People Drive Digital Transformation

This article appears in our Q2 2022 issue of Finance Transformation Magazine. To download the issue, click here

Piers Reid, SystemsAccountants Group CEO, discusses challenges facing CFOs driving technology-enabled transformations in 2022.

Here we go again! Inflation nearing 10%, wages spiralling, global supply chains fragile and a rising cost of borrowing. Yet finance organisations are still expected to optimise working capital by providing insights that fuel growth, systems, controls and processes.

No wonder a majority of finance leaders are looking to technology to manage an ever-increasing workload and improve their analytical, modelling and reporting capabilities. A scenario mirroring the post-Credit Crunch market in 2008 where everyone (mostly banks) realised they didn’t have the data to back up their business assumptions.

But how do you manage a technology project, let alone a digital transformation programme, when your staff are stretched and your budgets are based on questionable data?

The key to success? Gaining end user adoption. If it’s a tactical initiative like deploying AP automation or expense management application, the most practical approach is adopting a super user model, with team members participating on a part-time basis, with software vendor and internal IT organisation support as needed.

That said, over the years, we’ve seen many such projects overrun and/or fail to deliver due to lack of discipline. It’s critical to appoint a fully-accountable business-side Project Manager, and post project, evaluate whether business case benefits have been realised and if not, have a clearly defined set of remedial actions.

Many enterprise-scale organisations have internal business project teams, but often with generalist skills and lack of finance process and systems expertise. What’s more, scale-ups may well have none of this even established.

Embracing the introduction of new digital tools requires confidence in leadership. Does the Project Manager have a deep knowledge of the processes being automated or improved? Or the domain knowledge to explain how technology will empower users to undertake more value-adding work?

As a consequence, a high proportion of requests SystemsAccountants receives, is to provide project resources combining sound project experience, disciplines with deep subject matter expertise as well as prior experience of multiple deployments of tool implementation.

Depending on the scale or nature of the project, we provide full- or part-time independent project contractors, ensuring our clients benefit from a light touch and cost-effective engagement model, where the contractor is positioned business-side and with a clear objective of gaining user adoption.

For larger scale transformation programmes, such as deployment of cloud ERP, a more formal, structured resourcing model is required.

Fortunately, this doesn’t mean darkening the skies with many external consultants. It’s not 2005! It does though pay to engage the intellectual capital of a Big 4 or large Systems Integrator to bring application-specific deployment toolkits and yield value through competitively packaged software and service deals.

It’s important to note that small or large ERP projects handed off in their entirety to external consulting firms often fail to deliver their original goals, precisely because users feel change is being done to them. A variety of ills ensues, ranging from poorly articulated user requirements, non-compliant processes in post-implementation and weak user adoption.

SystemsAccountants has been engaged as a business partner on countless transformative programmes. Often from the earliest phases where CFOs want introductions to people that have done similar and learned lessons they would or wouldn’t repeat.

From there, we help give a CFO access to the right resources and ensure they have the confidence a course of action is their business choice. As well as aligning to the business team and delivering small or large scale support.

An SA account management team will work with the client sponsor group to understand objectives and how the transformation programme is tied to these; obtaining a detailed picture of programme scope (business case; operating model; people, process and system selection, desired partner model; budgets, and schedule), to provide an informed analysis of skills availability to enable a client to engage the optimal resource blend.

SA has the most extensive, pre-screened network of Finance Transformation and ERP contractors in the market. Many have completed multiple client assignments and are highly referenceable. Typically costing around 60% of SI/B4 charge rates, these independent contractors offer significant VFM as they’re often better experienced than their consultancy counterparts.

Furthermore, they wear the badge of the business, helping users and the business team question and challenge, ensuring they feel empowered and likely to adopt new working methods.

If they haven’t already, transferring core ERP and EPM systems to the Cloud is on the agenda of most CFOs with many using this and a range of digital tools to do better with less.

Whilst budgets are a key factor, the challenge is shaping and executing these initiatives so future needs can be met by finance, rather than success being measured on cost terms alone. Blended project and programme teams, combining internal staff, consulting/vendor resource and carefully selected independent contractors can help smooth out resource peaks and troughs, keep project spend in check and ensure business case benefits are realised.

SystemsAccountants Group is a UK Headquartered Professional Services & Recruitment business operating from hub offices across the USA and Europe. The group includes UK Oracle NetSuite Partner SANSA Solutions. SystemsAccountants recruitment supports organisations of all sizes with access to people with hybrid IT and Finance skills in ERP, EPM, BI and Data to design, deliver and run their Business System landscape.

About the author: Piers Reid

Piers Reid is the CEO of SystemsAccountants group who deliver Recruitment, Finance Systems and ERP Consulting Services to a global client base from hub offices in the US and Europe. Piers has 20 years experience in Finance and Systems Recruitment and technology enabled transformation.