A CFO’s Wish List: Faster Close, More Transformation

A CFO’s Wish List: Faster Close, More Transformation

Why the need for closing speed?

When I talk to CFOs about process improvement, pretty much without exception they tell me that their top priority is closing the books faster. Why the pressing need for speedy close? Simply put, speeding up the process of closing the books each month frees CFOs and their finance teams to focus on more strategic priorities. If CFOs can get the books closed in just five days instead of 10, that’s five extra days each month they can spend on forecasting and decision support with the CEO, planning future projects with department heads, and perhaps most importantly, analyzing big data to drive efficiency and growth throughout the organization.

When a CFO can act faster, the entire organization moves faster. When a CFO can work smarter, the entire organization operates smarter.

For decades, CFOs had no recourse other than to slog through a sea of spreadsheets in order to report on how their organization (or any aspect thereof) was performing. Not an enviable or effective task by any measure.

Surprisingly, despite tremendous advances in the tools available to finance and accounting departments, many finance teams still find themselves trapped by archaic manual processes that can consume unnecessary time for employees and often create redundant work scenarios and system errors.

Tragically, spreadsheet madness and disparate point solutions still hamper the CFO’s ability to close the books, never mind gain visibility into performance across the enterprise.

According to a survey commissioned by Host Analytics and conducted by Radius Global Market Research, spreadsheets remain ubiquitous in finance departments with 43% of respondents reporting that Microsoft Excel plays a significant role. Today, Excel is also being used as an integral part of their strategic financial processes, with a full 57% of survey respondents using it to meet EPM requirements in planning/budgeting, financial reporting/disclosure, and analytics, either on a standalone basis or in conjunction with other tools.

As part of its ongoing bench­mark­ing studies, Price­wa­terhouse­C­oop­ers ­examined the practices of roughly 500 com­panies around the world with a me­dian rev­enue of $2.5 billion. The firm found that it took most companies four-and-half days to cap­ture a quarterly snap­shot of their fi­nan­cial po­si­tion in 2017, down from six days in 2009, as reported by WSJ.

More recently, of the 2,300 organizations that participated in APQC’s 2018 General Accounting Open Standards Benchmarking survey, the bottom 25% said they need 10 or more calendar days to perform the monthly close process. The top performers, or the top 25%, can wrap up a monthly close in just 4.8 days or less — about half the time of the bottom 25%. At the median are the organizations that need 6.4 calendar days to close out a month’s books, as reported in CFO.com.

According to the American Productivity & Quality Center, as reported by Oracle, reducing the close process by two days fully realizes the 24 day increase per year in resource availability for other high priority projects.

Clearly, there is a huge opportunity for CFOs and finance teams to streamline, automate, and expedite core, regularly occurring functions such as closing the books and preparing requisite reports.

Why finance needs transformation

In a survey to determine finance priorities in 2019, Gartner uncovered the most critical issues CFOs need to address in the next twelve months:

  • Current metric set fails to measure business performance (56%)
  • Outdated financial planning (52%)
  • Margin erosion due to inefficient decision making in business (50%)
  • Outdated management reporting infrastructure (50%)
  • Unclear ROI on new business investments (45%)
  • Inflexible financial data structure (41%)

Additional surveys leave no doubt that CFOs understand the dire need to transform finance operations:

  • As reported in Analytics Magazine, according to a new IBM study, the vast majority of CFOs (82%) see the value of integrating enterprise-wide data, but only 24% think their team is up to the task.
  • According to an Oxford Economics survey of CFOs, 46% say an isolated finance function keeps them from achieving their business goals. Furthermore, 33% of CFOs at large enterprises agree that a disconnected finance function hurts business, according to the survey.
  • According to a recent survey conducted by Host Analytics, 50% of respondents cited a lack of systems and tools and 48% cited difficulty in accessing the necessary data or reports.
  • According to a new survey by the consulting firm Kaufman Hall, as reported in CFO Magazine, less than 23% of CFOs are very confident about their company’s ability to maneuver past unforeseen business obstacles, due in part to outdated financial planning and analysis (FP&A) tools and processes. More than 50% of CFOs say they take longer than three months to complete a budget, according to the survey.

CFOs rise to strategic advisors

Today, CFOs are extending their functional scope from directing finance-centered accounting activities to leading cross-functional teams that link sales, distribution, marketing, finance, customer service, and other critical areas. They are broadening their focus from reducing costs and ensuring governance and control to driving transformation and growing revenue. In short, CFOs are elevating their role from backroom cost managers to boardroom strategic advisers.

This roundup of recent CFO survey findings brings into clear relief the CFO’s new role as strategic advisor:

  • 70% of CFOs say that their overall level of strategic influence has increased over the past three years. (Oracle)
  • 52% of CFOs say their role is now predominantly focused on advising the business on how it can achieve growth goals, and 56% say they’re working with lines of business more closely than ever before. (Oracle)
  • 88% of respondents report that the CFOs in their organizations are becoming more involved in strategic decision-making outside of finance. (Oxford Economics)
  • More than 70% of over 380 finance executives polled say supporting decision-making is their number-one goal for 2017. (Kaufman Hall)
  • Delivering the data and advanced analytics for business intelligence and management information will be a critical capability for tomorrow’s finance function, according to 57% of CFOs.  (EY and Forbes Insights’ survey)
  • 72% of senior finance executives are spending more time on data analysis and predictive analytics than they did five years ago. (CFO.com)

Close faster and transform finance with Oracle and AST

As a leader in finance solutions for the last several decades, Oracle is well known to CFOs across industries and around the globe. Given this strong heritage in finance, it is no surprise that businesses across industries are embracing Oracle Financial Consolidation and Close Cloud (FCCS) and Oracle Enterprise Performance Reporting Cloud (EPRCS) to empower CFOs and modernize finance operations.

These two innovative solutions enable CFOs to close the books faster (while maintaining global regulatory compliance) and conduct real-time analysis of financial and operational business scenarios – empowering their businesses to adapt quickly and opportunistically to today’s dynamic markets.

Both FCCS and EPRCS empower CFOs to discover hidden insights and relationships contained in the transactional and operational data residing in these solutions.

Oracle Financial Consolidation and Close Cloud is a subscription-based consolidation and reporting solution built for and deployed on Oracle Cloud. It provides a simple and quick deployment for users who want fast implementation with no hardware and minimal IT support. It provides a user-friendly and intuitive interface along with built-in functionality for consolidation and close process tasks.

A preconfigured consolidation model makes it easy to meet global reporting requirements like International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), helping drive significant cost and time savings. A complete end-to-end solution, FCCS gives you visibility into the all activities related to close, consolidation, data collection, and reporting.

In today’s digital age, the ability to recognize and explain corporate value is becoming a competitive differentiator. From your customers and your business to regulatory bodies, everyone’s demanding that you report accurately on your data—and provide narrative that surrounds it.

Oracle Enterprise Performance Reporting Cloud is a purpose-built cloud offering for narrative-driven management reporting and financial performance reporting. It uniquely combines system-of-record data from enterprise systems with commentary and insights authored by business users. It provides a secure, collaborative, and process-driven approach to define, author, review, and publish report packages for internal and external stakeholders.

EPRCS enables organizations of all sizes to streamline internal and external reporting processes, combining data plus narrative in a single, secure, collaborative environment.

Visit AST at ODTUG Kscope19 (Booth# 119)

For an up-close and detailed look at FCCS and EPRCS in action, don’t miss these provocative presentations given by AST at Kscope:

Case Study: An Energy Company Powering Financial Reporting with FCCS
Primary Presenter: Harsh Dave

This case study is like many:  a customer is using Excel as its primary tool for financial reporting, spending countless hours on monthly and quarterly close. With the implementation of Oracle Fusion and FCCS, it now has the capability to standardize hierarchies required for financial reports. Both the GL and FCCS can easily integrate with Smart View and can utilize Financial Reporting Studio to create standardized reports.

During this presentation we’ll discuss:
– The metadata integration process between Oracle Cloud GL and FCCS
– The minimal training requirements between the systems
– The power of Smart View for analysis
– Lessons learned and tips and tricks for implementation
The Future of Financial Reporting in Oracle—Enterprise Performance Reporting Cloud
Primary Presenter: Patrick Callahan

For many organizations, reporting remains manual and misses the story behind the actual data. Oracle’s Enterprise Performance Reporting Cloud Service (EPRCS) helps organizations streamline internal and external reporting (SEC, CAFR, etc.) processes, and easily combines data with narratives in a collaborative environment.
EPRCS supports your regular (annual/monthly/financial/etc.) reporting requirements, complements Oracle’s Cloud solutions, and can be leveraged against just about any data source. This session outlines the benefits and use cases of EPRCS across different organizations.

Contact AST today and let our Oracle experts put the power of Oracle’s Financial Consolidation and Close Cloud and Oracle’s Enterprise Performance Reporting Cloud Service to work for your enterprise.  Aside from our Oracle EPM Cloud QuickLaunch programs, we can share our successes with both new cloud implementations and migrations from established, on-premises installations. 

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