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Do CFOs Get Bang for Closing-Software Bucks?

Ed Zwirn | Feb. 28, 2012
Vendors automating companies' close of the books may promise quick gains. But measuring savings is hard.

Companies still mired in manual closing transactions --- the kind that need to be "checked and rechecked again" --- often are understandably impressed by software vendors offer a way to automate the reconciliation process. Or so said KPMG director Michael Scanlon at a recent webcast devoted to Finance Governance Technologies.

"A paper-intense process around reconciliation is extremely costly," he said, with CFOs running around asking questions like, "When am I going to get my information? Josie's out sick."

"You get a demo and it's obviously much better than what you already have," but better is not quite as good as best, he added. "You need to gage how you set up the decision and gage how you can monitor the performance of the overall tools," Scanlon advised.

"Having a robust vendor-selection process really does help you," he said, advising CFOs to come into this process with a "scoring" system and come out of it being prepared to do a "post-mortem" analysis of "what went right and what didn't go right."

Even if the installation of the solution goes off without a hitch, this type of "lessons-learned" approach will help companies keep on top of changing technology and also help get them "into the mindset of continuous improvement where you're looking at the technology and how you can add to it," he said.

And while vendors like Oracle, SAP and SunGard are all good at providing the tech skills needed to implement their products, it is important to take full advantage of whatever supplemental training they provide, without which many of their customers "don't really look at the full management information they get from these technologies."

Said Scanlon, "The significant savings that you get is productivity gains. Staff now are freed up from a ticket and tie-in transactional basis," and become available to perform critical analyses.

But quantifying this productivity gain may be easier said than done in many cases. "When I ask [clients] how long does it take to close their books," he said, "I get a blank stare."

That, he added, "is not a metric they have."


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