In my previous blog post here, we took a closer look on how risk assessment and risk management can be of focus through the balance sheet integrity approach. To successfully achieve this, the different finance teams must be able to share relevant data with each other in a timely manner.
We can broadly divide finance functions into 3 teams at the least – 1) the GL / Accounting team, 2) the Consolidation Close and Reporting team, and 3) the Planning, Budgeting & Forecast or FP&A team.
In this blog, let’s explore the advantages of a seamless integration between these key teams.
The Finance Relay
The GL team’s endpoint is the starting line for the Consolidation team. In most organizations, the Consolidation team is focused on getting the GL balances into a consolidation solution, performing journal adjustments, calculations, intercompany eliminations, and finally, reporting the financials.
While this is a monthly exercise, the balance sheet integrity check through reconciliations are quarterly or often a once-in-a-year activity for even large organizations.
This timing mismatch leads to a misalignment between the GL and Consolidation teams where the control provided in the reconciliation process is an after-effect. This may lead to data quality and accuracy issues with respect to what has been reported.
Cost-saving initiatives in the Finance department may also lead to GL functions being centralized in a shared service center and/or at times, outsourced to a service provider. CFOs face challenges to aggregate information such as the status of aging of the reconciling items, action plans required, risks involved at a group level and other measurable qualitative and quantitative aspects.
It is on the wish list of every CFO to have a complete picture of aging analysis for every corporate balance sheet account, the risk profile of the balances, basis of provisions per the associated risks, and balances by customer / supplier / inventory which are likely to be of higher risk going forward.
For customers, the focus could be on overall receivables, the quality of outstandings, as well as aging across all entities of the group, put together by global customer level. On the other hand for suppliers, the focus could be on the payables and their aging, apart from qualitative inputs like ratings based on delivery standards (e.g. time to execute order, rejection rate, and flexibility in delivery).
This synergy can be achieved if the GL and the Consolidation teams work seamlessly on a single and shared platform where the Trial Balance is the base for the integration between the 2 teams, and the master data structures are so intertwined that they meet the reporting requirements of both sides. The resulting visibility to the C-suite will also be significantly better, enabling them to focus on the areas which have a direct implication on any business decision.
Once the actuals for a month close, the baton is handed over to the FP&A team. In times of uncertainty, the FP&A team must come up with multiple simulations of revenues, expenses and profitability. Key inputs from the Consolidation and GL teams on their assessment of the business worthiness rating of customers and suppliers can provide valuable insights to the FP&A controllers on whether to pursue the respective parties for business opportunities, to reduce dependencies going forward, or to maintain status quo.
This tight coupling between the GL, Consolidation, and FP&A teams can be achieved when all the 3 are working on a true single platform. This strategy not only brings immediate benefits to the concerned teams but also to the overall finance function:
Common Entity structure shared by all three teams
Single high level common COA shared by all 3 teams
Segregated through security layers
Remove the need for data movements between Actuals, Reconciliations and Forecasting
Reduced overall maintenance effort
When we look at successfully achieving the objectives of any project, the focus is always on the alignment of people, processes and technology for a sure shot success. As we already talked about people and processes in this and the previous blog, we will put our attention next on technology.
Finance teams who adopt the right technology are equipped to anticipate the future needs of their organizations. In the next blog, we will talk about how finance leaders can drive business productivity and shape the future of finance with the help of these innovate solutions.