Automating Accenture’s invoicing process
Accenture is transforming how it does business, driving value by reimagining process and technology for scale and agility.
Accenture issues more than half a million client-facing invoices each year. As part of its digital transformation journey, Accenture’s Finance function partnered with Accenture’s internal IT organization to rethink the approach to invoice production. The objectives were to streamline production activities and radically reduce the cycle time involved in client invoicing, improving Accenture’s cash flow, simplifying the user experience and shifting resource capacity within Finance to more advisory-focused activities.
In parallel, Accenture’s IT strategy is to implement and leverage cloud-based, highly configurable and scalable platforms to deliver more value and agility to the business. Being platform driven enables the internal IT organization to develop new business solutions in different ways. Using ServiceNow® to create end-to-end connected experiences for critical business functions by automating workflow and business processes across platforms exemplifies this approach.
The collaboration on invoice production activity was part of a broader program review of the full end-to-end billing process. This redesign addressed the growing volume of documents being produced, the increasing manual transaction and resource requirements, slow document production speeds and data quality issues. It involved a fundamental rethinking of the process, empowering Accenture business executives to create simpler invoices for themselves.
Within the existing invoicing process, many client executives relied on a centralized billing team’s processing of Excel request templates, received through shared e-mailboxes. Approving the documents and getting to a final invoice involved significant manual data entry into templates, data rekeying and interaction through a series of e-mail communications pre- and post-production. Manual entry on Excel templates caused data quality issues with up to 30 percent of requests not being processed in their first iteration. On average the process took three days.
With a proposed “Digital Service Model,” the project team redesigned the process leveraging knowledge gained from internal IT’s experience with the ServiceNow platform and a collaboration of relevant skills and experience from across Finance. The team developed a digital, self-service, online request form that retrieves live contract data directly from Accenture’s SAP S/4HANA® enterprise system and applies all necessary validation to ensure a billing document is complete and compliant with Accenture policies. The goal was to create a simple, fast, accurate and experience-driven invoice production request and retrieval process for both business and finance users.
The outcome today is a digital automated billing production solution leveraging ServiceNow’s enterprise-grade workflow functionality to support billing production requests and fulfillment in a single, cohesive flow across Accenture platforms. ServiceNow interacts with Accenture’s enterprise system to post and produce the final document. Finance and non-Finance people can now produce invoices and credit notes in a matter of minutes rather than days.
This billing solution has been deployed across multiple Accenture geographies with the final goal of global implementation in every country where Accenture operates. In the 15 months since deployment started, more than 150,000 invoices totaling $20 billion have been generated. The solution continues to evolve, incorporating local country requirements and adding a “mass invoice” upload solution to support large client accounts that need to create high volumes of invoice documents in a single transaction.
"Our IT organization is successfully driving automation to various business processes. As we increasingly act as an innovator to the business, we recognize the opportunity to bring major efficiencies and improvements to Accenture’s financial operations."
Incorporating automation—across platforms—in various processes is transforming how Accenture does business. The automated billing solution, in particular, marks another significant step in advancing Accenture’s journey to intelligent finance. It successfully streamlined activities, radically reduced the production time involved in client invoicing, and is measurably reducing the number of full-time employees required to handle ever-increasing billing volumes, redeploying these resources to higher-value activities.
Additionally, Accenture executives can rapidly prepare and deliver client invoices independently by taking advantage of smart functionalities and automation. The automated billing solution is the first application of ServiceNow within Accenture supporting a business-critical financial process. Already, the Finance and internal IT team are working on other similar opportunities.
“The automated billing capability is driving value across Accenture,” says Andrew Inchley, Finance Director – Strategy and Enablement. “The more streamlined billing process not only improves cash flow and Days Sales Outstanding management, but also allows us to refocus our Finance teams on more advisory activity. It has also been a great success for the business user, reducing the effort required of them as well as providing the dramatic reduction in turnaround time.”
The success of the automated billing solution is opening further opportunities in Accenture's journey to automation and digital services. The automated billing solution is a demonstration of how the ServiceNow platform supports business process automation across platforms—enabling new end-to-end employee experiences.
Benefits of this high-volume invoicing solution include:
From on average 3 days to under 10 minutes
From 30% spreadsheet entry data errors to 0%, increasing speed and quality
Simplified and aligned processes and support across geographies around the globe
A 90% reduction of supporting billing team FTEs where the solution has been deployed; resources redirected to higher value-added work
Volume of invoices processed through ServiceNow currently represents 40% of Accenture’s global monthly volume and 48% of global monthly invoicing