From a faster close to a better finance function

October 21, 2021 | 5 minute read
Stephanie Hlavin
Principal, Content Marketing
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At KPMG LLP, Susanna Crowder, the Global Oracle Strategy Leader and Managing Director, is responsible for helping hundreds of clients succeed with their back-office digital transformations. And while she acknowledges that every organization and project is different, she’s noticed that regardless of where her clients are in their journey or how extensive the transformation might be, they have a few things in common.

We spoke with Susanna about how KPMG guides clients through major financial digital transformations and how, more often than not, the end result benefits not just the financial close, but the entire financial process.

Oracle: At KPMG, you’re responsible for helping hundreds of clients pursue and succeed with their back-office digital transformation. Based on your experience, what are some of the biggest concerns clients have?

Susanna Crowder: Organizations are aware of the possibilities and benefits and they do want change. In fact, based on KPMG’s Global CEO Outlook survey, 96% of companies want some sort of transformation. But knowing how to begin or what to do first can, understandably, be really overwhelming. So, before we ever begin to touch the back office, we assess the entire organization as a whole. It's important because the assessment really helps reveal to the client what's going to be most impactful. And that is usually where we begin.

Oracle: It seems like this approach — starting with that holistic view — can have important ramifications on the degree of success that clients experience.

Susanna Crowder: Yes, absolutely. Going back to that same study, 83% of CEOs are not confident their organization can build and manage a new operating model. We address that at the beginning of any transformation, by addressing and planning for three key steps:

  1. First, determine what you will do first by identifying the biggest ROI.
  2. Second, recognize and accept that entire models, job roles, and expectations—as well as areas for growth—are going to drastically shift.
  3. Third, set up a strong governance structure, making sure it’s built not only for driving decisions during the initiative, but also provides a structure that can be leveraged moving forward as our client starts living in their new reality.

Clients should acknowledge and address these changes right from the start of an initiative. It gives them enough room to plan, and also to engage the entire organization in the transformation from the beginning. 

Q: Let’s back up for a minute. That 83% statistic around executive skepticism. Why do you think that is? What do you attribute that to?

Susanna Crowder: I think it's several things. In my lens around ERP, organizations are coming from these legacy projects that, by the time the initiative started and ended, five years had passed — the entire business could have changed (and probably did) during that timeframe. There’s an underlying sense that these transformations are going to take too long, cost too much money, and perhaps not result in the best change management uptake.

And, as you can imagine, security is also a common C-suite concern. This is especially true for certain industries, like financial services and healthcare, but really across all industries we work with.

To address those concerns, we identify where the client is in their cloud journey, which tells us where to start in the education process. For example, maybe an organization already uses cloud for procurement, but putting their salary data in the cloud or managing their financials globally could be very difficult to bite off.

Working through those concerns, addressing statutory, reporting and system requirements early—these are all key to a successful outcome and to building the client’s confidence in cloud. We rarely see clients move all the way through the journey and don't get to the end and say, ‘We're stronger today, more secure today than we were on our on-premise legacy systems.’

Q: Let’s talk about the financial close. The ultimate goal is to get to close faster. What’s required to make that a reality for organizations?

Susanna Crowder: You’re right, that is a very popular goal. However, the payoff can be much broader and more beneficial than just getting to a faster financial close. With an integrated platform, it’s possible to improve the entire financial process.

When we talk about using account reconciliation, consolidation and close, EDM, and tax reporting, Oracle Fusion Cloud provides an integrated finance architecture across ERP, enterprise performance management (EPM), analytics—even supply chain. Leveraging a common data model and having integrated processes is incredibly powerful. It eliminates silos in the business and enables drill-down capabilities throughout the process.

As a result, you have increased accuracy, reduction in risk, and acceleration of cycle times. It also helps our clients shift their resources from super labor-intensive manual processes —many of which are built on Excel — and many other stand-alone tools, to more strategic analysis and decision-making. Cloud technology or more specifically, an integrated finance architecture is incredibly powerful and lays the foundation to start building out more advanced technologies, such as predictive analytics, intelligent forecasting, virtual close, and others.

Q2. You’ve mentioned a single cloud platform several times. What’s the benefit in regards to ERP functions?

Susanna Crowder: A single cloud platform can help address those ubiquitous challenges — where to begin and how to get started, the roadmap and sequence. Even the pace of transformation will be easier when looking through the lens of one platform. The governance structure becomes more streamlined and more focused when dealing with integrated business processes on one platform. And security concerns decrease with fewer integrations and data movement. 

A single cloud platform also paves the way for building, utilizing, and realizing the full potential of advanced analytics. The process of moving to the cloud and modernizing systems provides the opportunity to consider data models, lineage, and consolidation.

But in order for clients to take full advantage of advanced analytics, data governance and data owners must first be established. Once the data is organized and trusted, clients can leverage innovative technologies with deep functionality to increase accuracy, reduce risk, and accelerate cycle times. The ability to connect these tasks on a single cloud platform supports a range of use cases such as automation for account reconciliation, consolidation and close, enterprise data management, tax reporting, narrative reporting, and more.

Q3. Have there been any surprising or unexpected outcomes that have come out of a clients' move to a cloud-based financial solution?

Susanna Crowder: We have a large financial services client that completely transformed their global enterprise management reporting function into a single consolidated and interactive system. The dynamic dashboards we created not only replaced hundreds of management reports but also brought about a completely different way of managing their business. The impacts of that on decision making — single source of consolidated global data, automated forecasts, the ability to drill into details — it’s incredible!

Overall, I think the most unexpected outcome for our clients is this idea of opening a door to an entirely different way of doing business. Whether the transformation is a move from Hyperion Financial Management on-premise to financial close and consolidation in the cloud, or a complete overhaul of the back-office finance function — these projects unlock the art of the possible and have the potential to completely shift the future for our clients.

Learn more about the benefits of a single, integrated cloud ERP.

Stephanie Hlavin

Principal, Content Marketing


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