It is said that big change often comes through small steps. One could say this about the transformation Accenture Finance is going through. We are on a journey to reimagine our Finance function to one that is more focused on delivering value, developing our people and becoming even more effective advisors to the business.

Through the ingenuity of our people working with our global IT organization, we have steadily built not only a world-class Finance function, but also one that is ready for the future.

Finance Function

When I look at all that Accenture Finance has done, and is doing, I would point to three areas that are supporting us for our journey ahead:

Strong SAP foundation

Our journey is powered by the work we have done with our SAP platform—our foundation. One of the most important things we accomplished was to deploy a single global SAP instance for core business functions, including Finance. This gives us full data integrity and a “single source of the truth,” allowing us to close our books in five days globally. Also key was the rigorous and comprehensive work we did around standardizing business processes. The guiding principle back then and still today is “less is always more.”

We’ve built on this strong foundation, especially with Accenture’s implementation of SAP S/4HANA and SAP Business Warehouse on HANA for analytics capabilities in recent years. We successfully migrated our SAP Business Warehouse on HANA to Microsoft Azure and subsequently also moved our production SAP S/4HANA from on-premise to Microsoft Azure. We now have all our SAP applications on the latest versions, driven by the latest database technology and fully in the cloud. And we stay current, so we are well positioned to respond to future growth and to leverage future capabilities as they become available. It’s keeping us agile.

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Leveraging the power of data

As Accenture Finance looks ahead, we believe the future currency for CFOs is data. We are powering our insights with the data integrity and availability provided by our single global instance of SAP. We are also leveraging the simplified data model and in-memory calculations provided within SAP S/4HANA as well as the new cloud-based analytics capabilities—both good examples of how technology can enable faster and more agile ways to respond to business demand.

Within our Treasury function, we’ve implemented predictive cash flow forecasting—a capability powered by sophisticated algorithms—to generate forecasts for each country and currency combination that Accenture operates in. It feeds on transactional history categorized by a machine-learning algorithm. This human-machine approach combines objective forecasting with local knowledge of future events, such as an acquisition, and immensely reduces forecasting efforts.

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As Accenture Finance looks ahead, we believe the future currency for CFOs is data.

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Taking advantage of the cloud

We believe cloud will be a future differentiator for Accenture Finance. Cloud gives us the seamless ability to scale with business demand and growth and connect with new cloud-based solutions.

As an example, just a few months back, we needed to upgrade our SAP infrastructure to accommodate business growth. In our legacy on-premise environment, this would have been a large, six-to-nine month project to procure, install and test new hardware with our vendors. However, being in the cloud, our global IT team brought SAP S/4HANA down for weekend maintenance, requested the increased sizing from our cloud vendor, and then brought the system up again. Fully scalable in the course of a weekend with no CAPEX investments!

An ever-evolving journey

As I mentioned, our transformation journey for Accenture Finance is ever-evolving, always with an eye to the future and to the value we bring to the business. With SAP S/4HANA fully in the cloud, we have the option of using new functionality as it becomes available. And we are excited about the possibilities of doing more with our data to provide new insights, really harnessing the power of technology and human ingenuity to bring change across Accenture. To learn more, I invite you to listen to our newest podcast on “Driving our finance journey with SAP”, part of our Future Ready Finance podcast series.

Carsten Poulsen

Managing Director – Finance, Transformation Technology

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