Finance transformations put finance leaders under the corporate spotlight as they strive to keep the function current with the changing needs and strategies of the business. In any business transformation, there is no guarantee of success however, there are actions that finance leaders can take to improve the odds.
“Changing the business of finance” is the challenge facing many finance leaders.
Finance leaders are balancing the increasing demands of becoming a business partner with the traditional role of stewardship, whilst maintaining the ability to ask the difficult questions.
People, processes and technology are all under the spotlight.
For nearly 20 years, I have been involved in delivering business change and finance transformation.
No two, programs have been the same, however I have learnt there are actions that finance leaders can take to improve the odds of success.
Here are 5 steps;
1) Focus on Keeping It Simple
Let’s face it, it helps to be detail oriented to work in finance.
This trait however, can also be a risk for finance programs, particularly when you add consultants into the mix!
Often one of the objectives is to “simplify and standardise”.
Unless the design is strictly governed the existing operating model can easily morph into a new one of equal complexity.
From day one have the mantra “keep it simple” in all aspects.
Keep in mind that at some point you will need to stand up and explain at a town hall.
If you can’t, it is probably too complex!
2) Make the Change Visible
It is time for finance to come out of the shadows.
No change initiative can be delivered under the radar or by stealth.
Finance is often thought as being part of the corporate “back bone”. Any surgery involving the human back bone impacts the rest of the body, the same with finance transformation.
I am not suggesting a major, expensive marketing campaign but the change process needs to be visible to everyone.
Plan on giving regular updates to all the different communities.
Focus on simple and clear messages which engage the audience.
3) Hire the Best Delivery Team
Investing in the best delivery team improves the odds of success.
Of all the actions, this should be close to the top of any finance leader’s agenda.
Assign your best and brightest talent to the program. Remember they are designing the function of the future.
Don’t be tempted to just place finance resources awaiting their next role.
Use temporary external backfills to manage the “business as usual” workload.
Choose any external delivery partner carefully including interviewing the talent being offered.
A “big brand” consulting firm is no longer a guarantee of success. It depends on the quality of the “bench” in your region at the time.
If you get it wrong, changing horses mid-race can be very costly.
Investigate alternative resourcing options which are now emerging in the market. These include smaller specialist consulting firms offering access to global talent networks.
4) Show Real Business Benefits
Don’t try and quantify the unquantifiable.
Only quantify those benefits where future measurement is simple and transparent.
Finance transformations can deliver significant value to an organization Avoid however, being too creative when writing the business case.
Attempting to assign monetary values to too many benefit items, or those which are difficult to measure can lead to credibility issues down the road.
Apply the “red face test”. Could you confidently justify each benefit in a presentation at a company leadership conference?
5) Think hard about the soft issues
A finance transformation is intended to improve the “fitness” of the function.
For many of us, increasing our personal fitness is not easy.
We can buy wearable technology to measure progress. Some of us hire a trainer or buy a membership to a gym.
Much as we would like to however, we cannot avoid the training.
In any transformation, as with personal fitness, you cannot outsource the hard work!
A shiny new ERP system or an army of change consultants will NOT get your finance function “fit”.
The required change in “lifestyle” only comes from significant investment in time and effort from the finance leadership.
The rate of change for businesses has never been so great.
Demand for insights into business performance and proactive decision support keeps growing.
Finance transformations are under the corporate spotlight as the function strives to keep pace with these evolving needs of the business.
Improving the “fitness” of the finance organisation is not easy.
There are no guarantees however, I have described 5 steps that finance leaders can take to improve the odds of success.
About Tim J. Roberts
Tim J. Roberts is an independent management consultant specialising in business transformation.
He builds and delivers major transformation initiatives, focusing on the corporate functions (e.g. finance, procurement and IT), across industries as diverse as Energy and Aviation.
He constructs strategic business cases, designs target operating models, builds new organisations and helps develop team capabilities. He has successfully led several multi-year major ERP technology programs and is well versed in building shared service centres and the strategies for business process outsourcing.
With over 30 years of experience, he has a unique background which combines senior international corporate roles in finance, including Regional CFO for a FTSE 100 company, with delivery of major transformation projects as a Program Director.
Issoria is a new breed of management consultancy, better adapted to the needs of global corporations. Its mission is to address global transformation challenges whilst enabling clients to become change capable for the long term, ensuring lasting business outcomes at lower cost.
Operating through a virtual enterprise network, Issoria brings together teams with exactly the right capabilities and character for its clients’ functional and cultural needs. With over 700 Partners and a global associate community of 5000+, Issoria answers clients' demands for a new model of global consultancy.