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In March 2012 APQC surveyed 145 financial executives from mostly large enterprises in the United States and Europe. The focus of the survey was to learn what their priorities were in improving the overall performance of their department and the financial management of their respective organizations. 

It's important to note that APQC specifically was looking for companies that were planning to make major improvements. Major improvements were defined as one that involves at least two of the following elements: process design, organizational structure, systems and talent or leadership focus. As you can see in the chart below over 80% of the respondents are in fact seeking to make major improvements. 
According to APQC this is a major change from previous years where improvement initiatives were more narrow in scope with less potential impact on the business. Process improvement, access to accurate and timely information are very important as finance organizations strive to be more strategically valuable and companies more agile and responsive to economic conditions. The chart below illustrates where finance organizations are on the path to becoming more highly valued.


The Top Four Areas Where Financial Organizations Want to Improve

The top four areas finance executives have flagged as major improvement areas are: corporate performance management (CPM), the close/consolidate/disclose process, general accounting processes, and AP transaction-based processes. The question facing these executives now is how best to move forwards? We won't publish the findings of the study word for word, we will provide a link to it when it becomes publicly available, but we will highlight where scanning and capture can fit into the major improvement picture.

Corporate performance management (CPM) - employees from large organizations work in complex and fast changing environments where access to information on market changes, days sales outstanding (DSO) forecast shortfalls, supply chain anomalies and changing customer preferences are becoming increasingly critical. This fast paced environment calls for manually intense processes, such as data input, to be automated so information can be supplied in real-time and on-demand. 

The low hanging fruit to help get to this on-demand state is any unstructured data found on paper such as claims, invoices or cheques to name a few. This data needs to be posted to line of business applications as soon as possible so employees get the complete on-demand picture they need to make faster, better decisions and insights for the company. This applies to inbound electronic data as well.

Close/consolidate/disclose - companies want this process done faster, more accurately and at a lower cost. Automation of data capture reduces the amount of FTEs, reduces the number of input errors and speeds the rate in which data is posted into line of business applications.

General accounting processes - consolidation and outsourcing of data capture and validation services is being considered as a way to offload workflow and to accelerate touchless processing. Simply put, touchless processing, makes it possible for inbound data from various sources to be posted directly into the general ledger bypassing manual intermediary steps.

AP transactions-based processes - performance metrics are now being applied to measure the productivity of AP FTEs. The high performing AP departments are 60% more productive than their peers according to a recent study, based on number of invoices processed per AP FTE. They are achieving this success via three primary ways: receipt settlement automation; advanced data capture, scanning and OCR, and workflow automation.

Finance organizations have ambitious plans to make major improvements that can stand to benefit companies by making them more agile, responsive and informed while raising their stature, as a department, as a strategic contributor offering more business value to internal and external stakeholders. We wish these organizations great success and as you can imagine we're here to help!

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About the Author

Victor Avatar 1Victor Bensusan is CEO of Yakidoo. He has 20 years experience in Finance and Information Technology primarily in the area of process automation, information management and business performance improvement.




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