This article originally appeared in Strategic Finance Magazine, and is part 2 of this blog series. Read Part 1 here.
Driving change requires a plan. According to McKinsey, when people genuinely invest in transition, a transformation is 30% more likely to stick, making it a vital way to tangibly increase the ROI of digital.
In fact, in a 2019 survey of senior finance leaders, 91% of finance executives said it’s the CFOs job to ensure the benefits of technology investments are realized, and 93% of CFOs said it was essential to foster an innovative culture—one that drives change—when pursuing technology.
Sustainable change management is critical to overcoming obstacles and roadblocks. For example, you want to avoid teams and/or accountants relapsing into old processes, as well as any glitches with systems or new processes that may arise during the change process.
Maintaining a solid mission and vision for the team, along with effective communication, will provide you with a successful change management process.
This blog explores proven ways to drive organizational and procedural change: the roles and responsibilities to establish, obstacles to overcome, and practical techniques to get everyone on board.
Step 1: Build “Team Change”
Everyone builds an internal team of project managers, accounting business process experts, and end-users for rolling out new technology—but these teams traditionally disintegrate after go-live.
This was understandable in the days of on-premise software, because it was almost impossible for Finance and Accounting to own and manage technology themselves. They couldn’t easily make changes to rules, reports, or other business logic to tackle new business processes on an ongoing basis.
Because upgrades were applied only every few years at best, learning how to tap into new features and communicate new capabilities was rarely required. But with today’s technology, that’s a mistake.
With modern cloud applications, finance and accounting system administrators can make changes after deployment and accommodate ongoing needs without requiring extensive effort.
- Changing the process of a bank reconciliation
- Changing a rule to auto-certify an account reconciliation
- Creating more automated journal entry processes and validations
Technology, like financial close and compliance automation solutions, can also often be extended to more users across the enterprise, such as business unit teams or auditors. All of this makes ongoing enablement and a more proactive approach to digital adoption essential.
“Team Change”: Roles & Responsibilities
Consider cascading the vision along with the roadmap to ensure understanding and buy-in at initial points of the change path.
Often, change management teams consist of staff who are fully allocated to driving the initiative, and others with part-time responsibilities. A recent survey of 689 finance executives by CFO Research found that 56% of respondents devote about one-fifth of their FTE time to digital transformation and change management, and 52% plan to boost FTE time further in the coming year.
A successful project team will include people who understand the assessment, as well as the impacts and presumptions being made, to help drive the overall mission and vision for change.
Prior to building the team, make sure the assessments, impacts, presumptions, and the right people are assigned. Consider carving out the following responsibilities.
Driving change in Finance and Accounting comes from the top. Identify a senior finance leader, whether it’s the CFO, VP of Finance, Controller, or Chief Digital Officer, and ensure they are engaged to communicate, incentivize, and monitor change.
The sponsor should connect the dots between each digital finance initiative and the benefits to personnel, and understand the broader business implications.
Your most engaged and passionate internal accounting and finance professionals often make the best champions. They’re the ones who know the current accounting processes and see that the next step in their career is getting confident using the latest technology―and evangelizing it.
Champions are incredibly valuable in that they influence their peers. They can work with everyone, from accounting managers or supervisors to the Controller, to identify process improvements and find ways to apply technology like financial close automation to make the process better―or reinvent it altogether.
Change should never come without communication. Establish an effective communication plan, so it’s clear how the organization, responsibilities, and procedures are changing—and why.
Teams should: establish a communication cadence. Provide updates on the latest changes, outcomes, and wins. Conduct lunch-and-learn events to facilitate buy-in, and schedule events to celebrate success, so that every employee understands the value.
In every organization, there’s a skills gap at the front line and often a reluctance to embrace new technology. But the obstacles to gaining familiarity and an understanding of new processes are lower than ever.
For example, modern software providers have often invested heavily in providing online training “universities,” self-paced learning, and role-based curricula, not to mention custom training materials.
Beyond training on new software, newly re-engineered processes can be communicated with online meetings, or via internal portals and custom videos.
Enablers focus on working directly with each role in Accounting, ensuring that personnel not only have the educational material at their disposal and understand the new processes, but are also communicating the career development opportunities of learning new ways to work.
Some organizations adopt a “fast fail” approach around change management, while others monitor outcomes of process changes over a longer time period. However, whether the goal is to shave time off the close process or improve reconciliation accuracy, it’s essential to have a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) at the outset and a definition of success.
Modern financial close solutions often provide real-time KPIs on process performance and user activity—which demonstrates adoption—that makes it simple to keep score and communicate results.
Read this white paper to learn how to build a compelling, fact-based business case for implementing a finance transformation platform in your organization.