Benchmarking the Accounting and Finance Function

2016 survey report

The finance function is evolving as technological and market forces pressure accounting and finance teams to meet new challenges. In this environment, benchmarking your department is essential to keeping pace. Developed with the Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF), our 7th annual report is based on responses from over 1,700 financial leaders in the U.S. and Canada to provide perspective on trends affecting financial departments of all sizes and industries.

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  • Key trends transforming the finance function
  • How leaders are hiring, training and retaining talent to meet business challenges
  • How adoption of technology, including automation and cloud-based financial systems, is accelerating but is far from universal
  • How process improvements are driving a faster financial close and easing compliance burdens

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How to use this report

Benchmarking your team’s functions — from closing the books to implementing new technology to managing compliance — can be costly and time consuming. Furthermore, it can be difficult to obtain good data on your own. Yet, the practice of benchmarking is especially important as the duties performed by accounting and finance functions continue to expand. The key themes this year are doing more with the same (or fewer) resources and evolving the department to be more strategic. With this backdrop, the 2016 report offers details on how companies are handling the critical, everyday workings of the accounting and finance function.

The sections of the report and some of the key questions answered in each are detailed below.


Workforce Management

This section will help you answer questions around the hiring, allocation, compensation and management of finance and accounting employees in your department, including:

  • Am I adequately staffed for the different accounting functions based on my business size?
  • How does my use of temporary or interim staff compare with similar companies?
  • Are the hours my employees work in line with benchmarks?
  • How are financial leaders at other companies dealing with recruiting, retention and compensation challenges?

Accounting Operations

To understand the volume and processes of similar accounting departments, as well as benchmarks for days to financial close, use this section.

  • How is automation affecting the reconciliation process?
  • What types of tools are accounting departments using to automate reconciliations?
  • How many working days should it take to finish the financial close by month, quarter and year?

Financial Systems

The specific financial technologies being adopted by companies of different sizes in the United States and Canada are detailed here.

  • How widely are cloud-based ERP and other financial systems being adopted?
  • What are the most popular cloud and ERP systems being used, by company size?
  • What tools or systems are being used for planning and budgeting, by company size?


An increasingly complex and global business landscape is causing more accounting and finance departments to use specialized, outside expertise and/or shared service centers. This section will illuminate:

  • What are the most common accounting and finance functions to be outsourced and why?
  • What are the benefits and efficiencies of outsourcing these functions?
  • What are the most common functions in a shared service center?

Internal Controls and Compliance

Regulatory, economic and internal pressures have made the financial reporting framework more complex and challenging for many organizations. However, many have been able to adapt and even benefit from compliance demands.

  • What function, department or positions are responsible for internal controls?
  • How does this responsibility vary by company size, country and type of key control (e.g. SOX)?
  • What are the benchmarks for the number of key controls by company size and country?
  • Which regulatory or compliance rules tend to be most challenging today?
  • How are compliance burdens impacting accounting and finance processes and activities?


Robert Half and the Financial Executives Research Federation have teamed up for the last seven years to produce the annual Benchmarking the Finance and Accounting Function report.