Financial compliance must ensure that all accounting transactions meet the requirements of the locally applicable Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP) or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Transactions must also be accurately recorded and auditable.
Measuring the Financial Health of a Business
While this sounds simple, achieving your financial goals may require access controls and assurance of separation of duties to avoid improprieties, and many companies don’t know how to measure their success. The following four KPI metrics can help ensure that your company follows best practices for financial compliance.
- Approval Cycle Time: The average time it takes to approve a requisition, journal entry or other key processes.
- Bad Debt: The less bad debt the better. Low bad debt points to effective credit management techniques.
- Segregation of Duties: Ensures separation of responsibilities for asset custody, record keeping, authorizations and reconciliations within each business process.
- Days Outstanding: This metric can be applied to either the number of days of sales outstanding or the number of days of payables outstanding.
Many companies use all these metrics because they identify different areas of the business that may be or that may become potential trouble spots.
Approval Cycle Time
Approval cycle time measures the time in days or hours that it takes to complete all approvals in a process. It is also useful for keeping track of the number of approvals required in a process, since they tend to expand over time.
Processes that have many approval steps or take an inordinate amount of time to complete can slow down a business and make it difficult to operate effectively. For example, slow approvals during a sales order cycle can make it harder to meet customer delivery requirements and lead to lost business. Slow requisition approvals can slow down the buying process and lead to material stockouts, production line shutdowns and late customer order deliveries. Ensuring that these processes move as quickly as possible can help to alleviate these problems and monitoring performance will help pinpoint trouble spots.
One way to reduce the number of approvals or the overall cycle time is to take a lesson from lean manufacturing. Evaluate each step in the process and look for duplication, unnecessary steps or non-value-added steps in the process. Remove any steps that are not essential. If a step is essential but slow, look for ways to increase its priority so the process moves more quickly. For example, using QAD Shared Services can help by ensuring that all plants and divisions use the same process and that steps are not duplicated. QAD Business Intelligence and QAD Operational Metrics are effective ways to measure performance.
Measure this item by calculating the total yearly or monthly Accounts Receivable (AR) write-off. The lower the better, of course, since bad debt eats into profitability.
Effective credit management policies can help ensure that bad debt is minimal. Evaluate credit policies based on a customer’s payment history with your company. Multiple approvals for credit line increases can help as well. Effective collection management, including dunning practices, can also help to keep bad debt low.
One thing to be on the lookout for is an increase in bad debt. Bad debt that increases can be an indicator of poor customer satisfaction. Along with credit policies, evaluate the customers to see if there are commonalities with the product or sales region.
Segregation of Duties
Segregation of duties is a requirement of many recent financial reforms such as the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and Financial Instruments and Exchange Act (J-SOX), but it also helps to protect your company from deliberate wrongdoing by preventing any single employee from having complete control over a process.
For example, the same employee should not create supplier records, approve PO receipts and vouchers and pay invoices. There must be checks and balances built into the system.
This requires a business system with strong role-based security, so employees only have access to functions they absolutely need to complete their assigned tasks. There should also be an audit trail of all transactions to enable tracking.
Days Sales Outstanding
When days sales outstanding gets high, it points to slow customer payments. This may indicate poor dunning practices or dissatisfaction with the products or services provided.
Implementing electronic payments can speed up payment processing. Shared financial services can also speed up the process. QAD Solutions can be used to calculate this metric.
Calculate days sales outstanding by dividing accounts receivable by sales and multiply the result by the number of days in the period. Some companies do this on an annual basis, while others calculate monthly or quarterly.
Days Payables Outstanding
Days payables outstanding tells how long an organization takes to pay its creditors. Calculate it by dividing the accounts payables balance by the cost of goods sold in the period and then multiply by the total number of days in the period.
Companies that manage their cash effectively can use their cash in other areas during the open period. Companies with poor cash management will also have higher days payables outstanding because they don’t have the money to pay. Not paying in a reasonable time hurts supplier relationships and can result in material shortages that affect production and customer satisfaction. Monitor this metric on a regular basis to ensure reasonable cash flow.
Best Practices for Financial Compliance
It is vital to the business to follow a healthy set of best practices. The following are some best practices to consider when addressing financial compliance.
- Implement shared financial services to eliminate duplication and confusion and to ensure consistent processing times.
- Use roles to assign permissible functions to employees and strong passwords to ensure that employees don’t borrow passwords and violate segregation of duties.
- Implement electronic payments and receivables to ensure the best cash flow.
- Implement effective collections and dunning processes.
- Continually re-evaluate credit policies and periodically review customer credit limits across the entire organization.
- Periodically review all processes to ensure that duplicate or unnecessary steps haven’t crept in.
Financial compliance is too critical to a company’s success to skip measuring performance. Most companies should use all of these metrics on a frequent basis to ensure the health of the company. As with most processes, it takes a team, not just a single employee, to identify and address the areas of financial compliance that require the most attention.
What challenges are you finding most difficult when it comes to financial compliance? Let us know in the comments section below.