The evolution of Accenture Controllership
Controllership is today a world-class organization powered by our people’s knowledge, shared services centers, digitization and centers of expertise.
Controllership at Accenture is responsible for the accounting operations of the company across 51 countries. The function started from the ground up with the creation of Accenture as a public company in 2001 and has since become a world-class operation powered by a highly skilled and qualified collection of professionals.
During this time, Accenture Controllership faced the challenges of evolving and adapting to Accenture’s tremendous growth in number of clients, employees and revenues—as well as the company’s increasing business complexity driven by a shift away from traditional consulting and outsourcing services. It has also had to address an increase in complexities around country-based accounting requirements. An increased focus on acquisitions in more recent years also brought major new demands. These and other business events led Controllership on a multi-stage journey to regularly evolve and reimagine the function to handle ever-changing demands.
Rich in culture and diversity, Accenture Controllership is driven by one common objective to deliver the very best results through the aggregation of best thinking and seamless collaboration between specialized and centralized workforces while adopting the leading solutions in the new digital world.
Controllership at a glance
Countries global reach
Controllership delivery in shared services locations
Over the course of nearly 20 years, Controllership evolved its structure, operating model and processes through a journey of four major stages to progressively build its capabilities to continue to meet Accenture’s ever-changing accounting needs. It developed new approaches in collaboration with key Accenture Finance stakeholder groups and the global IT organization.
In the early years, the Controllership function was office based and decentralized. Processes were decentralized as well, and non-standard. Services were highly transactional. The need for streamlining was clear and the response was to centralize activities, which started with the United States and Europe. The first two North America and EALA shared service centers were created in Chicago and Dublin. Controllership then went through an expansive transformation journey of offshoring, building more centers and centralizing more work.
A major initiative of this stage was the deployment of a single global SAP system instance for core business functions, including Finance, Human Resources, Forecasting, and Governance, Risk and Compliance, starting from a clean slate. One important initiative was global IT working with the business to carry out a comprehensive and rigorous business process standardization effort supported by the introduction by Finance of the concept of process ownership.
The outcome was one set of global business processes and global data model to enable the single-instance ERP that provides the business with access to consistent, highly accurate information to this day. Another outcome was the elimination of multiple local applications. Standardization and rationalization set the stage for greatly reduced redundancy and complexity going forward. This streamlining also allowed Controllership to react with agility on future process and technology enhancements.
Operating under a standard set of processes and one ERP was the catalyst for further expansion of shared services into Accenture’s Latin America and Asia Pacific geographies driving significant benefits and tapping into rich talent pools.
2010-2016: Process excellence
Transformation during these years focused on enabling process excellence. Controllership and IT led a first in Finance with the introduction of BlackLine’s cloud-based software, focusing on account reconciliations. This deployment significantly reduced risk through tighter controls, quality, efficiencies and improved visibility of open items globally.
Recognizing the expertise that Accenture Operations delivered to clients, Controllership transitioned the payables process under their delivery arm. This partnership brought improved process and controls and unlocked technology expertise in the payables process.
An emphasis on continuous improvement through formal methods such as Six Sigma training and execution continued to drive incremental benefits. It also enhanced Controllership’s ability to respond to Accenture’s fast growth and to the challenges that growth and the addition of new types of businesses brought. At the same time, Controllership saw more complexities in the way it had to perform accounting, particularly in addressing local tax legislation changes and requirements. Controllership continues to lead with an end-to-end process improvement mindset to present day.
2017-present: Reimagining Finance
The focus of this current stage is one of reimagining Accenture Finance, including Controllership. Today, Controllership’s operating model is set up around three main groups: global controllership, country controllership and centralized shared services. The entire group operates under the "One Controllership" initiative model working as one unit, using common language and driving the same objectives and goals, including fostering a culture of value creation irrespective of location or team.
This stage of Finance’s journey involves organizational redesign, supported by process reengineering, reskilling of Finance professionals and the introduction of the latest advancements in technology. Only with the adoption of an end-to-end approach can Controllership fully support the overall Finance vision.
The introduction of leaders supporting Accenture’s three markets, supported by 14 market unit controllers sets the tone for driving the change. Finance added an innovative concept, that of assistant country controller, who "sits at the side of the desk" of the country controllers to strengthen relationships and support seamless end-to-end delivery. This operating model supports the One Controllership mindset through enabling collaborative and effective teaming between centralized shared services and country and global controllership with a focus on business advising.
In an ever-evolving accounting and tax world where Accenture faces new standards, legislation and increasingly stringent audit requirements, Controllership continues to seek new ways and methods. Centers of Expertise, specialized teams in process and knowledge are starting to emerge to support complex lease accounting, taxation and ventures and acquisitions.
Advancing innovation and unlocking the value in Finance’s existing technology portfolio are major themes. Multiyear investments to enhance the digital solutions are already under way, using advanced offerings from SAP and BlackLine, to name a couple. Controllership is also looking at innovative ways of adopting digital and disruptive technology, such as artificial intelligence, robotic process automation and natural language processing, to improve efficiency and reduce manual repetitive tasks. Automated invoicing and artificial intelligence-driven expense compliance auditing are two newer solutions.
To operate effectively in the new digital world, Controllership is reskilling and enhancing our workforce. Traditional tools and methods are becoming more redundant as the ability and requirement to stay relevant in a data-driven economy is paramount to staying ahead of the game. Today’s controller spends less time on spreadsheet skills and more time on the development of automation solutions that in turn deliver vast amounts of real-time data results that need rapid interpretation. This new landscape requires a very different mindset.
Accenture Controllership has made tremendous strides over almost two decades to become a world-class operation today. Keys to achieving that status have been operating with one SAP instance at scale, operating with a mature global business services network and focusing on innovation and automation. Additional success factors include promoting a culture of value creation, enabling innovation through programs, engaging with stakeholders, creating centers of expertise and leading with an end-to-end process improvement mindset.
As a result, Controllership operates with efficiency, standardization, quality and reduced costs, along with other business benefits in performing its responsibilities for Accenture. All this plays out as Accenture continues to grow and the accounting landscape becomes more complex. For these reasons, the Controllership journey is ongoing. The function continues to build a One Controllership culture across Accenture Finance, develop nimbler execution on innovative solutions, and identify and target areas of new value across the capability.
Highlights of Accenture Controllership operations:
Number of supplier payments per year
Client invoices issued per year
Expense payments processed per year
General ledger accounts reconciliations in BlackLine
Cumulative savings in the account reconciliation process
Annual hours reduced in the account reconciliation process