August 12, 2020

5 Times Modern Analytics Saved the Day In Accounting and Finance

Around the world and at businesses of every size, accounting and finance professionals are seizing the opportunity to make analytics their ultimate sidekick. Where there’s Batman, there’s a Batmobile—and for these folks, where there’s accounting and finance, there’s a custom-built, mega machine of a platform to assist in the day’s activities. Modern analytics is all about the science of transforming raw data into useful insights to discover new opportunities, eliminate manual steps, and put time back in your day to do more valuable work.

Now by starting this article with that kind of strong, no-nonsense lead paragraph, we know we’re going to need at least one solid example to back it up. But as Confucius once famously said, “Why give one example when you can give five?” (Please don’t look that up.)

Here are five instances where modern analytics saved the day for professionals in accounting, tax, audit, and the office of finance.

1. Trinity Industries turns five months into five minutes

Trinity Industries, an industrial company, manages hundreds of thousands of rail cars from a fixed-asset tax reporting perspective. The company needs to regularly create reports on these assets for both executives and the IRS. To do this, the team previously utilized Excel spreadsheets in what became a tedious and version-control-issue-laden process—one that took about five months to complete.

Trinity Industries was able to shorten the time needed to complete that process to about five minutes. And no, the company didn’t use Hermione Granger’s time-turner necklace to do it—it used analytics. With the right analytics platform in place, Trinity Industries can now:

  • Eliminate tedious manual work.
  • Produce more trustworthy reports that result in fewer time-consuming questions.
  • Give its tax office more time to do work that adds value to the business.

2. Aetna saves millions in potential overpayments

Internal audit processes at Aetna were slow and labor-intensive. But by adopting analytics tools, eliminating inefficiencies, and creating a “robot” that looks friendlier than H.E.R.B.I.E., the insurance giant successfully transformed the face of its internal audit department.

Today, Aetna performs continuous auditing through an automated end-to-end process review—a faster and more reliable method that has saved the company millions of dollars in potential claims overpayments. Other benefits include:

  • Faster audits—audits are now completed five to eight days quicker than before.
  • Visibility into data before the claims process even begins.
  • Time savings for other departments through automatically generated self-service audit dashboards.

3. Cetera Financial sees the future

Creating accurate revenue and expense forecasts is hard. Like, taking down a boss in Dark Souls hard. At Cetera Financial, it requires combining data from assets, net flows, revenue, advisors, and market flow, then finding a way to analyze and extrapolate on that data to predict the future. When done manually, it’s a cumbersome, labor-intensive process—and the results aren’t always reliable.

But the team at Cetera found a way to largely eliminate manual steps and create scenario-based revenue and expense forecasts with maximum accuracy, reliability, and usability. How’d they do it? You guessed it—analytics. By pumping the data through an analytics platform, Cetera can now quickly create highly accurate and intuitive forecast dashboards. Cetera also used modern analytics to:

  • Incorporate both internal key performance indicators and external drivers to refresh forecast scenarios automatically.
  • Combine quantitative and qualitative data to identify holistic patterns.
  • Leverage the vast capabilities of its analytics platform to strategically bring software and data together and create precision insights.

4. Thomson Reuters puts 24-30 hours back in the month

To perform its required month-end cost assurance process, Thomson Reuters had to run general ledger line item queries for six separate organizations, map in master data information, segregate the data by expense category, and create pivot tables in order to review for accuracy. This took about 24 to 30 hours to complete, occupying much of its controllership office’s time during those critical final days of each and every month.

The company used an analytics platform to create a repeatable workflow that automates much of this work. As a result, Thomson Reuters has given those 24 to 30 hours back to the workers in its controllership office, who we assume are using that time to find new financial opportunities for the company—because that’s totally what we’d do with the extra time. We definitely wouldn’t use it to search for continuity flaws in The Mandalorian so we can complain about them on Reddit.

Thomson Reuters continues to push the boundaries of modern analytics in ways such as:

  • Ability to complete the monthly post-query process in just 24 minutes.
  • Increased collaboration between the controllership and other departments.
  • Plans to improve productivity for other internal teams, including finance, cash flow, master data, treasury, tax, and human resources.

5. Educational Media Foundation cuts costs by $500,000, aims for $2.2 million

Educational Media Foundation (EMF) is a nonprofit mostly known for broadcasting popular radio stations such as Air1 and K-LOVE. While the company has been rocking out with solid financials since 1981, the EMF team wasn’t exactly Jersey Shore-style fist-pumping for joy when regulatory changes caused its national Internet radio streaming costs to more than double—from less than $1 million to more than $2 million annually.

But we’d like to think the company let out a collective DJ Pauly D “Yeaaaaaaaah buddy!” when it discovered ways to reduce those costs through modern analytics. EMF learned that some of its regional streams were underutilized, while others exceeded their cost-effective limits. This and other analytics-derived insights led to 16 changes to systems, software, programming, and contracts. 

EMF reported that four of those changes led to $500,000 in savings through the second half of 2016. The company continues to use analytics to find more ways to cut costs, projecting that its efforts can ultimately save as much as $2.2 million a year.

Beyond cost-cutting measures, EMF used modern analytics to:

  • Eliminate eight months of labor per year and fix more than 200 errors by better ensuring that taxes for its radio transmitters are filed for the proper jurisdictions.
  • Reduce manual checks and restarts for its content delivery network.
  • Provide better experiences for donors who give to the nonprofit multiple times.

Save the day and be the office hero with Alteryx

All the companies in our examples have one thing in common—they chose Alteryx as their analytics solution. But if you’re interested in seeing similar results at your business, you’ll quickly learn Alteryx is far from the only option on the table.

As you research these solutions, however, you’ll find that they fall into one of two categories:

  1. General-use products providing few-to-zero specific accounting/finance functions.
  2. Traditional accounting software with some analytics capabilities shoehorned in but lacking the raw power of general solutions.

Only Alteryx gives you the best of both worlds—a proven analytics platform that’s been specifically customized to automate and enhance the tasks and processes most critical to accounting and finance success. 

It’s time for analytics to save the day at your business. With Alteryx, you can finally free your organization from manual steps and allow more time for the strategic analysis needed to put your firm on top.

Learn more about Alteryx and start your free trial >

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