Are You Making Benchmarking Data Work For You?

Making Benchmark Data Work For You

To gauge the effectiveness and efficiency of your finance function, it can help to know how other firms’ departments operate. To that end, Robert Half and the Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF) partnered to interview nearly 1,600 executives from accounting and finance departments at public and private companies in the United States and Canada. The result is their fifth annual 2014 Benchmarking the Accounting and Finance Function report.

The report contains data that can help you determine how your organization compares to others within the industry and identify key areas for improvement.

Here are some tips gleaned from the report:

Compile your own benchmarking data

For any meaningful comparison, you’ll need to begin by gathering statistics for your own organization if you don’t have them on hand. After all, before you can recognize improvements, you must know where you started. Some areas where you should consider collecting data include:

  • Year-end close: This is widely considered one of the most stressful times of the year for financial professionals. Make note of the time and resources required to complete this year's close. Would you consider your process efficient in comparison to those of other firms mentioned in the report? If not, review your findings with your staff and conduct a brainstorm as to how you can improve.
  • Staffing: Gathering benchmarking data on your staff can help determine whether you have an adequate number of in-house employees to complete critical tasks or whether you need to consider hiring additional employees, bringing on interim staff or outsourcing specific responsibilities.
  • Technology: Data on the technology your company uses, including its cost, security features and efficiency, can help with decision making about cloud or ERP systems. If you're on the fence about moving to a new system, this data can aid in finding one that lends itself to greater efficiencies and improved processes.

Bolster your decision making

The data in the benchmarking report, coupled with your organizational data, can help you more quickly identify areas of strengths and weakness and arrive at potential solutions. Do you face similar challenges to those mentioned by other finance leaders?

If so, ask yourself how companies similar to yours are handling, or are preparing to handle, these issues. Additionally, when it's time to provide solutions to team members or upper management, these numbers can serve as further evidence to encourage buy-in.

Move your company forward

The data in the 2014 Benchmarking the Accounting and Finance Function report provides executives with a baseline against which they can measure the effectiveness of their own departments. Put this data to use within your own organization using the tips above to move your company toward more efficient, effective and profitable operations.

For more insights on how to put the data in the report to use, listen to the webinar “Benchmarking the Accounting and Finance Function.”

How have you used data from the Benchmarking the Accounting and Finance Function report in past decision making? How do you plan to utilize this year's report? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Related post: How Does Your Workforce Management Stack Up In the New Economy?