Best Practices for Accounting Shared Services: Back-Office Automation Technologies for Streamlined, Standardized Workflows
Many companies use shared services to consolidate their accounting processes and lower their administrative costs. In fact, Deloitte has found that transactional processes are the predominant type of work performed at shared service centers. (According to their study, 88 percent of companies that use SSCs use them for their financial back office functions.) But with so many transactions to handle, it can be challenging for providers to keep up.
The Role of Software in Accounting Shared Services
Most companies use shared service centers for accounting because they don’t have the time – or the personnel – to keep up with manual data entry. But shared service centers also need to keep their costs down, and dealing with a high volume of data can be expensive (not to mention time-consuming.)
Automation is one way that providers can manage a high volume of transactions, without a decrease in speed or accuracy. For instance, software can:
- Automatically match invoices with purchase orders and receipts
- Validate data on a document with data from other systems
- Create an invoice voucher or sales order in an ERP without keying
- Enforce repeatable process
- Provide comprehensive audit trails
- Process invoices within specific time frames to capture vendor discounts
- Complete unit and measurement conversions without a user’s input
- Allow GL coding for users without ERP access
By automating these critical – yet time-consuming – accounting tasks, shared service centers can help their employees become more productive in other areas, like dispute handling, vendor scoring, and process reporting. And productivity is key to a SSC’s success; the APQC found that top-performing operations were 2.5 times more productive in accounts payable and 3.8 times more productive in accounts receivable than shared service providers at the other end of the spectrum.
Standardized Accounting Processes
Another key selling point for shared services: the ability to standardize common business processes. Again, though, it can be a challenge to keep up with complex procedures, such as remembering invoice approval hierarchies or dealing with international tax regulations.
Because users can teach software to work the same way that they work, it becomes much easier to adhere to a company’s pre-set business rules. Once a workflow has been established, it’s maintained 100 percent of the time – taking the uncertainty out of financial administration. It also eliminates “tribal knowledge” in business processes. This approach allows new users to get up to speed quickly, which is important in high-turnover roles like Customer Service and Accounts Payable.
Collaboration Made Easy
There’s also the matter of collaboration.
In 10 Tips for Implementing Shared Services, the Journal of Accountancy recommends that companies find ways to limit the number of “handoffs” that each project undergoes. In their words: the more people that are involved in a transaction, the higher the chance of delays or mistakes.
Though this is true, there are certain instances where it isn’t possible to cut people out of a process. In those situations, electronic content management allows everyone to access what they need – when they need it – without physically sending documents back and forth. In a shared services environment, where information is often scattered across multiple documents, databases, and software programs, instant access is a crucial upgrade.
Discover IntelliChief’s Accounting Automation Solutions for Better Shared Services
Technology is transforming the shared services model – and if you need to update your approach, IntelliChief can help.
As a leader in workflow automation, we offer customizable solutions for both accounts payable and accounts receivable. You can manage as many accounts as you need, licensing our software on a per-user basis. And, only the people who are authorized to view your transactions can do so – keeping crucial financial information secure across your shared services accounting center.