How we transformed our Treasury from straight-line to real-time with tremendous results
April 20, 2021
As Treasurer of Accenture, I’m always keen to empower my lean team with new capabilities that make a real difference in the way we operate. Now, after a year-long reimagination program, I’m proud to recognize our team for how they have truly transformed Treasury using cutting-edge technology and analytics to significantly improve Accenture’s cash utilization.
Every day, our corporate Treasury team focuses on optimizing cash. It is vital to managing a business the size of Accenture. This is especially the case when having to respond to events causing financial distress and to Accenture’s tremendous growth, including on average, over $1 billion in acquisitions every year over the past eight years. We need to make sure funds move around the world to meet the varying needs of different operating entities in different countries.
The job is no small feat. Optimizing cash liquidity for a fast-growing enterprise like Accenture is difficult enough; but, when faced with the shortcomings of traditional, largely manual and spreadsheet-based cash reporting and forecasting tools, the ability to make quality decisions becomes even tougher. It was time to take a hard look at the way we did things.
Like most organizations, we straight-lined a balance on a monthly basis for how much cash we needed a country to hold. But that approach had its disadvantages. It left too much cash tied up in a country and it made the use of cash inefficient, whether too much or too little. There were other inefficiencies as well—friction costs, people effort costs, and low-value processes that held our people back from making insightful decisions.
We were at a point of challenging the status quo: Are we being efficient? Are we being optimal about cash? How can we centralize more cash, reduce transaction costs and empower our people to do much more business-related decision making?
We recognized we had an opportunity to change—to reimagine the way we work. We teamed with our global IT organization on a program to use new technologies, including innovations with artificial intelligence (AI), not just to fill gaps, but to center on the idea of augmenting human performance.
We worked through our program, which we named Intelligent Cash, in three stages:
Cash position dashboard. First, we developed a cash position dashboard that gave us an excellent visualization of where Accenture’s cash is. It uses descriptive analytics to show near-real-time cash positions across the globe. No longer did we need our people to go through reams of spreadsheets and dive into our SAP systems to enter various SAP codes to get data points. Our team now had the data, presented in an easy-to-understand way. Today, the dashboard immediately empowers a portfolio manager to see the status of cash, credit, intercompany transactions, pressure points, and pending concerns, and to think about what actions to take.
Predictive forecasting. Second, we changed our approach to forecasting by augmenting it with AI. We developed a predictive forecasting tool powered by sophisticated algorithms to generate a forecast for each business unit. This solution eliminated the straight-line calculation. We now have a forecasting capability in which we have confidence in the data and that is easy to digest. And we can adjust and validate the forecast when we need to. This solution freed us to think about the decisions we want to make, which led to the final stage of our program: optimizing cash inventory.
Cash inventory optimization. We developed a cash inventory optimization model that breaks away from the typical idea of cash by treating cash as if it were physical inventory and optimizing it. The model recommends whether to inject or extract cash based on the cash flow forecast and company-specific economic factors. It provides recommendations that support the most efficient and cost-effective way of managing cash. Our Treasury team is better able to reduce idle cash, hold cash in a more centralized fashion, adjust the use of credit lines, and reduce transaction costs.
Today, Accenture Treasury is a real-time, intelligence-driven function. We’ve transformed the way we make decisions around cash on a daily basis, with real impact to the business. Most notably: Our Intelligent Cash solution has freed 20% of Accenture’s cash previously required for operational liquidity adding additional cash into Accenture’s centralized in-house bank structure.
What’s important as well: Every day, our Treasury team members look at these tools, the information is up on their screens, they’re on their iPads, and they’re able to see relevant data points. With this information, they can now manage their portfolio of currencies or countries in a very seamless way. That empowerment has really enabled our people to get into other areas they would not have done because they were spending a great deal of time on tactical things.
Intelligent Cash is a wonderful change in how we operate. It’s powerful for our Treasury professionals and it’s also a benefit to Accenture as an organization because it helps our leaders to sleep better at night.
Each of the components created in our Intelligent Cash solution is powerful on its own, but their combination is the key that has had a direct impact on managing Accenture’s cash. I’m proud to note that Intelligent Cash was recently recognized with an SAP Innovation Award 2021. I invite you to read more about Intelligent Cash here.
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