Transforming Your Accounting Can Elevate Your Organization

By Marc Blythe and Erica Hansen

Forbes finance council logo

Agility and efficiency are pillars of accounting. Like any foundational element, they can crack, leaving your organization’s accounting functions exposed, convoluted, outdated or even inoperable. Factors such as growth or downsizing, out-of-date technology, obsolete methodologies and inefficient staffing can all take their toll on your organization’s ability to be flexible and efficient where it matters most.

The initial warning signs often get missed. Some of these include:

• Accounting information is difficult to obtain.

• Your financial results are not on target.

• Vendors are not being paid on time (if at all).

• Your team is using a highly manual process.

• Reports must be manually manipulated.

• Accounting functionality does not scale as you grow.

If you encounter any of the common accounting issues listed above, it’s time to reevaluate your people, processes and systems to modernize your operations.

Here we explore how transforming your accounting can elevate your organization, ensuring it thrives today and into the future.


The Five A’s—The Stages Of Accounting Transformation

As seasoned accounting professionals, we have experienced firsthand the benefits clients achieve through an accounting transformation. To start, let’s examine the basics: A successful transformation includes a series of steps designed specifically to achieve optimal outcomes. They include the five A’s:

• Acknowledge

• Ask

• Assess

• Apply

• Adjust

At the core of every accounting transformation are three very important perspectives: people, processes and systems. This trio of key components should be continually evaluated throughout the transformation process to ensure each will be efficiently utilized as a result.

There are a few crucial factors to keep in mind. One, a transformation can’t be rushed. And two, at times it will not be easy. We often remind clients that the problems they are experiencing don’t just happen overnight, therefore they cannot be fixed overnight. These things take time.

We encourage every company considering a transformation to hire an outside advisor to lead the process. Look for a change-maker that has diverse experience in accounting, finance and helping companies transform their operations.

Acknowledge—The Beginning

Be frank with yourself and your advisor about what is and isn’t working in your current accounting functions. Acknowledge and define the work that needs to be completed and identify the resources and people necessary to do the job.

Seek input from others within your organization—even those currently handling your accounting. By engaging your existing teams, you will get unique insights and help fuel buy-in for changes later in the process.

Assess—Look To The Future

Assess what you need now and where you want to be in the future. This includes assessing your current talent and determining who can help move your organization forward and what people and skills you need.

A significant benefit of taking the time to look into the future is scalability. If you know where you want to be, you can design your accounting function to scale—or expand—to get you there.

Ask—Design The Better Mousetrap

Now is the time to bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be. We often see our clients rushing through or skipping this important planning stage. However, it is the key to gaining short- and long-term changes and improvements as the plan becomes your road map.

Collecting the information needed may take time. Your plan will likely require input from multiple groups within your organization, thorough internal due diligence and a deep dive into the company to gain the correct information needed to move forward. This, however, is time well spent.

Transformation can also be expensive, particularly when maintenance costs, new hires and team training are added to the initial expense. Often, deferred costs have led to the need for a significant transformation. We encourage clients to view their accounting transformation as an investment in their company’s growth and stability. Cutting corners isn’t recommended.

At this stage, building a project planner that prioritizes and details the phases of the transformation is vital. With proper project planning, the change becomes more manageable and obtainable. Without clear, concise project management, the path forward can quickly become filled with obstacles.

Apply—Make It Happen

Now it’s time to start implementing the changes.

At this stage, the people aspect of the transformation can be significant. By nature, the individual members of an accounting team are creatures of habit. They like structure, and many are not equipped or don’t have the experience to accept change. A veteran transformation leader is critical to addressing these concerns and developing strategies to help everyone on the team move forward.

Adjust—Stoke The Ongoing Benefits

The work isn’t done once you have implemented change; continual adjustment is necessary. Otherwise, you will soon return to where you started with outdated systems, processes that do not work and/or the wrong people on your team.

You must make frequent progress checks, gain feedback and prioritize ongoing monitoring. Then commit to making the needed changes. Striving for continuous improvement means adjusting your operations and investing and supporting team development.


Getting Started On Overhauling Your Accounting

Start by locating an operational accountant with strategic planning experience to help lead your efforts. Ideally, this is someone who has worked in multiple industries and various-sized companies, both in-house and as a consultant, and has experienced company life cycles. This individual can draw upon their past experiences and abilities to develop the right transformation for the situation.

There are many reasons that accounting functions become inoperable—growth, downsizing, old technology, outdated methodologies, ineffective staffing and more. Also, accounting is different than it was 20 years ago. Business growth is accelerated, as is the pace at which companies operate. When change is needed, it cannot be delayed or avoided.

Change is not easy. However, with proper planning and professional guidance, overhauling your accounting can substantially improve your operations and ensure your organization thrives.

Forbes Finance Council

Forbes Finance Council Is An Invitation-Only Organization For Senior-Level Financial Services Executives And Leaders. Members are respected leaders and executives who are selected for the council based on the depth and diversity of experience in the financial services industry.

Here’s a sample of recent and current engagements.
  • Assisted a global IT consulting firm with intangible asset valuations and related purchase price allocations in connection with 4 recent business combinations.
  • Assisted a leading technology company establish accounting policies and related accounting for multiple software development projects.
  • Assisted a public company with their annual and quarterly deferred tax accounting and related disclosures.
  • Assisted a hotel and hospitality holding company correct 3 years of accounting errors related to equity and other transactions for several of its portfolio businesses.
  • Provided complete outsourced SOX and internal audit services to several public companies.
  • Provided financial reporting, XBRL and technical accounting support to several public companies.
  • Provided pre-audit support to several companies preparing for their first external audit.
About Blythe Global Advisors

Blythe Global Advisors is an accounting advisory firm with a difference. We have a proven track record of helping companies – from startups to brand-name enterprises, U.S.-based and international – fill the gap in accounting and financial expertise. Whether you need help with a simple financial statement or a complex business combination, we offer customizable, flexibly priced solutions that we deliver via our world-class service delivery process.