Breaking away: How leading finance functions are redefining excellence

This year’s benchmark study represents our most up-to-date insight into finance function performance in different industries worldwide, and looks at what distinguishes the front- runners across all aspects of finance activity, including business insight, efficiency and control. The report not only discusses what defines ‘excellence’ now, but how to keep ahead of the accelerating pace of change in how businesses compete and what they expect from their finance teams.

What sets top performers apart?

  • Cost-efficiency: A combination of automation, more efficient use of capacity and shared services or outsourcing means that the cost of finance as a percentage of revenue is 40% lower in top quartile finance functions.
  • Faster turnaround: Budgets are delivered 15 days faster than average companies. Expensive and unwieldy IT infrastructure is giving way to more flexible, adaptable and easily updatable cloud-based platforms. Concerns over security are now being addressed as a priority, opening the way to ‘rented’ IT in larger organizations. The new systems are also cheaper and easier to use.
  • Sharper insight: While the proportion of finance staff in business partnering roles has remained much the same, finance professionals spend more time on analysis as opposed to just gathering the data. The quality of what they deliver is also more highly rated.
  • Leaner operations: Front-runners recognize that the benefits of Lean processes can only be achieved if the foundations of automation, standardization and rationalization are in place. They are also looking beyond systems and processes at ways to foster better understanding of user needs to reduce waste and cut down on repetition, duplicative work, and errors.

Are you up to speed or falling behind?

The pace of change is accelerating. Our five megatrends seek to make sense of a world in which work is predominantly automated; water could be more precious than oil; innovation and connectivity are more valuable than property or physical plant and the impact of demographics could see some leading economies beginning to contract. Key valuation and investment assumptions will need to be rethought as a result. The challenge for finance is how to navigate your businesses through this whirlwind and remain relevant as the anticipator and interpreter of change. Are you keeping up?

There are six key challenges your finance team will need to address if it’s to remain relevant:

  1. Be excellent at seeing the future. The leading functions are analyzing data from internal and external sources in real time, and providing insight to business partners 100% focused on that role.
  2. Have the systems, people and decision making influence to judge how business models (rather than just budgets) might need to change and mobilize the organization to quickly respond. Disruptive competitors and market changes have put companies out of business in a few months, not years.
  3. Build valuation assumptions that are relevant and measure social and environmental, as well as financial, value. CEOs, investors and analysts are demanding verifiable data on social impact.
  4. Quickly and effectively strip out all the baggage that slows down your ability to respond to change, be this unwieldy legacy systems or simply doing what you’ve always done. There are examples of businesses that have transformed finance in less than two years.
  5. Determine how the types of people who work within finance as well as their qualifications and experience need to change.
  6. Have the diversity of people and ideas needed to understand how markets are evolving, as well as access to key skills in target growth markets.

This report shows how leading finance functions are addressing these challenges and pulling further ahead.

Breaking Away is our sixth finance effectiveness benchmark study exploring what sets top performing finance functions apart. Leading finance teams are delivering the business insight and direction needed in times of change. As well as being more effective, they are running at 40% the cost of competitors. What makes them stand out?

Finance Leader Interviews

Wisconsin Energy: Transparent reporting in a matter of minutes through finance and IT collaboration

Wisconsin Energy Corporation’s (WEC) Finance Department underwent a significant technology transformation in order to realize process efficiencies and improve reporting. We talked with Matt Johnson, Program Manager Continuous Improvement, about the impact of new technology on WEC’s finance organization.

Further reading

Nordstrom: The customer comes first through business partnering transformation

Nordstrom is in the midst of a major technological transformation throughout the organization. We talked with Jim Howell, Executive Vice President of Finance for Nordstrom, and Brian Cimprich, Vice President of Technology Finance, about the transformation process which has enabled Nordstrom to bring their industry leading customer service into the digital era.

Further reading

Intel: Improving processes and reducing costs for shared services success

We spoke with Marc Graff, VP, Finance and Director of Finance and Administration, Asia Pacific and Japan; Jim Campbell, VP & Head of Global Finance & Accounting; and Alvin Miyasato, Regional Manager, Learning and Leadership Development—Finance, about advances in Intel’s finance function. They described the successes Intel is having with its multi-function Regional Shared Services Center in Malaysia. They also described how Intel’s finance leaders are working closely with governments in China and other Asian nations to proactively influence new trade and customs regulations.

Further reading

Intel: Trading up across Asia, driving wins for both government and business

Intel’s finance organization has worked closely in recent years with the governments of China, Vietnam, and other Asian nations in order to address regulatory and trade issues which were negatively impacting Intel, as well as many other companies operating in Asia. The result is new regulations that benefit both governments and businesses. We spoke with Marc Graff, VP, Finance and Director of Finance and Administration, Asia Pacific and Japan; Jim Campbell, VP & Head of Global Finance & Accounting; and Alvin Miyasato, Regional Manager, Learning and Leadersh

Further reading

What really matters

Setting the standard for excellence

Top tier finance teams operate at lower cost, but make more effective use of their resources. And the differential is growing. How is this being achieved?

Cross-functional transformation

Finance transformation is often part of larger multi-function transformation initiatives. This section explores multi-function transformation, the role of the CFO in driving the administrative agenda, and the impact of IT, HR, procurement and other transformations on the finance function.

A step up in business partnering

Improved business partnering is often cited as a real key driver of improved business performance. Yet questions frequently remain about the processes, tasks, skills, and organizational components of successful business partnering. This section explores leading practices and client experiences with business partnering, the benefits of finance insight and advice for the organization, and how companies measure and benchmark the contribution of finance teams.

Reaping the real potential of Lean finance

Like their counterparts in manufacturing, many finance functions embraced Lean practices long ago, as a general methodology for identifying and eliminating waste, and focusing on activities that provide the most value. Some companies have seen success, but many aren’t realizing the expected benefits. This section explores the new wave of companies applying Lean with startling success.

Leading edge people management

Changing mindsets and behaviors in the team is key to uplifting productivity—delivering gains of 15-25%, improving quality and strengthening relationships with the business. This resolves key problems at the root cause and enables simpler solutions to drive change.

Technology that delivers business benefit and reduced costs

Many companies have made large finance technology investments. But some report they are not receiving the benefits they anticipated. This section explores the relationships between data governance, data quality, and the return on investment in technology.

Turning management information into real competitive intelligence

Finance functions are finding new and innovative ways to analyze, visualize and manipulate data to fulfill the familiar demand for forward-looking insight. This section explores better practices, with examples of companies combining financial and non-financial data with external data sources to make a real difference for their businesses.

Navigating through a new business landscape

This section explores how rapid changes in the marketplace are reshaping business, and how leading finance functions are adapting. We explore the threat to finance as we know it today, and show examples of finance leaders responding to these changes now.