The future of finance: 13 steps to transformation
Finance leaders from major technology and telecommunications organizations share actionable insights to achieve finance transformation.
“Dream big but start small.” That’s the advice from design software vendor Autodesk, which is bringing together disparate legacy financial systems to bypass the need for time-consuming reconciling and build a finance team that is the best in the industry.
Similarly, telecom giant BT is shifting its financial data to a single, scalable system to cut the time spent each month consolidating spreadsheets submitted by hundreds of contract managers across the world.
The two companies share a vision: a single view of the truth, clean and accessible data, automated processes, and robust data governance. Here are 13 steps that helped Autodesk and BT realize this dream.
1) Have a vision
Autodesk’s financial team collaborated on a press release envisioning their end goal, encouraging them to think about their desired transformation journey and align it with the company’s vision.
Hayli Hay, director Anaplan forecast and planning at Autodesk, says it’s vital to share the vision across the business while remaining organic and willing to make changes.
Mike Buhagiar, director contract management systems at BT adds that when stakeholders are asked what they want to see from a new planning platform, they often don’t grasp its capabilities. They need encouragement to think aspirationally.
2) Sell the sizzle, not the sausage
Buhagiar says it’s crucial to run discovery sessions to actualize what teams really want, not what they say they want. Otherwise, they may continue to use “submarine spreadsheets” or shadow systems hidden from the main planning system that can cause silos and hinder progress.
3) Recruit and engage the right people
Autodesk has focused on recruiting talent, upskilling its existing workforce, and creating a positive working environment. Automating processes contributes to job satisfaction and the team ensures appropriate resources to match the company’s growth, according to Katie Blanchard, VP FP&A at Autodesk.
At BT, Buhagiar acknowledges that people may be reluctant to engage with training or are thrown into the application before they’re ready. “It’s absolutely nothing to do with development,” he says.
Key considerations should be guided by:
• Culture and people
• Change, behavior, and mindset
• Senior management alignment
4) Involve stakeholders
Blanchard, Hay, and their teams at Autodesk strive to involve as many people as possible:
• Executive sponsors
• Anaplan model builders
They hold regular meetings with various departments to create better collaboration and alignment.
Buhagiar says the BT project was the most “complex, multi-headed hydra in terms of stakeholder management that I’ve ever seen.” Nonetheless, his team was able to manage and contain.
5) Use your time wisely
It may be that technology can be deployed “faster than the business can consume it,” says Buhagiar. During end of month or year runs, finance teams will be too busy to engage with new technology. Use the spare time for user acceptance testing.
6) Use industry best practices
Autodesk adopts tools like JIRA to organize and prioritize work, as well as Agile and Scrum methodologies to enhance the intake process and prioritize tasks based on business value.
7) Redesign processes alongside models
Autodesk has around 40 models, some of which are difficult to maintain and built for obsolete processes. It is re-evaluating and rebuilding models and processes to ensure relevance. For one model, it started by documenting all the manual processes and identifying areas for improvement.
For BT, the complexity of its audit and review process was dictated by compliance and governance policy. However, it has streamlined the process by automating the data contained in the 1,200 monthly spreadsheets previously submitted by contract managers around the world.
8) Keep security center stage
BT runs some critical national infrastructure, so it was crucial the new system obtained security approval. Additionally, BT had to put access, role, and geo controls in place by setting user access codes.
9) Empower the workforce
Autodesk launched a pilot program called Citizen Developers to engage its finance teams. This pairs Citizen Developers with experienced model builders, helping to scale and foster knowledge dissemination.
10) Lead by example
Autodesk’s CEO Andrew Anagnost is actively driving the transition from a software company to a platform organization. Hay, as the lead on the digital financial transformation project, drives momentum, manages prioritization, and helps educate the management team.
Bugahiar recommends targeting senior managers with specific communications, rather than assuming they know what you need them to say to their teams.
11) Celebrate every milestone
To maintain momentum and enthusiasm, Autodesk started a Slack channel called “1,000 Little Wins” where people can share their achievements, creating shared motivation and purpose, as well as consistent updates that brought everyone on the journey.
Meanwhile, BT and its partners, Wipro, and Anaplan, were the global winners of the Outstanding Collaboration and Cooperation award at the World Commerce and Contracting’s Innovation and Excellence Awards 2021.
12) Measure progress
Tracking productivity and ROI is essential to gauge success. Autodesk also conducts regular end-user satisfaction surveys and tracks NPS scores.
At BT, Buhagiar says accuracy has gone up considerably and cycle time has been cut from four days to less than two hours. The program has acted as a spotlight for change, with other departments looking to follow suit.
13) Consider change management
Buhagiar says it’s so critical to get everyone on board that having a change manager will save you both time and money.
Hay, however, says a change management team should be implemented selectively. Some models and projects at Autodesk require minimal involvement, whereas others have 500 users, necessitating a more formal change management structure. Change must come from within the business groups themselves to ensure acceptance and minimize resistance.
Learn more about these tech and telecom companies’ finance transformation journeys by watching their full, on-demand Anaplan Connect sessions: