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Over the past decade, businesses have been striving for improvements and consistency in Value Adding Financial Reporting. This requires a meeting of the minds of many culturally and organizationally diverse users of financial performance data and alignment of the multitude of source data inputs. Perhaps most importantly, this requires a very efficient and effective technology platform and a well-structured set of tools to allow Finance Managers to turn the insights into the most relevant actionable information to Partner with key line of business decision-makers. Providing these insights rapidly and evolving from Predictive Analytics to Prescriptive Analytics is the key to strengthening the value equation of the Finance Business Partner.
Our organization, a global leader in the sales and manufacturing of Skylights and Roof Windows, began this journey several years ago. The initial efforts, driven by our HQ Group CFO, a thought-leader across multiple disciplines, delivered on the vision to establish a global central services organization. Collaborating with a third-party Business Process Outsourcing expert, the traditional OTC (Order to Cash) and PTP (Procure to Pay) transaction business flows were taken out of the local accounting departments. While painful at the local personnel level due to redundancies, the resulting efficiencies of fully outsourced and automated document flow processes proved valuable, cost-efficient, and were, in fact, an active leader in the broader Digitalization Journey of the global company. Out with the paper chase and in with the training of key users, how to use paperless technology to streamline every aspect of the vendor and customer “accounting” relationship. Our Finance team rapidly became more focused on the business and valued for the importance of their role supporting line of business partners.
This was rapidly followed by the global Beyond Budgeting continuum. Often resisted by senior business operators who lived by their monthly budget to actual, rear-view mirror comparisons, we established a forward-looking full-year forecast discipline, updated every month on a current year plus one basis. Not only did this forward-looking forecast help us understand where we were at any point in time, it forced the logical must ask questions of where we think we will be compared to strategic and operational plans and how we are going to get to those targets. Naturally, it forced the issue of course corrections on a routine basis. This, too, required a common and global IT platform to allow routine data gathering, KPI metric deliverables, and consolidation across all entities. Together with local IT support and external experts, we deployed an FP&A solution so well integrated with fewer diverse input platforms, that we proudly refer to our Financial Data Source as the ONE TRUTH.
Fast forward to the present. As our business grows organically and through acquisitions, the constant focus of the Finance Performance Management team is on ensuring enhancements continuity as we turn data into decision-making capabilities and maintain our leadership position at every table in the business. Automation is everywhere, from the use of AI for routine accounting transaction management to the use of robots/cobots in manufacturing to deliver efficiency and future continuity. Executive Dashboards, while in use for several years, remain in the constant scope of enhancement as the business metrics themselves are evolving, and as Finance sees the need for more advanced or prescriptive analytics. Once again, the underlying reality is there must be One Truth made available by the collaboration of IT Technology, Finance expertise, and business leaders believing in the information synthesized from the vast data lakes across the global organization.