According to research conducted in March 2012 by APQC in partnership with IEG, 81 percent of large corporations are currently investing in at least one major program to improve financial management processes. This is a marked departure from previous efforts, which were relatively narrow in scope.
In a survey that drew 145 responses from mostly large U.S. and European corporations, APQC defined a major finance process change program as one involving at least two of the following elements:
- IT applications to strengthen the business analyses generated by finance,
- process streamlining to boost labor productivity in a core process such as accounts payable (AP),
- process automation to speed cycle times and/or reduce cost,
- an enterprise-wide effort to standardize accounting/reporting,
- changes in organizational structure, e.g., a new or different type of shared services environment, or
- concerted efforts to develop finance talent or leverage competencies to support decision-makers.
Before the global financial crisis, CFOs who championed functional improvement programs were mainly interested in cost reduction. The slogan “do more with less” summed up the general attitude. In contrast, we find the new goal as “put the right people in the right positions to do meaningful work while keeping a tight lid on costs.” Surely, the obstacles to change can be vexing. But organizations that manage to pull this off will undoubtedly find their financial analysts engaged in fruitful modeling and problem-solving. Meanwhile, people devoted to core financial transaction-processing will be driving for continuous productivity gains and finding new ways to boost the value of services they deliver.