At the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) CFO Summit 2012 which took place last Thursday, I was privileged to moderate a discussion on delivering world class finance transformation. We heard persuasive arguments presented by an impressive lineup of panelists – Dean Westcott, ACCA President; Sridharan Nair, Managing Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers Malaysia; Mahadevan Natarajan, Senior Director EPMBI Sales Consulting APAC, Oracle; and Patrizio Calitri, Business Unit Executive, Financial Close Management, IBM Business Analytics.
We examined how leading CFOs were re-engineering the finance function to support their organisations. We talked about what world class finance transformation meant and we also discussed the intersect between Finance and HR. Every person covered the issues from different standpoints.
Listening to financial leaders talk about the issues, I couldn’t help but notice that some of the issues of importance to Finance and the way in which they needed to prioritise their approach held relevance for HR as well. Here are the takeaways from the day, that I feel ought to be highlighted for HR folks :
Lead from the front
CFOs are now leading businesses from the front, argued Dean Westcott. I would put the case forward for HR to do the same to drive greater value and firmly establish its rightful place as a key player in the strategic direction of the organisation.
A return to simplicity
Tan Sri Dato’ Azman bin Hj Mokhtar, Managing Director, Khazanah Nasional Berhad, who delivered the keynote address – World Class Finance Transformation – A CEO’s Perspective talked about a return to the fundamentals, the basics. He called for a return to substance over form. It is increasingly easier for us now to get confused by the vast array of priorities ahead of us. With business moving at incredible speed, the face of competition changing ever so often and subtly and a race to the finish line fraught by much peril, it is understandable that we sometimes don’t see the wood for the trees. A return to our roots, to what we are there to do, to what our true purpose is, will help us achieve much clarity and enable us to forge ahead.
Innovation is a key driver
So said Sri Nair. Innovation is not to be embraced simply to keep up to speed with others. It should be a key enabler in putting in place the framework and processes to help us succeed in our endeavours. To that end, it enables us but we are not driven by it.
Do more with less
With the economic gloom and doom about us, this cry to do more with less has been heard far too often and for far too long. We are called to reduce our workforce numbers, take on more responsibilities, drive greater accountability and increase performance levels. But we can only do so when :-
- we have a clear set of measures to guide us;
- we don’t run in isolation. We need to work in tandem with others in the business so we can ensure that the work we do makes sense, not just to ourselves but to those we support;
- we start out having a set of realistic expectations. Any transformation exercise needs to keep in mind that business must go on as usual. Do not set yourself up for failure by setting goals doomed from the start;
- we, in HR, embrace the importance of people and culture. We need to drive this agenda through the engine room of the enterprise;
- we have found the right people to develop and train;
- we have honed our communication skills so that we can better partner with the organisation and so we can better explain our positions;
- we accept and work with the understanding that our role is changing rapidly. Our ability to achieve traction is vastly affected by how we navigate this change, to be on top of it instead of merely responding to it;
- we accept that our role in HR has transformed from the backoffice function it once was to the more strategic partner role it has today.
Don’t just learn the numbers but see what the numbers mean
So said Pat Calitri during the discussion. This has as much relevance to HR as it does to Finance. Two points here. Firstly, it is not enough for us to learn the technicalities of our role. Being able to see past what is before us, to make the connections that only we in HR can make for the business and understand the significance of our decisions, is where our true value in HR lies. Secondly, we need to master the numbers. Without it, we are not able to contribute effectively at a fundamental level and will cease being the go-to person.
Focus on the questions you are asking yourself
Whether you stumble and fall or rise with each organisational endeavour is greatly influenced by the questions you ask yourself as you embrace your role. They say that if you ask yourself the right question, you then get the right answer. So consider the questions you ask yourself about your daily tasks and the big picture.
- How are you contributing to the enterprise goals?
- Where do you stand, in the organisation, against the backdrop of turmoil, change and upheaval?
- Are others counting on you, looking to you for answers?
- How are you responding?
- Are you asking others the right questions so that they are focused on the issues of most importance and so that everyone is aligned?
- How are you defining YOU, your personal brand in the organisation?
- How are you defining your role, your level of influence among your people?
- What scares you?
- What are you doing about it?
- Are you reacting or driving things forward?
There is much at the intersect between HR and Finance. It is within us to grasp this and make it work for us.