5 ways technology enhances financial shared services visibility

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been talking about the importance of visibility for financial shared services organizations. Improving visibility into financial documents and information provides finance leaders with the insight they need to influence business strategy and outcomes, something many businesses are increasingly leaning on their finance organizations to do.

The pressure to provide more data and insight into financial operations is real and widespread.

  • Most accounts payable departments say their demands for real-time visibility into invoices and payables information has increased compared to two years ago, according to the Institute of Financial Operations (IFO), and half foresee higher demands two years from now.
  • A full 38 percent of controllers say their finance organization is challenged by increasing demands for more data and analysis, according to a survey by KPMG.

Why does visibility matter so much?

I’ve talked before about why finance leaders should care about visibility. Visibility into accounts payables and accounts receivables information separates best-in-class companies from the pack, according to Aberdeen Group. Leading finance organizations have more than four times the rate of visibility into daily organizational cash flow, compared to average companies.

On the other hand, shared service centers that lack visibility truly hold themselves back. Whether it’s the result of manual and paper-based processing, working with outdated technologies or trying to manage a series of technologies that don’t provide a single complete view of all financial and transactional information, poor visibility can slow down cycle times, create information silos and impede cash flow management.

Businesses cannot afford to have their shared services initiatives undermined by fragmented systems. That’s where enterprise information platforms can help.

5 reasons visibility = success for financial shared services

Enterprise information platforms deliver a full range of document management, data capture, workflow automation and case management capabilities with a single application. They enable shared services staff to work electronically with all critical content, sync data with existing systems like an ERP, and  automate processes like invoice approval management for accounts payable or payment processing and cash application for accounts receivable.

Most importantly, the combination of these capabilities provides a complete view of information and increases visibility across financial shared services systems and processes. Here are five key ways that enhanced visibility helps.

     1. Accelerated cycle times: With enterprise information platforms, managers can track and monitor staff workloads and the time spent processing transactions, enabling them to more quickly identify bottlenecks and make necessary adjustments. It’s also easier to view the status of invoices or incoming payments in process, which means staff can more quickly respond to inquiries regarding transactions or be more proactive when action needs to be taken.

These platforms can also automate the capture of data – such as PO numbers, quantities, item numbers, prices, etc.  – and verify that data against information already in an existing system like the ERP. This eliminates the time-consuming work of manual data entry and minimizes the time spent resolving errors and exceptions that result from miskeyed information.

     2. 360-degree view of information: Enterprise information platforms provide a consolidated view of all relevant documents and data. That means shared services staff can be looking at a transaction in the ERP and immediately pull up not just the related invoice, but the packing slip, check image and any other notes and documentation related to that transaction – all on one screen. This consolidated view of information improves the quality and speed of decision making by putting all data and content in the right context.

     3. No data silos: By consolidating all relevant documents, data, tasks and activities onto one platform, all system users have access to the same information surrounding a payables or receivable transaction. Users can access this information directly from the enterprise information platform, regardless of whether they have access to the ERP. This enhanced access helps eliminate data silos across P2P and O2C processes.

     4. Better cash management: Real-time visibility into accounts payable and accounts receivable information enables more accurate projections of incoming and outgoing cash flow. Enterprise information platforms provide visibility into all invoices and payments in process for easier and more accurate reporting on upcoming liabilities. And receivable staff can view up-to-date customer balances for a clearer picture of credit worthiness.

     5. Streamlined Compliance: Enterprise information platforms help shared services organizations create well-defined and consistent processes to reduce variance and associated risk. They provide a complete audit trail for every touch of an invoice or incoming payment to promote accountability and monitor security. They also make it easier to identify missing documents that may be required for audit, allowing teams to be more proactive in their preparations and reduce the chances of penalties and fines.

To learn more about the impact that visibility and enterprise information platforms can have for financial shared services, download the IOFM whitepaper 5 Ways Poor Visibility Impacts Financial Shared Services Initiatives.

Danielle Simer is a marketing portfolio manager at Hyland. Her mission is to share best practices and evangelize the power of enterprise content management (ECM) as a tool to automate paper-based processes and improve operations across accounting and finance, human resources, and contract management. Danielle joined Hyland after more than six years with a research and advisory firm devoted to helping senior executives manage their departments and teams more effectively. She received her bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University and her MBA from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.
Danielle Simer

Danielle Simer

Danielle Simer is a marketing portfolio manager at Hyland. Her mission is to share best practices and evangelize the power of enterprise content management (ECM) as a tool to automate... read more about: Danielle Simer