Taking Enterprise Reporting to the Next Level with Integrated Automation

Introduction

A number of major corporations have recently created an Enterprise Reporting Services operation as part of their Shared Services organization.  This group provides reporting and analysis services to a variety of key areas of the company, such as Marketing, Finance, and Procurement.  This research abstract looks at the experiences of a major multi-national corporation in enhancing its capabilities in this area with the use of Integrated Automation technology.

Company Experience

During a recent Peeriosity PeercastTM a global Consumer Products Group company with over $15 billion in annual revenue shared their experiences in improving and enhancing their Enterprise Reporting Services through a focus on integrated automation, including a look at the tools they use and their level of satisfaction with them to this point.   

Having begun their journey in the Enterprise Reporting Services area in the past couple of years, they recently named it their Analytic Center of Excellence, also known as ACE, within the company. ACE serves as a single point of contact to partner with the business, represents all ACE capabilities, leads communities of practice, understands the business needs, the necessary data, and related priority levels.  The Analytic Center of Excellence provides a focused group of experts that design and deliver reporting and visualization, data science and automation solutions, as well as experts with an enterprise focus creating frameworks, best practices, tool training, data stewardship, vendor selection and business KPIs related to Enterprise Reporting.

The following are the objectives for integrated automation at the Analytic Center of Excellence:

  • Deliver more capabilities faster
  • Incorporate more detail, complexity and features
  • Delineated processes – better resource planning
  • Decreased scope creep
  • Up-skill talent
  • Less reliance on cross-functional teams
  • Broaden data sources
  • Increased frequency of analysis
  • Avoid human error
  • Prep the environment (tech and culture) for RPA, ML, AI

Some of the results realized from their business intelligence digital transformation and automation include transitioning from needing five work days to prepare 27 e-mailed reports and 285 pages of tables to having a mobile dashboard and visual story-building that is available globally on demand.  Developing new dashboards has gone from taking one week to just over seven hours, which is a dramatic improvement for the Center of Excellence.

A few of the next steps for the company in this area include expanding the reach of the Analytic Center of Excellence to support new areas of the company, drive improved governance, develop rapid prototyping, and better leverage the technology available to them.

The complete recording of the Peercast and additional details from the Peercast presentation, including the use of digital assistants, RPA, AI, and automated work flows, is available for members on the Peeriosity website.

iPollingTM Results Review

The results from a recent poll of Peeriosity members utilizing the iPollingTM technology provide an interesting perspective regarding the consolidation of Enterprise Reporting into a Center of Excellence.  Looking at the results from the first question, 50% of the companies have carried out this consolidation, with 31% that have more than three functional areas being supported, 13% with 2-3 functional areas, and 6% with just one.

The second poll question then addressed what the companies consider to be the primary challenge in consolidating Reporting Services to service multiple functional areas.  Not surprisingly, political issues are the biggest challenge for 44% of the companies, with functional managers wanting to maintain ownership of the process.  This was followed by systems issues (31%), primarily related to inconsistencies across functional and geographic areas, and a lack of executive support at 6% of the companies.

Closing Summary

The opportunity to both consolidate Enterprise Reporting Services into a Shared Services using a Center of Excellence model and then to automate it using the latest technologies is one that is compelling to many companies across the globe.  Our feature company’s experience is an excellent example of how powerful this strategy can be when executed properly and with the best resources, both human and technical.

What is the status at your company regarding Enterprise Reporting Services?  Is your current approach effective or is it time to take another look at this critical aspect of your company?

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.


Solving the RPA Puzzle: The Path to 100+ Bots

Introduction

Implementing new solutions and approaches for how work gets done using Intelligent Automation solutions can be exciting and rewarding.  It can also be frustrating and risky, unless the journey for implementation is clear and carefully managed.  While there are many advisors and vendors who will confidently give you advice and direction for a fee, the best guidance comes directly from peers who are willing to share details that are specific and factual, based on their real experiences, with a candid assessment of where they have been successful and where they have made mistakes. 

Even better is when you are able to engage in an honest conversation, with questions answered, and guidance offered, where the only motivation by all parties is to understand what is true.  These exchanges can happen informally between peers, or be part of formal best practice research community, like the one created by Peeriosity, where thousands of users at hundreds of Shared Service centers can interact and share questions and insights.

Company Experience

A recent PeercastTM discussion in our Intelligent Automation research area featured a global consumer products company with over $25B in annual revenue, discussing their roadmap for implementing Robotic Process Automation (RPA).  Within one year they have been able to successfully create a scalable platform and governance model within Shared Services to serve as a template for other rollouts of RPA, with the goal of achieving enterprise-wide alignment for all RPA initiatives.

As the company transitions from zero to 100 bots, some of the steps on the journey are expected to include:

  • Pilot identified and completed
  • Internal review and opportunity assessment
  • Vendor selection
  • Infrastructure setup
  • Full-scale production with multiple bots across multiple process areas
  • Rollout to other geographies
  • Chargeback model implemented to secure funding for expansion
  • Expand to other functional areas
  • Ramp from 20 bots in 7 process areas, to 40 bots in 15+ process areas
  • 24/7 operational support
  • True multifunctional Center of Excellence
  • Large scale deployment with over 100 bots in production

In addition to providing a detailed description of their design and rollout, our feature company shared many of the lessons learned along the way, including:

1. Once you launch, move fast.  As decision makers learn about robotics, there will be interest in moving quickly.  This requires a robust operating and resource model that includes a proactive management of stakeholders’ expectations

2. For bot development, don’t underestimate system dependencies.  Get your technology team on board to ensure the impact of systems updates and changes are appropriately understood, with modifications to RPA scripts completed and testing completed as necessary.

3. Bot technology is new and evolving rapidly.  Having highly skilled developers is critical to reducing rework and avoiding production incidents.

4. Bots are often scheduled for early hours when local technical support isn’t available.  As you scale, consider shifting from local to global support, to provide 24/7 production support and incident management.

5. Work teams will reallocate human resources once a bot takes over, making it very difficult to perform the task manually if the bot fails.  Bot work-steps need to be detailed, describing the reasons for the tasks, with rapid production support response to minimize the need for manual processing, should bot work-step fail.

Additional details regarding the efforts of the feature company can be found on the Peeriosity member website, exclusively for members of Peeriosity’s Intelligent Automation research program.

Closing Summary

Moving from a successful pilot to a large-scale enterprise deployment for Intelligent Automation can be a daunting task.  While someone “needs to go first”, the best approach is to learn from the experiences of others so that you can more accurately understand the opportunities that exist and manage the associated risks. Given the opportunity, it’s much better to know the details for what others would do differently or continue to do given the opportunity, so that you can avoid the pain and cost of figuring it out on your own and go directly to the tested approaches that work.

Where you consider the path to 100+ bots for your company, where are you today?  What are the key steps on your journey, and what lessons have you learned along the way?

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.


Providing Online Access to Pay Data for Terminated Employees

Introduction

In an Internet world where it seems like everyone has a smart phone, with online access to information replacing filing cabinets and paper, both current and former employees expect that payroll related records will be easily available using either a hand-held device or a personal computer.  However, the norm is for companies to eliminate system access immediately once employment is terminated, which requires information like final pay statements or annual earnings documents to be physically sent by mail using paper documents. 

Many companies are currently exploring the option of providing terminated employees with access to view paycheck history, with the possibility of also viewing year-end earnings statements and providing other self-service functionality for former employees.  While it might be a nice convenience for a former employee, the question is whether creating a solution is worth the effort, when access might take place only once or twice over a 12-month period.

iPollingTM Results Review

Peeriosity’s iPollingTM capability was recently used to understand if member companies provide access to terminated employees to view pay information, and, if yes, how that access is provided.   

The first question asked the status of providing terminated employees with online access to view paychecks.  The results show that 44% provide online access, 6% are considering the idea, and the other 50% have either decided not to provide access, or they haven’t yet evaluated the idea for doing so.

The next question in the poll looks at how access is provided.  Interestingly, none of the responding companies are providing access using either a company Intranet site, or a company-provided external website, with 100% of the companies that provide access doing so using a third-party website.

Here are a few of the comments from responding companies:

  • Currently we send a copy by mail to the terminated employees, but we are looking to give an extra month access to our HR system Workday.
  • We use ADP iPay, and terminated employees have direct access to the ADP site.
  • Our payroll is outsourced to ADP. Terminated employees are provided with information when they leave the company on how to contact ADP to set up an external account, so they may view old data.
  • This is for the US Payroll. ADP provides employees with a user logon to be able to access pay statements and W2s post termination.

Closing Summary

As the world changes, employees and former employees increasingly want to access payroll information via the Internet, with the idea of receiving information by hard copy in the mail disappearing, along with access to fax machines or landline home phone numbers.  For current employees, providing online access is common, however, for security reasons former employees don’t typically have system access.  The exception appears to be when a company outsources their payroll process, with former employees able to access their information on a third-party’s website.

Do terminated employees at your company have online access to payroll data?  If yes, is the access to company systems or via a third-party website?

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.


Implementing Blackline’s Account Reconciliation Solution

Introduction

BlackLine Account Reconciliations is one of the most popular solutions utilized by major corporations across the world that automates and standardizes the general ledger reconciliation process.  Some of the benefits of this type of solution include automated review and approval workflows, with proper segregation of duties; reconciliation templates and checklists to standardize processes; integrated storage of supporting documentation for easy review and audit; and a link to applicable policies and procedures for easy reference.

While the benefits of this type of solution can be substantial, as with any system implementation such as this at a large corporation, the impact on the existing processes, organizational structure, and policies can be significant.  This research abstract looks at the recent efforts of a major corporation as they went through the implementation effort to implement BlackLine Account Reconciliations.

Company Experience

During a recent Peeriosity PeercastTM, a large healthcare company shared their experiences in implementing and administering the BlackLine Account Reconciliations solution, including some of the biggest challenges faced when doing so.  One of the first things they shared was the preparations they made prior to proceeding with the implementation.  Some of those included engaging IT to help determine how data would be extracted out of the ERP and other systems and into BlackLine, identifying the administrators who would oversee the ongoing usage of the new system, setting up the system governance, identifying templates and group accounts for existing reconciliations, and identifying the auto-certification rules.  Some of those auto-certification rules included the following:

  • All balances zero or null balance and no activity
  • Sub-ledger reconciliation match
  • Bank reconciliation match
  • Intercompany difference less than threshold
  • Consolidation accounts match general ledger
  • GL balance has not changed since last user certified period and no activity
  • Journal does not require user certification
  • Recurring journal from journal master with prior use certification
  • Task completed in external system

The areas they are focusing on to improve their BlackLine system implementation are segregated into three major categories, including Refining Administration, Increasing Efficiency, and Standardization.  For Refining Administration, the focus is on increasing auto-certification, optimizing template usage, and providing education regarding software updates.  For Increasing Efficiency, they are working on rules-based administration and exploring system functionality.  Finally, for Standardization, their efforts are on the reconciliation templates, reporting, and quality control.

iPollingTM Results Review

Recently, a poll was developed by a Peeriosity member using the iPollingTM technology regarding the account reconciliation solution utilized by companies, as well as the impact of the implementation on the account reconciliation review process.  Looking at the results of the first poll question, BlackLine clearly dominates this space, with 59% of the companies utilizing that solution.  Another 11% utilize either Trintech or Hyperion, and 11% use an internally-developed solution.

The second poll question then focused on the status of companies updating the control review process of the automated reconciliation tool post-implementation.  Reviewing the results, 43% of the companies have updated the control review process and are satisfied with the results of doing so.  Another 17% have updated the control review process, but feel that it needs improvement, while 9% are currently updating the process.  An additional 13% are currently evaluating doing an update, while 9% have determined that no change to the control review process is necessary.

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

Consumer Products & Services Member: Blackline tool is used for workflow & as a repository tool. We have an offline process to perform quality, after we implemented risk ranking.

Manufacturing Member: Reconciliations are made in Excel and uploaded to SharePoint.

Manufacturing Member: Blackline used as an account reconciliation repository – account reconciliations are not automated.

Manufacturing Member:  Just utilizing manual controls currently.

Closing Summary

The implementation of any automated account reconciliation solution can have a significant short-term impact on often limited General Accounting resources, but that upfront effort will have a major favorable return on investment in a relatively short time period.  Assigning the most effective implementation team resources to the project as such important decisions as process redesign, organization alignment, and accounting policy revisions are made will be critical to the initial success of the implementation and ongoing administration of the automated solution.

What is the status at your company with respect to the implementation and utilization of an automated account reconciliation solution?  Is your current approach 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.


Using Automation to Streamline the Collections Process

Introduction

While the vast majority of large companies are utilizing some sort of ERP system that includes basic functionality to support the Collections process, this functionality often falls short in meeting the overall needs of the organization.  In many cases, companies attempt to modify their process design to mitigate the impact of this lack of system functionality, often with limited success.  However, through the use of both third-party software packages and internally developed tools, many companies are able to augment their Collections system capabilities to a level that provides the functionality they require.

Company Experience

On a recent Peeriosity PeercastTM, the Global Director of Order-to-Cash for a member company shared their experiences in automating the Collections process.  With over 100 operating units across the globe, along with doing business in 19 currencies, utilizing over 100 bank accounts, and with multiple ERP systems, the Collections process at this company can be quite complex. 

For our feature company, the billing, cash application, and other financial transactions are tied to the operating units, while the collections and customer management activities are at the company level.  This results in the frequent scenario of having individual customers with many bill-to customer records across multiple operating units, which makes it very challenging for the Collections organization.  Even defining what a customer actually is can be difficult due to the following factors:

  • Multiple operating unit/bill-to numbers
  • Different customer names
  • Multiple currencies
  • Multiple languages
  • Multiple countries
  • Multiple bank accounts

The challenge was that the Oracle master data did not keep up or align with the way the customer needed to be managed, and they had no way to create a parent account to link everything together.  The company needed a system that aligned with the master data, since Oracle was only one of the systems of record and did not properly support the needs of the OTC team.  To address this, they implemented a Pentaho Relational Model (a business intelligence software) that integrated and managed data from Oracle, local folders (containing the parent structure created and updated using robotics) and additional sources to blend weekly and monthly reports. 

This solution is now being enhanced by the following additional approaches:

  • Combining robotic process automation and data extraction techniques in Python and R (the two most popular programing languages used by data analysts and data scientists) to consult credit agency data, D&B reports, EDGAR databases and search engine queries to automate the customer mapping and credit risk assessment processes.
  • Mapping: By using BS Library in Python and R, they can extract relevant information about the parental structure of the customers and compare it with the data collected by bots from official credit agency sources.
  • Credit Risk Assessment: The same information is later used to update statistical and machine learning models to assign the most appropriated credit limit to each of the customers.

As a result of this focused effort to apply technology in the Collections process, they have significantly improved its capabilities in this area and simplified what was clearly an overly-complex process design.

iPollingTM Results Review

A recent poll created using Peeriosity’s iPollingTM technology provides some excellent insight regarding what companies are doing in the area of Accounts Receivable Collections.  The first poll question looked at what primary ERP system companies utilize for Accounts Receivable activities.  The results are not surprising, with SAP being the dominant system (63%), followed by Oracle (21%), and JD Edwards (8%).

The second question in the poll focused on the technology utilized in managing A/R workflow specific to the Collections process, such as priority task lists, aging reports, dunning letters, etc.  It is interesting to see that 55% of the surveyed companies use just the standard functionality found in their ERP system.  Of the remaining 45% of the companies, 25% have enhanced their ERP system with additional functionality related to collector activities, while 8% have purchased a specialized 3rd-party solution, developed a solution internally (4%) or have used some other approach (8%).

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

Non-Profit Member: We are starting to review advanced Oracle collection functionality.

Consumer Products & Services Member: We have different solution based on the portfolio: CARMS, SAP, and Oracle. For workflow, we also have a combo: Specialized 3rd party solution, SAP, and Oracle.

Computers & Electronics Member: We use the SAP bolt-on application FSCM (Financial Supply Chain Module) for Collections.

Real Estate & Construction Member: We have both SAP & JDE, depending on product line. Our 3rd-party solution is GetPaid.

Other Industry Member: Oracle R12 with minimal customization.

Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals, Biotech Member: Using SAP for the last two years.

Closing Summary

Depending on the level of complexity of a variety of factors, the standard functionality of a company’s ERP system may or may not meet the needs of the Collections organization.  The good news is that there are a variety of available options that can address the specific needs companies have in this area, including very powerful third-party solutions that address the needs of not just Collections, but the entire Order-to-Cash organization.

What is the status at your company with respect to the implementation and utilization of enhanced Collections technology?  Is your current solution meeting your needs or is it time to consider another solution 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.


Locating a Shared Services Operation in Latin America

Introduction

With a wide selection of viable geographic location options in Latin America, many large corporations have chosen to locate significant Shared Services organizations in that part of the world. There are a variety of reasons for doing so, including leveraging an existing company location, a well-educated workforce, favorable labor arbitrage, a well-developed infrastructure, the availability of technical talent, tax incentives, and being located in the Americas time zones.

iPollingTM Results Review

A recent poll created using Peeriosity’s iPollingTM technology looked at the specific geographic location of shared service centers in Latin America at major companies across the world and the primary reason they chose that particular location.  Reviewing the results from the first question, Costa Rica was the most popular location with 23% of the responses, followed closely by Mexico with 16% and Brazil with 13%.  A significant percentage (39%) do not have a Shared Services operation located in Latin America.

It is also interesting to note that Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Puerto Rico were not used as a Shared Services location by any of the companies participating in the research.

The second poll question then looked at the primary reason companies selected the specific location in Latin America for their Shared Services operation.  Utilizing an existing company location was the dominant response (43%), followed by favorable labor quality and cost at 26% and a well-developed infrastructure at 4%.

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

Consumer Products & Services Member: Important factors included existing company location, favorable quality, cost, and access from both North America and Latin America.

Manufacturing Member: We chose Mexico City due to the IT Oracle talent needed for the IT Shared Services.

Computers & Electronics Member: Current benefits are more related to talent, quality and innovation.

Consumer Products & Services Member: Quality of labor and time zone with the Americas also favorable.

Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals, Biotech Member: Our Shared Services for Latin America is in India where we have our Global Finance Shared Services.

Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals, Biotech Member: Moved to Costa Rica last year from multiple locations in Latin America.

Consumer Products & Services Member: Our Latin America shared service center has been in Mexico City for some time. I’m not sure what the primary reasons were for locating there. We do enjoy favorable labor quality and cost.

Closing Summary

The variety of viable geographic locations in Latin America is appealing to many companies and the migration to these locations from higher-cost locations will likely continue at a strong pace for the foreseeable future.  Certainly, having an existing company location in Latin America is a compelling reason to stand up a Shared Services operation there, but this region also offers many locations with a well-educated workforce, solid infrastructure, and the opportunity to realize significant labor arbitrage.

Does your company operate a Shared Services center in Latin America?  Is your current geographic structure effective or would the possibility of starting a Shared Services operation be an approach to start investigating?

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.


Cohesive Policy and Structure for Corporate Travel and Travel Expense

Introduction

With many of the most valuable employees traveling, including senior management and salespeople, having an effective corporate travel policy is critical to managing expenses, and enhancing the experience and effectiveness of key personnel.  By including negotiated discounts and leveraging a company’s purchasing power, effective policies can reduce costs, make the travel booking processes more efficient, streamline the reimbursement processes, and help the company avoid fraud or misuse. 

Often the people responsible for the upfront part of the travel process and those overseeing the compliance reviews and booking of travel expenses after the travel has taken place, have little interaction with, or knowledge of, each other’s areas of responsibility or challenges.  Making travel arrangements and processing expense reports includes two key parts of the same end-to-end process. This structure is best designed when there is involvement, participation, and knowledge at all levels and across the range of roles for employees responsible for each detail procedural step of the process on behalf of the company and individual travelers.

iPollingTM Results Review

Peeriosity’s iPollingTM capability was recently used by a Director of Global Finance Shared Services at one of our member companies, who was interested in finding out what companies have a combined travel arrangements and expense reimbursement policy in place and, if so, if the Corporate Travel function (travel arrangements, travel vendor management) and the Travel Expense function (processing and auditing of expense reports) are under the same organizational management. 

The first question asked whether or not there was one combined policy for both the upfront Travel process and the after-travel process for expense reimbursement.  Interestingly, 81% of member companies indicate that there was one combined policy, with the balance of 19% indicating there were separate policies for each.

When it comes to the organizational alignment of these two functions, only 28% indicated that both areas reported to the same management, ranging from Finance, HR, or another functional area.  For 72% of member companies, the processes report to different managers, with 58% indicating the reporting is to different managers in different functions.  Here are the details:

Here are some comments from responding companies, including their response to the first poll question regarding policy structure:

  • One combined policy.  Travel Arrangements is owned by Supply Management and Expense Reporting is through Finance.
  • One combined policy.  Our Travel Management group is under our Purchasing organization while our Expense group is under Finance.
  • One combined policy.  Travel booking is owned by Global Procurement. Expense is owned by Control (Shared Services).
  • One combined policy.  Although Travel reports into HR, it is part of Global Shared Services.
  • One combined policy.  Travel has recently transitioned from HR to Procurement and Expense Reporting is in Shared Services.
  • One combined policy.  Travel Arrangements reports to Procurement; Travel Expense reports to Finance.
  • One combined policy.  The Travel group roles up under Indirect Procurement, while the Expense Reimbursement group roles up under AP.
  • Separate policies for each.  Travel Arrangement policy is owned by Supply Chain. Travel Expense policy owned by Finance Payroll.
  • Separate policies for each.  The Travel Arrangements are fully automated by a third party and only the Expense function processing reports into Finance.
  • Separate policies for each.  Our Travel team reports up through our Global Security SVP.

Closing Summary

While having one combined policy for end-to-end travel is a significant step to achieving higher levels of efficiency and effectiveness, unless all of the related processes and individual work procedures are closely coordinated and designed with end-to-end in mind, it’s unlikely that the design will be fully optimized or possible negative impacts on travelers will be fully appreciated and eliminated, where possible.  While not a practical solution for everyone, having the full end-to-end process closely aligned under common management provides the best environment for superior performance.

Does your company have a combined policy related to travel arrangements and the expense reporting process?  What is the reporting structure for employees or contractors who work in the various areas within the end-to-end travel process?

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.


Managing Employee Perceptions of Intelligent Automation

Introduction
If you believe the spin about Intelligent Automation, it’s a little bit like adding ping-pong and foosball tables to the breakroom, with free ice cream and soda available all day too.  Employees will love it, since the new technologies will eliminate the boring parts of their jobs so that they can focus on tasks that are more rewarding. Yet the hard realities are that few business cases for large scale investments (in excess of USD $100,000) get approved for the sole purpose of creating happy employees.    

The most likely scenario is that employees will become concerned as pilots show the power of the new tools.  Even positive change can be difficult, with misinformation and rumors quickly drowning the approved (and true) storyline for how the impact of Intelligent Automation on headcount will play out.  

iPollingTM Results Review
Peeriosity’s iPolling was recently used to explore how member companies were managing the change process for their Intelligent Automation implementations. Responses were posted real-time, with visibility to company responses available to all Peeriosity members, allowing for direct communication with peers using Peeriosity’s integrated Peer Mail capabilities.

The first question asked for respondents to select a response that best describes the overall employee perception of Intelligent Automation within their company’s Shared Services operations.  The majority of responses, at 56%, indicated that “there is some concern regarding IA implementations, but most employees are supportive of the technology”, while 24% indicated that “most employees are aware of the technology, but we are not far enough along in the IA journey for it to be a concern”.  For 10% “there is significant concern among the employee base regarding IA technology and its potential impact on their jobs”, while the remaining 10% indicated that it wasn’t an issue, since their “IA technology journey has not started”.

The next question in the poll asked about what the Shared Services operation was doing to address employee concerns regarding the introduction of Intelligent Automation.  For 58% of member companies, there is awareness of the issues, with 27% indicating that “this has been a key component of our overall strategy for IA and we are pleased with the results”, and 31% commenting that “this is something we are aware of, but we need to do a better job of communicating upfront with employees”.   For 9%, the issue “hasn’t received the attention it needs to yet”.    Here are the details:

Here are some comments from responding companies:

  • We have a few bots in development, but haven’t implemented anything in production yet. Our communications to the organization on RPA have focused on the benefits of RPA, including freeing up resources to learn new skills and focus on higher value-added tasks in order to add more value for our customers. We plan to use natural attrition, wherever possible, to handle any resulting workforce reductions.
  • The level of automation currently envisioned is not expected to be a significant threat to employment.
  • We have a few bots in production, but see this as just the start of a journey.
  • We think of IA as one of several productivity enablers, and our employee implications need to be addressed from that broader perspective of productivity vs IA, in particular.
  • We already have some of this in place; there is no employee angst about this that I am aware of. While we are in the early stages, so far employees like the fact that automation is doing routine tasks that frees them up to do other things.

Closing Summary
With the implementation of new technologies or changes to work processes, being aware of and managing the change process is an important component to achieving long-term success. The greater the hype and promise, the greater the need to manage expectations, and have a clear and transparent plan for how, what, and why, regarding the potential impact to your employees.

What best describes the overall employee perception of Intelligent Automation at your company’s Shared Services operation?  What steps are you taking to identify and address employee concerns regarding the introduction of Intelligent Automation?

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.


Effective Accounts Payable Audits & Controls to Combat Fraud

Introduction

With the significant amount of fraud risk associated with the Accounts Payable process, having the proper controls and audit program in place is key to the overall health of this critical function.  While there are both internal and external threats to your Accounts Payable organization, the external threat has become increasingly prevalent and sophisticated, with new schemes being developed on a frequent basis.  The good news is that the technology to combat fraud has also become much more sophisticated in recent years and is being adopted by major companies at an increasingly rapid pace.

Company Experience

A recent Peeriosity PeercastTM featured the Director of Accounts Payable for a global company with annual revenue of over $10 billion with more than 40,000 employees.  Accounts Payable is part of an organization called Supplier Services, which is one major tower in their Global Business Services organization. 

In order to combat fraud, the feature company has implemented both the standard Accounts Payable and Corporate Card controls and some additional measures.  The standard controls include effective purchasing policies, proper approvals for purchase orders, use of the three-way match, duplicate payment searches, and bank-supported positive pay matching. In addition, they have the following supplemental controls:

Vendor Master Data

  • Verification of US Federal Tax ID (TIN)
  • Direct contact for banking information & address changes
  • Two-level approvals for new vendor setup requests
  • Segregation of duties driven by ERP and roles
  • W9 verification and filing for all vendors

Invoice & Disbursement Processes

  • Invoice workflow utilizing signature authorization limits & duplicate checks
  • APEX FirstStrike duplicate audit check
  • Invoice processing quality check

Travel & Expense

  • Targeted audits for certain expense types
  • Cards shut off for expenses > 90 days old; Personal expenses not paid back after 45 days
  • Level 1 certification by employee, Level 2 approval by manager for all reports
  • Policy and audit rules are programmed into T&E system

A recent example of attempted fraud that our feature company shared was that an outside party contacted the company with valid outstanding invoice & PO information and asked to update their banking details.  The Vendor Master and Procurement teams jointly reached out to their established vendor contact and the contact verified that no such request was made and that it was suspected fraud.  This control prevented over $900K in payments being issued to a fraudulent account.

iPollingTM Results Review

As part of Peeriosity’s research in this area, a poll was generated using the iPollingTM technology.  The first of two poll questions focused on the primary solution/approach that companies are using to identify Accounts Payable fraud.  The most popular response was 3rd-party audit firms (39%), followed closely by standard ERP functionality (28%).  The use of advanced fraud technology is also growing, with 11% using APEX and 6% using Oversight. 

The second poll question then addressed the level of satisfaction the surveyed companies had with their primary solution/approach to identifying Accounts Payable fraud.  For 73% of the companies, they were either very satisfied (56%) or satisfied (17%).  Of the remaining 27% of the responses, 11% indicated that they were indifferent, while 16% said they were unsatisfied with their current solution.

The following are some poll comments made by Peeriosity members related to this topic:

Computers & Electronics Member: We are exploring other vendors to provide the service.

Real Estate & Construction Member: We have set up our own checks and balances to ensure that the vendors are valid. For example, if the mailing address is different, we will not process the invoice. A vendor request needs to be submitted to change the address, and that usually will identify a fraudulent invoice

Consumer Products & Services Member: With fraud attempts becoming increasingly sophisticated and prevalent, we are looking at providers like APEX to increase prevention. We are also increasing oversight.

Manufacturing Member: We use a third party to perform a post-audit mainly for duplicate payments. However, we are in the process of rolling out Oversight to provide additional information.

Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals, Biotech Member: We have a dedicated Sr. Fraud Analyst who reviews the APEX reports.

Computers & Electronics Member: We mostly rely on standard SAP functionality, but have supplemented our controls with a set of control reports that show exception activity and are reviewed daily. We also leverage PRGX as our asset recovery specialist.

Manufacturing Member: We will use a third party to do a “look back” fraud review. We also have internal detection (duplicate payments, etc.), but we could do more in this area.

Closing Summary

The increasing level of attempts to defraud major companies through the Accounts Payable organization has to be a concern for Finance and Procurement leadership.  As was well exhibited by our feature company, a very thorough approach using a variety of controls and technology to address this important issue is necessary to adequately protect the assets and financial integrity of the company.

How effective are the Accounts Payable controls related to fraud at your company?  Are your current approach and technology meeting your needs or is it time to take another look at this important aspect of your operation?

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.


Setting Project Priorities for Intelligent Automation

Introduction

In the new world of Intelligent Automation, with innovative solutions to automate routine tasks that require accessing multiple systems and applications, having a clear process for identifying priorities has never been more important.  Because your list of available opportunities will likely number in the hundreds or more, determining what to focus on first and why, with decision rules that can be clearly communicated and understood by a diverse customer bases, is critical to successfully leveraging these latest breakthrough technologies.  While an “it doesn’t matter, let’s just get started” approach might work for a pilot, long term success requires good fundamentals for opportunity sizing and project management.

Company Experience

A recent PeercastTM discussion in our Intelligent Automation research area featured a large global manufacturing company with over $50B in annual revenue and more than 100,000 employees world-wide, discussing their approach to identifying and prioritizing opportunities for automation. 

The first approach attempted was to have each organization brainstorm to identify opportunities.  The idea was to identify the parts of an employee’s day-to-day activities that were the most painful, with suggestions for what should be done differently.  While an interesting exercise, this approach yielded a huge number of ideas that were too low level, where you would need a significant number of different ideas and projects to reach annual goals for improvements in efficiency. 

The final approach selected was to use three techniques in combination.  These included 1) an innovation survey to understand employee perceptions for where opportunities are, and 2) a formal “heat map” to measure, in a structured and objective way, individual work processes in order to identify each group’s biggest pain points, and finally 3) a headcount survey to understand the resources required for each major process step identified on the heat map.   The combination of these three elements were used to identify the highest impact opportunities.

iPollingTM Results Review

Peeriosity’s iPollingTM was used to provide supporting data with Peeriosity members providing insights to the major process areas in Shared Services that were first selected to test RPA/AI technology, with an assessment for the primary reasons that process area was selected.  The results indicated that for their Intelligent Automation Proof of Concept, 39% selected Order-to-Cash first, with 22% selecting Purchase-to-Pay, 17% selecting Record-to-Report, and 11% selecting multiple processes simultaneously.    

When considering the primary reasons they chose a particular process, 72% indicated that the potential impact from being automated (38%), and the level of complexity of the process selected (34%) were the most important reasons.  For Intelligent Automation, these two reasons often go hand in hand, since a process with low complexity that also takes a lot of effort to complete is the typically the “sweet-spot” for automation.

Here are some of the added comments from members:

  • We went for a simple high-impact process.
  • Each BPO supplier implemented RPA simultaneously and independently of one another in the areas of Order-to-Cash, Record-to-Report and Source-to-Pay. BPO suppliers chose candidate RPA processes based on process simplicity, standardization and repetition that you yield the largest FTE savings on our account. Two years later, as part of the RPA as a Service POC, we implemented RPA in the areas of Hire-to-Retire, Order-to-Cash and Marketing Services.
  • The payment desk was recommended by our implementation partner after discovery of several processes based on certain criteria, like impact and complexity.
  • Chose to focus on AP Invoice Processing based on current efforts and need to automate the ad hoc processing.
  • Focused on Collections, Credit, and AR processes. Evaluated for automation fit to identify the top 10 processes.
  • This was a process to download movement data from a customer portal, reformat it, and enter it into SAP in the form of indirect sales documents.
  • Have used extensively in our A/P process.

Closing Summary

With an initial investment to get started that is low compared with many other technology projects, when it comes to determining your first Intelligent Automation project just “getting started” might be a compelling option.  However, because so many processes can benefit from these new technologies, having a defined and rigorous process for setting priorities and managing project implementations is critical to ensuring long-term success and high levels of customer satisfaction.

What process area did your company select first for its Intelligent Automaton proof of concept?  How was it selected?  Have you modified your approach to prioritizing opportunities to be able to best leverage new Intelligent Automation technologies?

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.