Speed. Velocity. Value.   

These are words not often used in the same sentence as Finance & Accounting.  

70%. That’s the percentage of transformations that fail, according to McKinsey. Even if that number is disputed, no one argues that many transformations do not succeed.   

Recent research found a correlation between the number of initiatives completed to transformation success. 

But how can CFOs push their teams to complete more transformation initiatives while still running a business? 

The answer is velocity.    

 finance transformation success factors

1. Drive Transformation and Continuous Improvement Through a Central TMO, Not a PMO 

Labels matter.   

There’s a negative connotation to the Project Management Office (PMO) label, although organizations have historically established PMO teams to manage roadmaps to completion.   

Four things have always been true about traditional PMOs: 

  1. They are good at reporting status. 
  2. They keep things organized. 
  3. They don’t speed up progress. 
  4. They are often viewed as a nuisance rather than an enabler. 

Alternatively, imagine a Transformation Management Office (TMO) that: 

  • Gets its hands dirty in process reviews with sprint teams. 
  • Challenges the status quo. 
  • Celebrates the success of others by sending weekly success spotlights rather than weekly status updates.  
transformation management office v project management office

2. Use Agile ‘Lite’ Instead of Forcing Too Many Complex New Concepts 

Agile is now commonplace for all types of project delivery, not just technology implementations. The challenge is that it’s like learning a new language.   

Rather than creating a science project for your teams, you can infuse simple but effective agile concepts into a transformation by leading by example. 

Start with easy-to-apply agile delivery concepts, such as: 

  • Sprints: Each initiative should be broken into 4-week sprints, and multiple sprints can be run in parallel. There is one week reserved at the conclusion of each sprint to report outcomes and plan for the next round of sprints. Pencils must go down regardless of progress at the end of each sprint.   
  • Cards: Deliverables for an initiative can be conveniently visualized through cards. Sprint teams select cards before the sprint and only focus on one thing at a time before moving to the next card. This enables teams to declare victory faster and more frequently. And as discussed earlier, more victories correlate to transformation success.  
  • Scrums: A daily 15 min meeting in which a Kanban Board is used to focus on activities for that day only and the team removes any blockers from completing those daily tasks. Don’t let anyone work on meaningless tasks. Toyota invented the Kanban Board to control and manage work at every stage of production optimally – their effective use is storied and diverse. Kanban Boards can also be fun and interactive, which contributes to positive morale and more collaboration. 
accounts payable standardization

3. Embrace “Ish” as Opposed to Perfection 

“Ish” is a hard concept for Finance & Accounting professionals. It can apply to assessing processes to make them more risk-based, and it can also apply to a “good enough” definition of done.  

definition of ish

Transformation should be more about elevating organizational capabilities and finished products rather than perfection.  

For example, one sprint may be focused on process discovery for the Procure-to-Pay process. You may not achieve best-in-class cycle times by the end of the sprint, but if you end the sprint with a better process, move on and solve the next problem.  

Luckily, the word “ish” is in the word “finish.” Use this concept and you will finISH more initiatives. 

4. Put a Few Experts in Emerging Digital Tools on the Ground 

Companies have invested in emerging tools like UiPath, Alteryx, and Tableau to generate process efficiencies, but the problem is that the average employee doesn’t know how to use these tools effectively. 

The organizations that will succeed in transformation velocity understand the importance of putting the right tools in the hands of sprint teams and teaching those teams how to use those tools. 

One quick way to catalyze the use of new tools is to implant a few experts as “champions” in the Finance function. Have them build proofs of concept while they simultaneously upskill others on how to use the same tools. 

For example, the close process has heavy automation potential. Instead of planning an optimization project that takes a lot of time and money, an analyst on the accounting team should know how to create a bot within UiPath to automate a specific task.   

The Finance professional of the future will be upskilled in the latest digital tools and will use these tools to continuously enhance ways of working so that they may focus on higher-value tasks. 

digital finance tools and technologies

5. Execute in Tiny, Dedicated Teams 

One of the most common mistakes by organizations in transformation efforts is expecting employees to keep doing their day job in addition to transformation work.   

Speed and part-time resources do not go together in the same sentence, a concept explored in the book “Lead from the Future: How to Turn Visionary Thinking Into Breakthrough Growth,” and one that we see sabotage transformation in the real world. 

Sprints only work if people are dedicated, and it does not need to be a lot of people. 

A quote we like to use internally rings true: “It’s better to have 2 people at 100% allocation than 10 people at 40%.” 

To execute successfully on your next transformation, contact CrossCountry Consulting today.