Accenture is their own best reference case when it comes to Purchase-to-Pay optimization.
Their internal Procurement Plus team is using the Celonis Execution Management System and the Accounts Payable execution app to transform their P2P process, delivering $35M annualized working capital benefits and reducing the request cycle time for orders by two whole days, globally — and that’s just the beginning.
Accenture needs no introduction. The globally-renowned professional services company has more than 624,000 employees working for over 75% of the Fortune 500 and generates revenues of more than $50 billion a year.
Their internal Procurement function — called Procurement Plus — includes the whole Purchase-to-Pay value chain, from Procurement to Accounts Payable. Their goal is not only to enable the business by covering all the transactional aspects of Procurement quickly and efficiently, but to do so while driving innovation and responsible buying. 360-degree relationships with their suppliers are paramount, as is staying true to Accenture's brand value and market reputation with every transaction.
“The ‘Plus’ is really to highlight that the function I'm running goes beyond a traditional, operational Procurement function, because the Procurement function of the future is a network relationship organization. But as a Chief Procurement Officer, I am also responsible for the ‘hygiene’ side of the house,” notes Kai Nowosel, Accenture’s CPO, referring to procurement’s traditional areas of responsibility — the ‘buy’, ‘supply’ and ‘pay’. “So technologies like Celonis are there to make the transactional side as efficient, as transparent, and as predictable as possible so that I can invest in the relationship side.”
Even within an organization that pioneers best practices, like Accenture, processes can become complex over time due to constantly changing regulations, guidelines, and legal and governmental requirements.
“Even with single global instances of our ERP and SAS solutions, and single global teams administering the process across these instances, it’s incredible how much variation still exists in our processes,” says Patricia Miller, Managing Director, Digital Transformation, Procurement+ at Accenture. “We had 14,000 different ways to get a requisition through the system. The turnaround time was 60 hours.”
“You need visibility over your end-to-end processes to realize what you can eliminate,” notes Nowosel. “So we can challenge the mentality of ‘Oh, this is how we’ve always done it,’ and really take the time and have the courage to eliminate things that were relevant, but are not anymore.”
He adds, “Process mining is mission critical for every Procurement function, but especially for a Procurement function like the one I'm running, driven by the need to enable the business and make it competitive. As a CPO, my role is to identify where I can streamline or eliminate certain things to release funds that I can then use to create additional value and give us that competitive edge.”
“Driving standardization in a decentralized organization across multiple geographies is very important, and Celonis’ process mining gives us the insight we need to do that effectively,” says Krisztina Hamara, Global P2P Process Lead at Accenture. “Having that structured visibility, identifying the problems and how we can fix them and reducing the variance in the process is extremely valuable for us.”
The visibility provided by process mining enabled Accenture to have fact-based conversations with their stakeholders about potential areas for improvement, and cut down Request-to-Order cycle times by 50%.
“Reducing our Request-to-Order cycle time by two full business days globally is a very significant result,” Hamara points out. “So many of our projects spring up very quickly, so Procurement needs to be responsive and push through transactions fast, while managing the many rules around risk and controls. Now we are able to satisfy both the speed and compliance requirements at the same time.”
“We were able to eliminate a number of steps that Procurement, Finance, and the tax teams were taking based on what Celonis showed us,” says Miller. “Over the course of 12 months, we went from 30 hours to about 15 hours for our requisitions. In one particular market unit we have gone from 60 hours to 15 hours.”
By cutting down their cycle times, Procurement Plus is more effectively enabling the business, delivering a faster and more efficient experience for their consultants and ultimately their customers.
While Celonis was initially brought in to bring transparency to the Purchase-to-Pay process, Accenture are now using it to execute their processes more efficiently, directly in the Execution Management System (EMS).
“It’s hard to choose my favorite Celonis capability — it’s like choosing from a box of chocolates,” says Hamara. “We are using the whole execution management suite very extensively, from process mining and analytics to the business views and the action flows.”
With 1.3 million invoices a year to process, the Accenture payables team were primarily working on a first in, first out basis. They are now able to prioritize invoices based on their impact on KPIs by using the Celonis Accounts Payable execution app. As Hamara notes, “The AP execution app is a huge differentiator for us. Celonis helps us make sure that our operational teams are actually spending their time on the invoices that we need to impact today.”
“By leveraging the execution management capabilities within the EMS, we've been able to automate some of the chasers and ensure that our payables teams are really focusing on the invoices that should be prioritized for payment first and foremost,” adds Miller.
“Consistently paying on-time has major implications for Accenture as a whole,” adds Hamara. “It has a working capital impact, of course, but more importantly it helps us maintain our reputation and drive long term strategic relationships with our suppliers.”
Overall, Accenture delivered $35m annualized working capital benefits and their C-SAT score has increased, reflecting the quality of the service the team is able to provide now that some of their tasks have been automated.
Not only does Accenture use the Celonis EMS internally, they also partner with Celonis to help their customers in their own digital transformation journeys. In fact, Accenture has built their own applications in the Celonis EMS to help clients optimize their procurement operations and working capital, replicating the success they’ve had internally at Procurement Plus.
Nowosel notes, “Clients depend on our achievements to help them with theirs. We are our own best reference case. We can show customers how we’ve done it, the tools we’ve used, and exactly how it can be done in a company of our size and complexity.”
Miller agrees: “The beauty of what we're doing internally is that we become a role model for our clients to do the same. And we're more than happy to do it — I don't believe people should have to reinvent the wheel. I love the idea of community.”
Procurement Plus is leading by example, sharing their knowledge across the organization in a way that ultimately benefits Accenture’s end customers, too.
“The opportunities within Procurement enabled by data process mining and execution management solutions are limitless at this point,” says Miller.
The team wants to take the value they extracted from the P2P process and drive change across sourcing, contracting and how they manage supplier relationships around sustainability as well.
Accenture has also recently launched their own sustainable Procurement solution app — and brought the processes from the solution onto Celonis to make it easy to manage and optimize.
Accenture’s Procurement Plus team are well on their way to building a seamless digital procurement function that consistently delivers competitive advantage, without ever compromising on their values for responsible buying.
As Accenture’s CPO puts it, “We are here to make a difference.”