with 80% setting an amount at or below $50 USD, and half of those in the range of $21 to $50 USD. An additional 13% have a threshold between $51 and $100, with 7% having a much higher threshold.

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

  • A/R specialists have the authority to write off up to $50 for short pays.
  • 1% or $50.00 whichever is less is our threshold on posting payments with short payments.
  •  $5.00 is our threshold.
  •  Currently building capability to allow threshold to be reduced.
  •  Note that some companies cannot use only one threshold because of the diversity in business and products. You may need one plant at $25 and another at $125 due to the price of the products. Companies also can treat discounts differently than invoice deductions due to price or quality. There are options to use different amounts for each of those or bring grace days in for discounted term customers.
  •  Tolerance varies, but is in the $20 range.
  •  Level will vary by country. The functionality exists, but it has not been implemented globally yet.
  •  Our tolerance is not to exceed $30 USD.
  •  Our threshold tolerance levels are slightly different within the various lines of service due to the size and volume of accounts.
  • Varies depending on segment and customer type.

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. 

What threshold is in place at your company to support automatic processing for customer deductions?   What analysis was completed to determine the amount of the threshold and how often is the tolerance amount reviewed?

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


Taking Shared Services Quality to the Next Level

Introduction

Quality, along with cost, productivity, and customer satisfaction, has always been one of the four primary measures of success in Shared Services.  There are a variety of approaches to achieving high levels of quality performance, with some companies utilizing formal quality programs, such as Lean and Six Sigma, and others developing their own approach based upon a variety of quality principles.  Regardless of the approach that might be best for a particular company, just making the concerted effort to focus on quality can provide significant benefit to just about any Shared Services organization.  This research abstract looks at the experiences and key learnings of a major corporation as they developed and utilized their Shared Services quality program.

Company Experience

A recent Peeriosity PeercastTM featured a member company with over $10 billion USD in annual revenue and more than 25,000 employees.  Presenting on the webcast was the Director of Financial Shared Services Support and one of his key customers, the Director of Accounts Receivable and Credit Services.  Leading a Quality team of ten employees consisting of a Manager of Process Improvement, four QA Analysts, three Process & CI Analysts, and two Trainers, the Financial Shared Services Support Team also includes the Automation, Systems/Analytics, Acquisitions & Integration Management, and Project Management groups.

The Quality Team is responsible for the following:

  • Provides the foundation to define, measure, and improve FSS operations.
  • Collaborates to define quality standards, closing identified gaps and quantifying results to determine training and continuous improvement (CI) opportunities and ensure performance standards are maintained.
  • Provides “checks and balances” within FSS for policies and procedures.
  • Reviews and monitors operational tasks including customer calls, workflows, emails and process activities.

Some of the quality success factors discussed include having a clearly defined purpose and scope for the Quality Team, aligning Quality work to performance metrics and SOX compliance, having an effective approach to continuous improvement, developing validated process documentation, having a solid governance structure to manage process changes, ensuring segregation of duties between the Quality team and the process employees, establishing strong relationship with internal customers, and having a strong knowledge of the work being assessed. 

To effectively communicate “quality outcomes”, Quality Performance Dashboards are generated weekly, monthly and quarterly to capture quality results by operational area, team and individual team member.  Quality reviews are shared to provide feedback, establish trends, and identify performance and productivity opportunities, with the overall result being increased compliance, consistency and quality at all levels.

Additional details regarding the feature company’s efforts in this area, including some examples from the Quality process, as well as an extensive list of lessons learned, can be found on the Peeriosity member website.

iPollingTM Results Review

A recent Peeriosity poll developed using the iPollingTM technology provides some interesting information regarding the overall approach to quality Shared Services organizations take, as well as the method in which they conduct quality assurance activities.  Reviewing the results of the first poll question which asked what best describes the current approach to quality assurance in Shared Services, the most popular response (47%) was providing routine sampling of work product that assessed the accuracy of the shared service associate’s processing accuracy, with the next most popular response (27%) being a similar approach, but assessing the accuracy of the total transaction process.  Closely following was a project driven routine utilizing a common quality assurance methodology (Lean, Six Sigma, etc.), with 20% of the responses.

The second poll question then looked at which method best describes the way in which companies conduct quality assurance activities in Shared Services.  While the most popular approach was through a combination of multiple activities (50%), the most prevalent individual approach was utilizing a stand-alone audit or quality assurance team that is not part of the work unit.

Closing Summary

Our Peercast feature company is an excellent example of a major company that has focused significant resources on improving the overall quality of the processes within Shared Services.  While a variety of effective methodologies are available, making quality a high priority is often a challenge.  Because quality has a direct impact on the other key measures including cost, productivity, and customer satisfaction, ensuring quality is consistently a high priority is an important deliverable for any Shared Services team.

What is the status at your Shared Services organization regarding achieving high levels of service quality?  Is your current approach effective or is it time to take a look at opportunities for improvement in this critical area?

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.


Effectively Configuring and Utilizing Concur Travel & Expense

Introduction

Results from a recent Peeriosity poll regarding the system utilized to support Travel & Expense processing showed that 80% of our member companies currently utilize the Concur Travel Expense system.  This research abstract highlights the experiences of one of those companies in implementing this system and what they have learned in carrying out this major system implementation.

Company Experience

In a recent Peeriosity PeercastTM, a Peeriosity member company shared their experiences implementing the Concur Travel Expense solution.  They first explained the importance of understanding the project model, including reading all the configuration documentation provided by Concur, understanding all of the available options, identifying requirements outside of the normal Concur setup, and the importance of documenting and discussing requirements before any configuration begins.  They also emphasized that while Concur provides tools and templates to assist with the system configuration, they are not meant to replace more in depth efforts related to process requirements and design.

Some of the other points made regarding the system implementation include the following:

  • Don’t underestimate the scope of the project
  • Don’t make Concur a better version of your old system
  • Don’t underestimate resource requirements for the project
  • Allow time for pre-work
  • Engage knowledgeable resources
  • Divide and conquer
  • Conduct group discussions
  • Understand that your organization is the driver, not Concur
  • Review and update Travel and Expense policies
  • Evaluate receipt requirements and report approvals

As described by our feature company, the Concur solution allows for a rapid deployment, but a company must ensure that its suppliers (including their bank, travel booking company, and IT group) are on board, that the Legal team is included early to review the usage agreements, and that cardholders are properly prepared with appropriate training on new procedures and policies.  Additional details regarding the Concur implementation can be found on the Peeriosity member website, including the PeercastTM recording, presentation material, and detailed poll results.

iPollingTM Results Review

In conjunction with the PeercastTM, a poll was developed using Peeriosity’s iPollingTM technology.  The first of two poll questions addressed the issue of what solution companies are currently using for Travel Expense.  The results are interesting, with 80% of the companies utilizing Concur, with 68% of those being satisfied, 8% neutral, and 4% indicating that it needs improvement.  The remaining 20% are either currently evaluating the Concur solution (8%) or have evaluated it and decided not to proceed (12%).

The second poll question then looked at the level of satisfaction the surveyed companies had with their Concur implementation, for the 80% of companies who have implemented.  Reviewing the results, 19% indicated that they had a great experience, with no major issues, while 57% said it was a good experience, with any issues being resolved without too much trouble.  The remaining 24% said that they had wished it had gone a little smoother.

Some of the poll comments made by Peeriosity members regarding this poll include the following:

Computers & Electronics Member:  Concur is a great tool, but getting resources to troubleshoot issues or work on improvements can be a challenge.

Manufacturing Member:  Roll-out in Australia had issues last year, roll-outs in other countries for this year are taking longer than expected. Also having issues with their Expense-It app posting duplicate transactions globally.

Computers & Electronics Member:  This is a good system, effective as a tool for monitoring spend and also a user friendly experience for those submitting expenses

Closing Summary

The popularity of the Concur Travel Expense solution among major corporations is not a surprise, with its rich functionality and leading-edge technology platform making it an excellent choice for many companies.  The ability to effectively implement this system is key to its long-term value to the company, with the not only the need to configure it properly being critical to its success, but also carrying out the proper due diligence in such areas as process design, policy updates, and cardholder training.

What is the status at your company with respect to the system utilized for Travel Expense?  Is your current solution meeting your needs or is it time to take another look at this critical technology?

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.


Starting the Clock on Payment Terms

Introduction

Making improvements to working capital or cash flow requires a clear understanding of the details for current work processes, including fundamentals that include when payment terms begin, and the frequency and timing of payment runs.  For example, saying your payment terms are 45 days means different things if the clock starts based on the invoice date, the date the invoice is received, or the date materials are received.  Actual payment terms are also impacted if payment runs occur daily, or if they take place semi-weekly, weekly or at some other frequency. 

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 by a Peeriosity member company’s Finance Director to find out how other companies administer payment terms and the frequency of payment runs.  The results suggest that 84% of member companies begin the clock for payment terms based on the invoice date and 13% begin the clock based on the date the invoice is physically received for processing.  Here are the details:

Regarding the timing of payment runs, while 38% reported daily payment runs, a significant number of companies have payment runs that are on either a twice-a-week or weekly cycle. 

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

  • Terms are driven by vendor master data, which is approved by Purchasing. Invoice date is used for physical invoices, for evaluated receipt settlements goods receipt date becomes invoice date. Payments are disbursed daily for ACH, if payment is made by check or wire they are disbursed twice a week.
  • The majority of our payments are done weekly; however, our Domestic ACH payments are done twice per week.
  • Daily payment runs in the US. Other countries are less frequent.
  • The payment terms are decided by Supply Management and the supplier and is on the PO.
  • Payment runs are weekly, but we do track exceptions and report that out monthly.
  • We have a weekly check run, but process ACH daily.
  • Our main payment runs are Tuesday and Friday.
  • We pay according to terms established with each vendor, aged from the date of the invoice. Domestically, we process payments (pay cycles) every working day, and 2-3 times per week for international locations.
  • Payment runs vary from daily to semiweekly based on volume of payments, as well number of urgent payments, etc. in certain countries based on business needs, etc.
  • Payments are run daily for wire payments, weekly for checks.
  • Primarily based on invoice date, but there are exceptions where payment due date is calculated based on physical receipt of the invoice. Payment runs are done weekly, but there are cases where it happens more often.
  • We currently use invoice date, but we plan to move to invoice receipt date.
  • Discount vendors are paid daily, none discount vendors are paid weekly.
  • Terms are driven by vendor master data. Invoice date is used for physical invoices. Payments are disbursed semi-monthly. Emergency check runs are processed as required and must be approved.
  • Disbursement frequency varies by business, but we are moving towards daily pay run frequency.

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. 

How does your company start the clock for payment terms, and what is the frequency of payment runs?  When you have a process constraint or bottleneck where you know there has to be a better way, do you have a method to connect directly with peers at leading companies to explore options that might work better?

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.


Intelligent Automation Status and Objectives – One Year Later

Introduction

When it comes to Intelligent Automation, separating fact from fiction, and knowing the detailed experiences of your peers is critical to achieving the best possible outcomes.  Fortunately, members of Peeriosity’s Intelligent Automation best practice research community are well positioned to understand and learn from the actual experiences of leading peers.  All within the safety and security of being part of a private professional research network, with access restricted to peer practitioners.

A Peeriosity PeercastTM discussion in our Intelligent Automation research area in late 2018 featured several leading companies, each with significant experience, sharing candidly their experiences in 2018 and their plans for 2019.  The format was identical to a Peercast in late 2017, and the depth of the discussion suggests that member companies are rapidly making progress with both the design and deployment of Intelligent Automation initiatives.  Both discussions are recorded for playback at any time by Peeriosity members. 

iPollingTM Results Review

A supporting Peeriosity poll created using the iPollingTM technology explored the current status regarding the use of RPA/AI technology in Shared Services at member companies.  The results indicate that 39% Intelligent Automation technology is fully operational with dedicated resources and strategy in place, which is a significant increase from 2017, when the response was only 9%.  An additional 39% report that Intelligent Automation technology is being tested and/or implemented now, with resources and strategy under development, which while consistent with results from 2017 of 41%, represents a significant shift since the results suggest that 30% of those companies have successfully join the group of companies who are fully operational.  Similarly, for companies that are actively investigating, but no major use of resources are as yet taking place, the results were 19% in 2018 and 29% in 2017.  Finally, in 2018 3% indicated they had made little progress or don’t have plans, while in 2017 there were 21% that selected these response options.  Here are the details:

Regarding plans for 2019, 49% of member companies indicate that they will continue on an aggressive implementation path, which is a significant increase from the 24% that selected this option in 2017 with regards to their plans for 2018. Also regarding 2019 plans, 29% expect to take their projects to a fully operational level, which is consistent with 2017 plans for 2018 when 28% made this selection.  Also very similar are the percentages of companies that are beginning developing and testing their strategies, at 19% and 24%, respectively.  A notable difference exists when considering the percentage of companies that don’t anticipate tangible testing or that have no plans, with only 3% indicating this was true for 2019, while when responding in 2017 about plans for 2018, 24% indicated this was true.  Here are the details:

Here are a few of the comments from Peeriosity members related to the late 2018 poll:

  • We are continuing to look at automation on a regular basis, but it is not fully operational at this time.
  • We are starting our journey now – We will start with the Finance processes.
  • We have several automations in production using a standard RPA platform. We have started looking into a product called IQ Bot which is from Automation Anywhere. It allows the RPA platform to extract data from structured documents, such as invoices, claim forms, etc. and include that data as a part of the automation. Proof of Concept is in progress this year.
  • We continue to advance with our Blue Prism RPA Software. Our focus in 2019 is to not only automate existing business processes, but re-design processes end to end to allow us to optimize the automation solution.
  • We have our first 6 bots going live at the end of Jan 2019. We will have 4 bots in Supply Chain, 1 in Credit and 1 in Capital. The 2019 Plan will include an aggressive roadmap across Accounting/Finance for those processes that are identified as low hanging fruit. The speed of the plan will ultimately be dictated by automation and IT funding, resource availability and software implementation timeline.

 Closing Summary

Similar to the hype and buzz that surrounded BPO 20 years ago, today’s Shared Services leaders can’t avoid questions about approaches and strategies related to Intelligent Automation. Being able to filter through the hype and point to specific examples from peers is critical to be able to design an approach that is right for your company.  The good news is that many companies are making rapid progress, and, through active collaboration with peers, they are able to create a design that has a high probability of success, with the ability to fine-tune and adjust quickly as needed to ensure the best possible outcomes. 

What is your company’s overall status for the use of Intelligent Automation in Shared Services?  What do your Intelligent Automation plans look like for 2019?

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.

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.


Streamlining the Accounting Close Process

Introduction

With so many different approaches companies can take to streamline the Accounting Close process, it can be difficult to determine where to best focus project resources.  This research abstract highlights a company that recently shared details about their Accounting Close process and what they have done to improve their operation in this critical area.

Company Experience

On a recent Peeriosity PeercastTM, a Senior Accounting Manager at a Peeriosity member company with over $10 billion USD in revenue and close to 100,000 employees, shared their experiences related to an initiative to simplify and enhance their Accounting Close process started as the result of a mandate from senior Finance leadership.  The Accounting Close process was taking 3 business days and the consolidation and reporting activities took another four business days.  

A project team was formed, and the following were the objectives of the team:

  • Faster availability of information for analyses and account reconciliations
  • Enhanced visibility of month-end results via existing self-serve reporting tool
  • Driving SG&A accountability and one version of the truth
  • Clear policy on adjustment and correction thresholds, and the review and approval process
  • Elimination of the weekend work during the close

The project focused on the three dimensions of people, process, and technology.  Once the objectives, goals, and work plan were approved by the CFO, the objectives were communicated to the key stakeholders and buy-in was obtained from the operational leaders.  The project consisted of multiple tracks and opportunities and barriers were identified and mitigating solutions identified to address them.  All month-end close processes and tasks were reviewed, including their timing and impact.  Special emphasis was placed on the processes used for the review of manual journal entries. 

At the same time, the company launched a supporting IT project focused on increased the cadence of reporting updates through Oracle OBIEE tool and establishing a dashboard and notifications when reporting updates were completed.  In addition, they reviewed sub-ledger processes and timing with their IT partners, which included the identification & elimination of a two-day delay related to the AP sub-ledger posting to the general ledger.  The IT partners also reviewed the overall technical performance of the primary financial system to ensure that all modules were running at optimal speed and performance.

The primary communication channels for the project included weekly project team meetings and a weekly project dashboard provided to stakeholders and sponsors, a copy of which is included on the Peeriosity member website.

The results of this project included the following:

  • Eliminated weekend work during the close
  • Reduced number of days to close
  • Implemented a flexible close schedule for Monday holidays
  • Accounting Close was reduced to two business days; eliminating one business day and the weekend
  • Consolidation & Reporting portion of the close was reduced to 3 business days; eliminating two business days and the weekend
  • Increased accuracy and faster availability of information for analyses and reconciliations
  • Enhanced visibility of month-end results via existing self-serve reporting tool
  • Enhanced business decision making capabilities
  • Eliminated unnecessary manual journal entries through consolidation and implementing thresholds

Additional details regarding the company’s efforts in this area can be found on the Peeriosity member website, including the presentation material and Peercast recording.

iPollingTM Results Review

Recently, a poll was created using Peeriosity’s iPollingTM functionality that provides some interesting results related to streamlining the Accounting Close process.  The first of two poll questions addressed the current level of satisfaction with the process, with 55% of the companies indicating they were either very satisfied (10%) with the process or satisfied (45%).  Another 35% said they were neutral, with the remaining 10% responding that they were unsatisfied.

The second poll question then looked at what companies would like to see improved as it relates to the Accounting Close process.  While the responses were widely spread across response key options, the most popular ones were to reduce the number of hours that staff worked during the close (26%), improving the timeliness/quality of account reviews (21%), and reducing the number of manual journal entries (21%).

Closing Summary

As demonstrated by our feature company, when given the proper amount of focus and resources, the Accounting Close process can often be significantly improved.  When focusing on the three dimensions of people, process, and technology, a holistic look can be taken of this important process, which provides the opportunity to then take it to the next level of efficiency and effectiveness.

What is the status at your company as it relates to the Accounting Close process?  Is your current approach meeting your needs or is it time to take another look at this critical process?

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 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.


Utilization of Shared Services Operating Model Alternatives

Introduction

Over the past few decades, the Shared Services model has become increasingly popular as more companies adopt this powerful organizational design.  As the model has matured, the number of alternative designs has also increased, with a variety of options with varying levels of integration and complexity now available to companies, all with their advantages and challenges.  The descriptions of some of the most prevalent models for Shared Services are as follows:

Discrete Shared Services – Individual function based support model and infrastructure, focused on scale efficiency and potentially low cost locations.

Multi-Function Shared Services – Multiple function based (HR, IT, Finance) sharing locations, infrastructure, service management, and governance.

Global Business Services – End-to-end process based, with focus on process efficiency and effectiveness.  Empowered Global Process Owners (GPOs) driving standards, increased scope and a global delivery network.

Integrated Business Services – End-to-end service based, focusing on a simplified customer experience and achievement of business outcomes.  Expanded leverage of strategic partners and integrated service offerings.

iPollingTM Results Review

Recently, the Director of Finance Process Improvement for a large global company created a poll using Peeriosity’s iPollingTM technology regarding the use of the various Shared Services models.  The company had just gone live with a Global Business Services (GBS) organization and were interested in learning about what type of Shared Services operating model other companies were utilizing and for how long. 

Looking at the results of this poll, the Global Business Services was the most prevalent, with 39% using that design.  This was followed in popularity by Discrete Shared Services at 25% and Multi-Function Shared Services at 22%.  The newest and most advanced model, Integrated Business Services, had just 14% of the responses, but this is expected to grow significantly as more companies continue to evolve to that design over the next few years.

The second poll question looked at the number of years companies have been operating under their current Shared Services model.  Interestingly, 34% have done so for less than two years, while 22% have done so for 3-5 years and the remaining 44% for more than six years.

Some of the comments made by Peeriosity members include the following:

Consumer Products & Services Member: Common approach is Integrated Business Services, though we still have a few areas that would fall into the “GBS” definition as described in this poll. However, these are moving toward the Integrated Business Services approach as well.

Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals, Biotech Member: We’re called GBS and are actively moving in that direction, with integrated business services being our long term objective.

Manufacturing Member: Spoke and Hub locations is the strategy in place.

Consumer Products & Services Member: Shared Service started with accounting activities on a regional basis.

Manufacturing Member: Our current model is more aligned with a multi-function Shared Service organization, however, we are in the early stages of GBS.

Closing Summary

As shown in our recent research, companies continue to find themselves all along the Shared Services model spectrum, with some focused solely on single functions, or even processes, while others have evolved over a number of years in operation from a cross-functional design to Global Business services, and even to the leading-edge Integrated Business Services design.  This trend will likely continue as companies gain experience and as new companies embrace a Shared Services design for the first time.

What is the status at your company with respect to the Shared Services model that is being utilized?  Does your current approach meet the long-term needs of the company and what is your strategy as the landscape continues to evolve at a rapid pace due to digital disruption and other environmental factors?

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 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