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Delivering Financial Data Promptly – Ulf Lilja, CFO of Sony Ericsson

Delivering Financial Data Promptly
Ulf Lilja
CFO, Sony Ericsson


A very important activity at Sony Ericsson to improve transparency in our decision making has been a two year effort to come to a so-called “one day close”; that on the work day one, we have financial data available for our managers, compared to a situation just two years back where it took 10 days to have the same information. That has been extremely helpful for Sony Ericsson.

The reason why, I think, we could in a relatively short time, cut the closing time so dramatically was that we went to the best-in-class companies pretty early to learn from them: how do you do this? It happened to be that Sony Ericsson is a 50% owner in a Japanese company, Sony, which had been very successful in its dramatic effort to make financial data available much sooner. Of course, we went to them, we learned from them, and then we asked some of their best people to help us with the implementation work at Sony Ericsson.

In practical terms, we are doing many more activities in parallel, instead of after each other in a sequence. A second activity is that we start much earlier during the month to do certain activities. In the days when we closed the books in 10 days, you had lost almost half of the month before you really could take action on your numbers. Today, we can do that as of day two. That’s been a tremendous benefit for us.

I think it is a little bit of believing that the impossible is possible. If you tell your people, you will be able to go from 10 closing days to one, many of your employees will really doubt that. But you need to show that you believe in that as a leader, and just go for it.

I would advise my colleagues in the area of shortening closing time and having data available earlier to definitely go to the best-in-class. Take some of your key people with you. Let them experience for themselves what their professional colleagues in the best-inclass companies say, instead of trying to convey the same thing yourself.

It will take some time; in our case, over two years of pretty intensive, hard work. So I would advise not to expect that this can be done in a very short time; that would be very unusual and maybe not quite realistic.

Lastly, you will probably have to accept that it will require some up-front investment in, for instance, your ERP systems, to make this happen. So you need to be prepared to take that up-front investment. In the case of Sony Ericsson, there’s been a very, very good return on that investment.