In the world of business, expect the unexpected. The outbreak of COVID-19 certainly ranks among the most unexpected occurrences. When the pandemic set in, the availability of cash skyrocketed to top of mind for every chief financial officer.
This concern included Accenture. Fortunately, our cash was already well managed, we have an in-house bank and we have central pooling of our cash that had Accenture in a good place. But the pandemic required more heightened attention on all that was happening. Adding to the complexity of the situation was that Accenture was in the process of transforming our operating model with a launch date of March 1, 2020.
Looking back on events now, Accenture Finance was able to step up our response due to many capabilities and advanced tools already in place. Plus, we had access to data real-time across the organization. This was key.
The essential elements
Data. One thing we needed to do right away was to put in new reporting and accelerate some of the frequencies from monthly to daily or weekly. We harnessed the power of our data by quickly creating a new, COVID-19 dashboard that gave us real-time metrics on billings and collections, among other measures.
With the COVID-19 dashboard, our Controllership team was able to track daily how much cash was collected, how much cash was paid out in payables and what amount was billed. The team was also able to compare this data to historical norms to determine whether Accenture might develop potential cash flow challenges. The team also used dynamic scenario-based forecasting models. As a result, Accenture leaders were able to make real-time decisions in ways that helped solve for clients and for Accenture.
We were able to move at speed due to Accenture having a single global SAP instance, SAP S/4HANA, and a single data lake that includes data from SAP Treasury and Cash Management giving Accenture a comprehensive “single source of truth.” Because those components run in the Microsoft Azure cloud, they provided the scalability needed with the performance that allowed complex queries to drive the dashboard.
Accenture’s technology provided the critical insights to Accenture’s cash flow at all times.
“Intelligent cash.” Our Treasury team had over the past year developed an intelligent cash capability made up of three assets: a liquidity dashboard, predictive cash flow forecasting capability, and a cash inventory optimizer model. With these powerful capabilities, the Treasury team was able to make sure Accenture had sufficient access to cash, could estimate cash flow, and could articulate the cash position to senior leaders.
Response centers. A Financial Management team established three temporary commercial response centers of excellence that pooled individuals with an array of expertise. The teams provided the Finance professionals who support Accenture’s large client accounts with a consistent approach to guiding our client account teams in responding to client requests for possible commercial renegotiation of rates and payment terms.
Finance teams were also responsible for making sure Accenture was invoicing clients on time and collecting cash on time. At the same time, Finance was fully aware that not all invoices would be paid on time. To help project potential late payments, we used intelligent collection tools.
We were able to deliver value in the way of insights gleaned from the commercial response centers of excellence combined with timely data and analysis to top Accenture leaders for critical decision making. This entire scope of information helped our CFO to manage risk and communicate effectively regarding measures taken and their impact with banks, the investment community and other business stakeholders.
And, I am proud to state that during this time, Accenture met both financial and operational goals, including virtually closing Q2 and Q3 on time and filing Accenture’s 10Q on time. Additionally, commercial finance—clients, payments and new work—was seamlessly managed.
To learn more beyond the highlights shared in this post, I invite you to read our full story here.