We have less than 200 days to go until the 2018 effective date for public companies for the new revenue recognition standard, and many accounting and finance professionals are in high gear preparing their organizations and clients for the transition.
With so much focus on implementation, I wanted to share some lessons learned from three companies that have either adopted or are well along in adopting the new revenue recognition standards. Experts from Alphabet (Google's parent company), Ford and Lockheed Martin joined me recently for a webcast to discuss this change in guidance , which is top of mind for so many of us today. Here were some of their key insights:
• The time is now: At this stage, it’s important not only to have started the complex and extensive work the transition requires, but also to choose an adoption method. As I discussed previously, both methods have their pros and cons. For many organizations, the practical reality is that the full retrospective method, which applies the standard to each period presented (2016, 2017 and 2018 for public companies), may require older data that is simply unavailable. Our polling of our webcast audience suggested that the modified retrospective method is more popular: 42 percent of our respondents expected to go that route, while 12.4 percent planned to adopt the full retrospective method, with the remainder undecided. If your company hasn’t already made the choice, it’s time to pick a method and move forward with implementation.
• Reach out: Participating in industry working groups, submitting questions to the FASB, and, in some instances, seeking SEC pre-clearance can help companies find more solid ground on tricky interpretive questions. Additionally, although some organizations have orchestrated their implementation in-house, many others have turned to outside consultants as an additional resource. Mark Bostic of Lockheed Martin shared with us the benefits of bringing in consultants to help with structuring project management, coordination, drafting white papers and new policies, and providing tax and industry expertise, among other things.
• Set up your team for success: Establishing the right cross-functional team and processes for this effort is a big component of a successful implementation. While there is not one “right” way to get this done, our panelists agreed that effective project management is essential. A few possibilities to consider: Susan Callahan explained that her team at Ford included four fully dedicated team members, regional technical accountants and subject matter experts, whose participation was essential to embedding the new approaches and policies in the broader organization. At Alphabet, Gabor Turschl works with a broad cross-functional team that includes internal audit, investor relations, finance, IT, and sales and products. Mark emphasized the importance of including human resources as well. Additionally, involving the Audit Committee and external auditors earlier rather than later can go a long way toward facilitating the transition process.
• Leasing looms: Finally, it’s not too soon to focus on the change in leasing accounting guidance due for adoption in 2019 (public companies). Among our webcast audience, about 18 percent of respondents said they had not yet started planning for the lease accounting changes. Approximately 35 percent responded that they are assessing the impact of those changes and developing a transition approach, and another 21 percent stated their transition is underway and on track. Applying best practices and lessons learned from transitioning to the revenue recognition standard to your leasing transition can help smooth the path forward on leasing standards.
PwC has compiled several revenue recognition resources, including access to the webcast here. We hope you find these materials helpful as you move toward implementation.