1. In F&A, normally understood processes are Invoicing, Purchase Accounting, Inventory, Accounts Payable, Fixed Assets, Accounts Receivable, Cash & Bank Operations, Payroll, Taxation, Period end Procedures, and Financial Reporting.
2. Uneven distribution of work among resources, peak and low loads of work in a monthly cycle are the most common factors leading to sub-optimal utilization of resources. Closer examination would show some more causes which come in the way of optimizing resource utilization and improving efficiencies.
3. When an organization is small, general practice is to start with two or three resources handling all the processes, as warranted by the workloads. But as the organization grows, and starts adding resources, general tendency is to allocate work in a similar pattern. I have seen F&A function in medium and large organizations, continuing with multiple resources handling multiple processes. Apart from poor specialization skills, it would make it difficult for establishing accountability in such situations.
4. Without compromising on the principle of Segregation of Duties (SOD) that no individual should be able to handle a transaction from its origin till the end, process focus in work allocation helps in improving efficiencies.
5. You could review your organization chart of F&A, and synchronize with it the above processes, such that, at managerial level, Process Owners are identified, and all the resources engaged in handling a particular process report to the relevant Process Owner.
6. In the same context, one resource reporting to more than one Manager, even if on separate tasks should be as far as possible, avoided.
7. Proper Process Documentation, and drawing Job Descriptions from Process Documentation of all the resources engaged in the process will help in accountability, and Performance Review Assessments.
8. Statistics relating to transaction volumes handled in F&A processes compiled on monthly basis and reviewed periodically, will help in identifying high / low workloads among resources as well as changing pattern in such volumes with changing business situations.
9. Certain tasks by nature have monthly peaks, example Payroll. While we may not be able to change the basic nature of workflow in Payroll, we may be able to identify lean period in the month, to utilize Payroll resources on any other tasks.
10. Listing all the processes, and identifying peak and low loads for each of the processes in a monthly calendar, we could find opportunities for a team from one process coming to help another team, in its peak work. However, task selection would be confined to ensuring that primary accountability remains with the original resource. For example, after cost closure for a month, Accounts Payable Team, which will be on lean workload for a few days before they take up next month’s vendor invoice booking could assist Period end Procedure Team in analysis of costs for the month and help in speedy preparation of Financials.
11. Classifying roles into “Skill-based” and “Knowledge-based” could help in gaining clarity on tasks handled. For example, “Invoicing”, “Accounts Payable” and “Cash-Bank Operations” are “Skill-based” while “Taxation” “Period end Procedures” and “Financial Reporting” are “Knowledge-based”.
12. Since some group or other will always have peak loads, based on the size of the organization, it may not be a bad idea to keep a group of two or three resources in a pool, who could be called by any group during its peak load.
13. Generally errors are repeated. You cannot find new types of errors each month. Root-cause analysis to methodically prevent errors through additional checks or process changes or calling the same resource to rectify the error, could help in efficiencies.
14. Exploring computerization opportunities, with ERPs helping in establishing “best practices” is another very important avenue for minimizing resource requirements.
15. If you like to review what is happening in your own F&A Organization, you could start with a questionnaire on the following lines, addressed individually to all the resources in the function.
i. List all activities performed by you, on daily, weekly, monthly or on periodical basis.
ii. Name people from whom you receive work, and people to whom you pass on work.
iii. Reports generated by you and records maintained by you.
iv. Indicative monthly transaction volumes, and
v. Pending workload as on date, and the time you need to bring it up to date.
16. Collecting feedback in writing or orally, recording it and reviewing the responses, with all the thoughts shared above, will certainly help you in improving utilization levels, and making your F&A Organization more efficient and Effective.
To know about my book “Translating Operations into Money – Cases in Business Management” which has more articles, please visit www.operationstomoney.com
Thank you for your attention.
Tulasi S Sastri