“Having a steering committee and engagement from different stakeholders, whether it’s internal audit or different locations or regions, really will help strengthen the project and get you the support you need,” said Ashley Nayden, Alcoa’s Director of Finance, Global Shared Services, who spoke during the roundtable about her company’s transformation.
With so much technology and related software on the market, how should controllers set priorities, define plans and make investments? Here are several considerations:
1. Begin with the end in mind
No matter what technology is here today or coming tomorrow, you need a clear vision for your enterprise and finance function. That vision into how you will use new tools, and what operating model and talent will enable them, will help you to create an effective implementation road map — avoiding many of the bumps and pitfalls that come from lack of direction.
For instance, are you hoping to achieve better environmental, social and governance reporting? We think it’s a matter of time before all large companies need to address this topic, based on evolving demands from investors, customers and employees. Perhaps your goal is to close your books on day two, but how can you balance that with providing meaningful information to stakeholders on a daily basis?
2. Have clear objectives around responsiveness, insights and efficiency
Controllers are becoming more like curators. A lack of data is rarely a problem, but analyzing it and finding the trends is a trickier proposition. For these controller-curators, three qualities stand out:
- Responsiveness: how quickly you provide information and fulfill compliance. When something external happens, can you support your organization at speed?
- Insightful: whether data and analytics exist as a self-service function. Is your function positioned to show more insights throughout the month, rather than just at the end?
- Efficient: how automation can reduce manual work to free up your people. For a large corporation, a significant reduction of manual work is within reach, so your resources can shift their focus to activities that add greater value.
3. Look at a broad portfolio of levers — including technologies — as you develop a road map
Looking at your enterprise resource planning (ERP) and closing tools is important, along with what’s new in the market. But remember that technology is just one lever. The business propositions for outsourcing, co-sourcing, shared services and insourcing are changing all the time, so consider how your operating model fits into your plans, instead of vice versa. Talent is another lever that should remain central to your plans, as your employees bring your strategies to life and stand to benefit as well, through greater productivity, less manual work and more interesting tasks.
Use this lens to scrutinize your end-to-end record-to-report process. Start mapping each phase. What tech is being used — for instance, is automation being leveraged? What part of each process is being handled regionally, or in a global center of excellence, or with an external partner? Are processes or skills shortages creating bottlenecks? With a high-level view, you can identify and attack the inefficiencies.
4. Get the right team in place
A transformation affects a wide swath of your organization. When design decisions are centralized and then rolled out in a way that doesn’t clearly align with broader goals and acknowledge nuances such as those in regions, functional areas and lines of business, then it is difficult to get buy-in from impacted teams.
An effective approach is to bring in regional controllers, other functional leaders (such as IT and internal audit) and other C-suite stakeholders to drive ownership and accountability. This gives you an opportunity to identify regional requirements, such as from statutory purposes, and the ERP landscape, for example. This shared accountability also drives better user acceptance and adoption.