Finance Transformation Leaders - On the Line and Off the Record
A global research study
Not every finance transformation (FT) initiative feels like a hurricane coming ashore, but plenty of them do. And for good reason. Major projects can challenge even the most experienced leaders, especially when the work is global or when there are other closely related initiatives underway at the same time.
Transformation can open the door to unanticipated projects that can multiply complexity fast. At the center of most projects stands a single person who is responsible for making it all happen.
“ It’s harder to rewire people than machines.”
- FT Lead interviewed as part of study for “Don’t quote me on this;
Finance transformation leaders–on the line and off the record” report
FT Leads have learned to make light of a serious reality: finance transformation is hard work—the toughest job you’ll ever love. Many of the challenges and obstacles faced by FT Leads can be negotiated much more easily with the right game plan—one built on the insights of those who have already been there, done that. “Don’t quote me on this; Finance transformation leaders–on the line and off the record,” reflects the insights from FT leads that have weathered the transformation storm.
Finance transformation leaders–on the line and off the record
- Sponsorship: how it really works
- When it comes to sponsorship, FT Leads should expect the best. And plan for the worst.
- The case for the business case
- Go as deep as you must, but no deeper. Focus on performance indicators your team can use to stay on track. Reforecast at major milestones.
- What it takes to lead
- Err on the side of experience, especially if the sponsor is relatively new to transformation. Company veterans may come up short in understanding the process. Yet no hired gun will know the ins and outs of your organization. Which is most important to you?
- Building the team
- Look for variety, not clones of the same skill set. Make a list of the full range of skills your team will need before starting the first interview. Because when the program environment changes—and it will—you’ll need a wide range of capabilities within close reach.
- Staged for success
- Add an extra layer to your project strategy: the promotion plan. And remember, it’s not just about major milestones. Even minor accomplishments could be of interest to certain internal audiences.
- It’s personal
- Get clear on personal boundaries you want to set before you’re in the thick of things. Good luck with that.
To read our full report, please download the attachment (PDF) at the bottom of this page, under Attachments.
Don’t quote me on this: Planning for the end
The FT team should be a collection of star players. That makes it even more important to plan for what will happen to them when they finish their FT tour of duty.
In our discussions, we saw a mix of approaches. Most had not done enough planning—and they knew it. “We had a way to review the amount of time each person was spending on the project and at what point it made sense to put them back into other activities,” said one FT Lead. “But we had no specific plan for what opportunities they would return to.”
That’s a big blind spot, since FT projects usually engage a team of top talent. These are people who are often exhilarated by the increased responsibility that came with the project, and are at risk of leaving when the ride eventually ends.
One key approach is to continue putting top performers in challenging positions. For some, that could mean taking on a leadership role in shared services. For others, working in a business partnering role that builds on the skills they learned. Take time to find the right matches—for now and for three years from now. Don’t risk losing the knowledge and dedication of people who have fought on the front lines of finance transformation.
Don’t quote me on this: Steal these ideas
One FT Lead said that when he took the job, he thought he would be able to find a ready-made game plan from others who had taken on finance transformation elsewhere. When he couldn’t find any examples to crib from, he had to build everything from scratch.
This was a recurring theme in many of our conversations. In our view, too many FT Leads are recreating the wheel—especially considering all the helpful tools and techniques that have been developed by others.
Many of the tools FT Leads put in place are identical to those you would use for any big project. But we found a few innovative approaches that were tailor-made for finance transformation.
Play defense before you have an opponent
One team created a toolkit to help members counter pushback from the business, complete with documents and role-playing scenarios to prepare them for dealing with naysayers.
Many project teams used motivational posters and signs to help keep things on track. Our favorite sign was “Don’t panic!”
Co-locate to create happy accidents
When team members are able to bump into one another frequently, good things can happen. Whenever possible, look to put people in close proximity.
Spring for boxed lunches
One large team rented a nearby auditorium so they could eat boxed lunches together. Once a week. For a whole year. Each week, a different project team presented what they were doing. It’s a simple, easy way to keep everyone on the same page.
Play the board game
Can you get a regular slot in board meetings? One FT Lead says you should try—the sponsorship payoff can be huge.
Build communications central
With a resource dedicated to project communications, one FT team made sure everyone was in the know. Not every team needs a dedicated resource for communications, but they do need a communications plan. Webinars. Newsletters. Whatever it takes to stay on the radar.
Don’t Quote Me on This: Final Words
At the end of every interview, we asked for some closing words of wisdom. Two FT Leads exclaimed, “Run!” In jest, of course.
If you’re about to sponsor or take on a finance transformation, it’s likely to be a wild ride. But it’s an important ride—not just to you and your career, but to your organization. Finance transformation is one of the biggest projects a company can take on that will never see the light of day outside of company walls. Unless it’s done poorly, of course.
About this survey
In the summer of 2010, Deloitte conducted more than 25 in-depth interviews with finance transformation Leads from some of the world’s best-known companies. Our mission: to get a front-line perspective on finance transformation from those who know from experience—and translate those findings into practical advice for people who lead or sponsor FT initiatives. This book collects key learnings from those discussions.
Click here to access our Dbriefs recording and hear directly from the authors of this research piece about what does and does not work and other insights from executives who have led major finance transformation programs.
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As used in this document, 'Deloitte' means Deloitte LLP. Please see www.deloitte.com/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.