A listed, USD 1 bn + IT services major had invested in building a shared services platform on which several HR, Administrative, Resource Management and Commercial processes had been automated. But the low adoption of the platform by the Finance teams curtailed the ROI realized by the company.
- Most successful instances of shared services at that time were based on the “labour-cost-arbitrage”. Gains from centralizing processes within India were few
- Strong “domain knowledge” barrier in Finance made it difficult for largely junior Business Analysts to grasp business requirements. Finance processes were perceived as being “too complex” among the shared services teams
- Few failed attempts of the past had left bruised careers and “failure stigma” at both the shared services teams and Finance – leading to behavioural complications
- As a result – there was considerable skepticism from Finance stakeholders about the feasibility and likely success in moving their processes to the platform – inspite of a clear management mandate
- Absence of labour arbitrage raised the bar further for gains from automation and process standardization / redesign to realize ROI
Standardization and Automation of T&E, A/P Processes
The Shared services platform enabled rapid automation of standardized, role-based, work-flow enabled process automation. India-based processes had some differences as compared to foreign locations due to legal and / or low-support-staff scenarios.
Process designs were tweaked to allow for such differences – while retaining other features so as to enable as much standardization as possible.
Post testing of the internally developed, automated Processes – the in-house contact-centre staff were trained to handle immediate post-roll-out queries and assistance requests from associates all over the world.
Pre-launch publicity /awareness drives were carried out to company-standard levels to inform employees about the impending changes, preparing them for the new way of handling claims / expense reports, vendor payments etc. Over a short period of 18 months – company-wide process changes were implemented across more than 45 countries
Leveraging the applications to achieve faster book closure
Due to rapid growth across the world, each country had adopted it’s own practices / processes – which had evolved unchecked over the years – impeding visibility of the Corporate Finance function over expenses and liabilities being incurred. Expense accrual for book closure was always a challenge. The bunch of applications developed and hosted on the Shared Services platform enabled standardization of processes and improved visibility into expenses being incurred at overseas locations – improving accurate financial reporting
Key Benefits Realized
- As a next step – accruals for monthly and quarterly close were automated – leading to improvements in book closures. This enabled the organization to embark on a “Real Time book closure” initiative
- Besides accurate accrual of expenses and liabilities, the process standardization and automation brought visibility into the rates at which various services and purchases were being made across the world – improving transparency and internal controls
- The automation of T&E expenses reduced the employee reimbursement cycles times, besides enabling tracking of expense reimbursement requests to the employees, and automated email messages at each stage providing updates.
Enforcement of policy was also made easier, and reports of deviations from policies enabled tracking of “out-of-policy” approvals by superiors- enabling better cost controls.
- Automated accounting and payments by a centralized A/P and Treasury teams was achieved by providing ERP-upload-able entries and bank portal upload-able files – increasing the efficiency of these teams.