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Differentiating Good from Great

Transform Key Financial Processes to Gain Competitive Advantage and Drive Results

by Brian Shannon | SAPinsider, Volume 16, Issue 1

January 1, 2015

How can you separate your business from the pack? The best way to do this from a finance perspective is to improve service levels and transform the business to adapt to changing market conditions. This article details three way organizations can accomplish this feat.


Strong financial leadership means more than cost-cutting and performance management. Customers and vendors are looking for reasons to do business with your company — they are differentiating the good companies from the great. To find out where your organization falls on the spectrum, start with this question: Are your finance processes optimized for internal and external business drivers?

Successful finance organizations distinguish themselves in many ways, but the most strategic and successful start by improving service levels and transforming the business to adapt to changing market conditions. Let’s look at three ways companies can adopt a relentless approach to business transformation that drives results.

1. Define Success

Key business drivers should dictate your approach. The goal is to develop a well-designed business process that can adapt to changing rules and needs. Technology must be an enabler of this goal, not the end goal itself.

For tomorrow’s finance organization to flourish, service must be a hallmark. The “back office” label is tired and detracts from the value of these services. Discarding this and other biased ideas can be a catalyst for differentiation. Setting measurable goals for service and tracking performance will propel client satisfaction.

Cost reduction initiatives must not compromise service levels. Headcount is only one measure of success. Set project expectations so that accounts payable (AP) and accounts receivable (AR) expertise and the ability to consolidate and standardize services are properly valued.

If you are considering outsourcing, pursue it only once your processes are internally optimized. Outsourcing providers cannot mend failing processes. It is important to promote a high-integrity culture to mitigate risk with an undercurrent of ethics.

2. Deliver Results

Successful change leadership relies on being vocal, visible, and clear. Your organization needs to focus on and remain committed to continuous improvement while deputizing teams with specific near-term goals. Instill a love of change that inspires your team to excel from within at productive process disruption.

Begin with “near cash” processes: AP and AR. Keep your teams motivated by delivering “wins” frequently as you move along the roadmap toward your end goals. Then, centralize other, more complex processes, such as intercompany accounting. Meanwhile, publicize successful collaboration between functional and technical teams to foster effective partnerships.

The 3 Keys to Getting to “Great”

1. Define success

  • Cost containment should not compromise service
  • Standardization and scalability create flexibility
  • Mitigate risk by promoting integrity

2. Deliver results

  • Process disruption trumps process tinkering
  • Reevaluate current “near cash” process paradigms
  • Proactively lead change

3. Defeat the defeatists

  • Over-communicate and engage with skeptics
  • Don’t let IT resource constraints slow down a project
  • Prioritize change and consistently prove its value
3. Defeat the Defeatists

There will always be a reason not to do something, whether it is insufficient capital, lack of IT support, or minimal executive sponsorship. It’s time to upend these excuses and lead change. Engage the doubters — if you ever hear the response “That will never work here” or “That’s not how we do things,” then you know you are on the right path. Engage in a positive and proactive communication plan. 

By re-prioritizing your resources and re-invigorating your teams, you can turn your important finance processes into powerful competitive differentiators. For help on getting started, visit

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Brian Shannon
Brian Shannon

Chief Strategy Officer
Dolphin Enterprise Solutions Corporation

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