De-language your process through automation

De-language your process through automation

Andrew Hay, proposition lead, statutory reporting at Thomson Reuters discusses how translation is one task that has consistently happened at the local level, but is now getting the automation treatment

De-language your process through automation

Imagine how much easier the world would be if we all spoke the same language. While this may seem unlikely, that situation is much closer to reality — for accountants anyway. Accounting and finance teams at multinational companies rarely have a real choice when it comes to statutory financial reporting in countries where the local language differs from their own. However hard, the translation needs to happen. Furthermore, translating local country financial statements to the preferred language can’t really be automated, which prevents statutory reporting from being fully centralised in a shared service centre or centre of excellence.

Multinational companies are accelerating efforts to establish and optimise shared service centres — with finance and accounting leading the way, according to the State of the Global Shared Services Market Report 2019, recently released by the Shared Services & Outsourcing Network (SSON).

This development bodes well for companies’ ability to centralise and streamline financial reporting and tax compliance across their global enterprise. Companies that are late to the game, on the other hand, may face a long-term competitive disadvantage.

The shared services model came on the scene in the 1980s to improve efficiency and standardisation in back-office functions. In recent years, it has taken on new importance — moving beyond transactional, manual work and focusing on automation, innovation, analysis, and process. As the SSON report states “Shared services organisations have been ‘moving up the value chain’ — something that was promised for many years but is now accelerating…What defines the modern centre are the insights it offers the business based on a thorough understanding of services processing, automation, and data analytics.”

That’s not to say increased efficiency is no longer an objective. In the SSON’s survey of organisations that have adopted this model, nearly half said are targeting productivity improvements above 10% in the next year, and nearly a third are targeting the 7-10% range. “The consistent, aggressive commitment to productivity improvements are keeping… leaders focused on innovative solutions that improve effectiveness, efficiency and performance,” the report notes. “Today, that is predominantly achieved by leveraging automation and data analytics.”

A costly exercise

One area where organisations can make such improvements is language and how their statutory financial statements are filed across multiple jurisdictions. Directors are personally liable for the documents they sign, yet the end product must be lodged in the local language. As such, for most businesses bringing non-English countries into a shared service centre means additional skilled language staff are required for each language to ensure the paperwork is prepared and submitted correctly. It’s a costly exercise to say the least.

Now, thanks to advances in technology, translation can take place through automation. By handling the process, users are able to see — and directors to understand — entire statutory financial reports that were prepared in a single business language. The platform executes the translations and allows for the output to be in English or the local language. Users have one report, with one data source. The feature eliminates the need to maintain multiple sets of reporting templates for entities in jurisdictions with differing language requirements. What’s more, platforms with translation features are able to translate more than just the output of the final statutory financial reports, they will translate the software navigation tools, category structure, as well as data capture menus and screens.

Addressing the complicated language conundrum that multinationals face is a real game changer, especially for statutory financial reporting professionals who work with varied language requirements. It has completely transformed the process of preparing and reviewing local country statutory financial statements. And importantly, it is another step towards empowering accounting and finance teams with scalable, interlocking tools, so that they can spend more time on strategic matters that add more value to their companies.

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