Infographic: What does good practice look like?
Unlocking Potential is our fifth annual benchmark report and outlines the latest findings of our analysis of more than 200 companies that have participated in benchmarking projects. The report draws upon detailed data from these organisations, together with observations of the leading practices that drive top performing finance functions.
Today’s top tier finance functions are increasingly called upon to fill diverse roles. In addition to their traditional accounting and reporting duties, today’s modern finance groups must now provide thought leadership, generate insights from increasingly diverse data, spearhead finance-business partnerships, and assume a more central role in corporate business strategy.
The Unlocking Potential report highlights how leading finance functions are evolving to meet these challenges.
The challenge for finance has not fundamentally changed over the years. Providing more for less, streamlining and reducing transactional costs, providing an effective control framework, and helping the business make the right decisions to improve business performance. The challenge is in execution, and the top performing finance functions have been able to define a different vision, and make real progress.
British American Tobacco - Unlocking time and value
British American Tobacco (BAT) is undertaking a transformational finance journey which has seen the company establish higher value-adding shared services centres as part of a complete restructuring of the finance organisation. The ultimate goal is to deliver value through service excellence and generate more time and value for the business by increasing efficiency and effectiveness.
BAT appear to have found the perfect position, approaching high levels of efficiency and unlocking time for business analysts to focus on providing insights and value to the organisation, not just gathering and manipulating data.
Terry McConnell, Group Head of Finance Transformation and Shared Services, spoke with us about this journey and the key components which have enabled its success. Read his story by clicking on the report above.
Leading finance functions are different from the rest. They provide more valued insight to the business, and act as the catalyst for breaking down cultural silos. They manage talent more effectively, and have the right people in the right roles. They spend less time gathering data, and much more time understanding what it means. And their costs are much lower than the average.
Becton Dickinson and Company (BD) - Business leaders, not just partners
The finance function at Becton Dickinson and Company (BD) has evolved beyond business partnering to being business leaders within the organisation. Reacting to a slower growth environment, BD have been focussing on cash metrics.
Suketu Upadlhyag, Senior Vice President, Finance spoke with us about the role of finance in driving the strategy for the company. It is not just about providing insight, but also to formulate opinions and strategy, and help guide the company based on their fundamental understanding of financials and how they are linked to investor return.
Mr Upadhyay believes that to successfully drive organisational change on such a large scale, you need evangelism, to create a clear sense of purpose and widespread communication. Read more on BD's positive impact in the report above.
As well as driving cost efficiencies, finance functions that are able to work together with the business are achieving more timely and accurate forecasting, and truly informative management reports. With finance business partners who are commercial and really understand the business, they help better decision making and can genuinely impact business performance.
Companies continue to struggle to find and maintain the right mix of personnel for the finance function as it evolves. 57% of finance professionals believe that upgrading the skills and competencies of people involved in the finance function is a primary vehicle for making finance more effective. As finance functions change their operating model to really focus on helping the business improve performance, they are having to reassess the skill sets required. This often means looking beyond the traditional model of a finance employee, for individuals who are good analysts, intellectually curious and good at building relationships.
Technology is one of the keys to efficiency in finance, but investment is often slow. 58% of finance professionals surveyed in benchmark projects cited improved technology as a need for their organisation. As one example, the automation of key controls is far from consistent; top quartile companies automate double the proportion of key controls when compared to the average.