SAP at Accenture: The journey to high performance in the close process

Driving business transformation by making improvements to the close process.

Overview

Accenture’s rapid growth over a 10-year period compelled it to change one of its critical accounting practices. Financial information had been segmented geographically, by business units and by internal systems. As a result, Accenture lacked a readily accessible, centralized view to provide the global financial results and business insights throughout the close process.

By making vast improvements to its close process, Accenture is today able to make faster business decisions through optimized technology and appropriate staffing levels. It has also helped improve the quality of data, reducing errors, improving efficiency and lowering costs.

The new close system includes a rigorous root-cause incident management process, enabling efficient output with fewer issues, reducing cost and hours.

Opportunity

Business growth, transition from a private partnership to a global public company and a changing business model drove the need for performing the monthly close process quickly to enable Accenture business leaders to report quarterly earnings results to analysts and the public on a predictable and timely basis.

The close process is an accounting procedure undertaken at the end of the month to close out the current posting period. It consists of tasks that occur on a periodic basis (every day, period or month), and is the combination of system (batch) processing and manual tasks.

In the early years Accenture faced challenges in optimizing the close process, with more than 200 different finance applications across 47 countries, managed by 40 local controllership teams.

More than 10 years of rapid growth has propelled Accenture from 75,000 people and $11.44 billion in net revenue in 2001 to more than 293,000 people and net revenue of $28.6 billion in 2013.

Solution

Accenture made the strategic decision to migrate to a single global instance of SAP for its internal business functions—starting with Finance in 2004, followed by HR, Sales, Denied Party Screening and Governance, Risk and Compliance. The move to SAP set the stage for Accenture to establish a single close process, a journey that began from the ground up.

A collaborative team from the business and Accenture’s internal IT organization embarked on the journey, leveraging Accenture Delivery Methods for SAP to rethink the key components of the organization and people, processes and technology.

The first step was to strengthen the organization by creating governance around the close process. Governance started with the steering committee, including the corporate controller, IT leadership and key business stakeholders, and established direction on the close schedule and processes. A close operating committee was also established, representing Accenture’s global functional process areas, to ensure an end-to-end close process view that is integrated and owned by the business.

We treat SAP as an asset and look at the power that a global single instance of SAP can bring to bear to successfully operate and manage the business.

Results

The strong foundation the close team established around organization, processes and technology has allowed the team to be proactive and perform the close process faster and more predictably than in the past.

Today, Accenture is able to close its books in four days at the local level, in five days globally, and in six days to deliver final management reporting—what business leaders consider world class.

High performance in Accenture’s close process generates a number of key benefits:

  • Fast business decision making, optimized technology and appropriate staffing, enabling speed in closing the books while producing quality data.

  • Quality data available more quickly—over the past 10 years, for example, the number of critical close issues has dropped by more than 75 percent.

  • Higher levels of predictability through industrialized processes and governance rigor in the close schedule.

  • Flexibility through process rigor, identified tasks and well-defined interdependencies encompassed in a comprehensive toolset.

  • Scalability to address service level agreements two years out using a technology strategy supporting Accenture’s business growth direction without jeopardizing management expectations.