By Elizabeth Milne, Sr. Director, EPM Product Marketing
Originally posted on SAP Analytics 13 March 2015. Reposted with permission.
As part of our ongoing accounting and financial close series, today we’ll be covering how you can improve your intercompany reconciliation process thus improving your close process.
Intercompany reconciliation can be extremely time-consuming during the close process. Working with people, processes and technology can help improve upon this process. Let’s talk through three steps:
- What is intercompany reconciliation?
- Two different approaches to process
- SAP solutions for intercompany reconciliation
What Is Intercompany Reconciliation?
In preparation for creating financial reports ,organizations must reconcile activity between its reporting entities. During the consolidation process these amounts must be eliminated so as not to overstate these amounts at the consolidated level.
If one entity reports it has a payable with another entity, that entity must record the corresponding receivables. But why, you ask, wouldn’t that be done automatically? Well, in a perfect world it would, but in many organizations it isn’t. Differences may occur for many reasons, including timing of recording transactions, currency exchange rates, or mistakes.
Intercompany Reconciliation Process – The Traditional Approach
Traditionally, corporations will wait until the close of the month when corporate headquarters will collect all intercompany data and run a reconciliation report that matches all entities intercompany activity against each other. Some organizations have consolidation tools that do this, others will do this process manually in Microsoft Excel. Usually this is done at the account level, either at the general ledger (GL) account level or at a summarized intercompany account level.
Once the reconciliation report is compiled, it’s then sent back to the individual entities, who then review the report and determine which other entities they don’t agree with, contact them and figure out why they don’t agree. The detail must be reviewed to determine why the discrepancies occurred. This involves going back to the transactional systems and pulling invoices to see which transactions don’t match. Individuals at each of the entities then contact each other by phone or e-mail and decide who will make the corresponding adjustment in order to correct the discrepancy.
Data is then returned back to corporate headquarters for inclusion in the consolidation process. This process is time consuming with manual escalation procedures. It creates a corporate bottleneck with inefficient vertical flow of information.
Intercompany Reconciliation Process – The Peer-To-Peer Approach
This process allows for entities to deal directly with one another in a peer-to-peer fashion. The first key difference is a change in process, with the traditional approach corporate waits until the day of the close (Day 0) to run reconciliation reports to identify discrepancies. With a peer-to-peer approach, entities can start reconciling intercompany balances a week before the close, for example. This shift in the time line removes the reconciliation process from the close’s critical path.
In order to facilitate such peer-to-peer interaction, a tool is required to let them share intercompany data. Ideally, such a tool would include the transactional data so that the entities don’t need to go back to the source systems, but can review the detailed level data in a sharing tool. A more manual solution would involve creating a shared server spot where entities could load their data to reconcile; alternatively, there are software solutions available to address such requirements. This new process involves people, process, and technology. Each aspect of the change must be addressed in order to be successful. A new process must be defined, and then shared with the individuals at each entity who oversee intercompany reconciliation. Those people need to embrace the process and execute accordingly. Technology needs to be leveraged to identify the most efficient way to share data.
A peer-to-peer process removes corporate as an obstacle and frees time for central finance staff, allowing for more value-added activities.
SAP Solutions for Intercompany Reconciliation
SAP offers two main solutions:
- Intercompany Reconciliation in SAP ERP. This solution is part of the SAP ERP Central Component and thus included in the ERP license.
- SAP Intercompany. This solution is part of the SAP Enterprise Performance Management suite. It is included with the license of SAP Financial Consolidation, SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, and the SAP Accounting and Financial Close Bundles.
Both solutions can facilitate a peer-to-peer intercompany process that will help provide these benefits:
- Reliable data – Perform large volumes of balance and invoice matching
- Faster reporting cycles – Eliminates bottleneck at corporate finance by providing tools to enable business units to resolve differences earlier in the financial close process. The value increases with the number of entities to reconcile.
- Greater productivity – Resulting in more time for more valuable activities, such as analyzing data and measuring and improving performance
People, processes and technology are all key factors when considering improvement in the close process. All need to be considered dependently to identify the most effective path to success.
Read the other blogs in the accounting and financial close series:
- You Want to Improve Your Financial Close Process – Where Do You Start?
- The Financial Close and Simple Finance – How Fast Is Fast Enough?
- 5 Things to Look for in Lease Accounting Software in Light of New Regulations
- 5 Steps to Help Your Organization Prepare for the New Revenue Recognition Standards