Stock illustration: Looking forward.

When The Hackett Group last analyzed working capital performance, at the midpoint of 2022, we saw early signs of deterioration in days payables outstanding (DPO) performance. We noted that this trend might signal an inflection point in companies' ability to continue improving their balance sheet by further extending payment terms with suppliers.

For more than a decade, lengthening payment cycles was companies' easiest option for improving working capital performance, and many organizations came to rely heavily on it. Indeed, our prediction that this approach might no longer be working as well proved true in the second half of 2022. As our newly released "2023 Working Capital Survey" reveals, DPO deteriorated sharply throughout last year, and the percentage of total excess working capital attributable to accounts payable increased by a stunning 33 percent.

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