“I like simplicity and creating winning teams,” says Bulent Semovski, Financial Director at consulting sustainable engineering group, Ramboll. “There’s a lot of complexity in finance systems but sometimes, it’s about focusing on simple solutions. Often it’s a question of trial and error with a twist without overcomplicating things.”
Bulent, who first started his finance career sixteen years ago as an auditor at Deloitte, believes simplicity is the key to overcoming issues and challenges within the finance function.
And he should know. Bulent has spent the past eight years as a finance professional, first as a CFO at Airtech (product company delivering air pollution control systems), then as Finance Director at Ramboll (Market Finance Director for Ramboll Water Service Line and Country Finance Director for Ramboll Americas), overseeing the finance function, and, more recently, a major acquisition between Ramboll and US-based engineering and construction specialist O’Brien & Gere.
The Ramboll-O’Brien & Gere acquisition was, as Bulent explains, a really strong cultural match, and it also matched Ramboll’s strategic position and aim of having a bigger foothold in America.
The acquisition involved almost 2,000 employees across both companies. Bulent’s role involved leading a team driving financial and operation integrations as part of this acquisition, which was no easy feat.
Consolidating the financial systems used by both Ramboll & O’Brien & Gere was a much more complicated process than anticipated: O’Brien & Gere were using Oracle for several business functions, not just finance, so the resulting database was huge. Weeding out relevant data was therefore a massive operation.
“It was decided early on that we’d stay with the ERP system Ramboll use globally – Deltek Maconomy for Finance – and migrate O’Brien & Gere’s data into ours,” Bulent explains.
“We just hadn’t realised until later quite how big the Oracle database was. It wasn’t just transactions and reporting – it was much more than that. At the same time, there was another layer of complexity around legal entities. Ramboll and now O’Brien & Gere are not just one legal entity, but a matrix organisation, so there were added complications around reporting within different legal entities and within different services, such as water, energy and environmental services.”
In the interim, it was necessary for the two financial systems to run simultaneously, consolidating month-end figures including budgets and forecasts via an ERP bridge to the Ramboll data warehouse.
The ERP migration finally took place in August 2020, after being put back twice due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“One of my clear objectives right from the start, apart from gaining a deep understanding of O’Brien & Gere’s operations and processes and overseeing the successful transition of two financial systems, was to create a winning team spirit and a culture of transparency to ensure employees across both companies were fully aware and involved in the process.”
And they were. Engagement levels and morale were high and amazingly, no redundancies were necessary. Quite simply, everyone had a role to play. It was all hands-on deck.
“When it comes to transformational change, it’s important to acknowledge that this stuff is important,” says Bulent.
“You have to ensure there’s a clear plan, that people know what’s going on and that they have a way of influencing what’s going to happen.”
“It’s not ‘we’re changing things now and you all have to comply’. Instead, you must make sure people can see where you’re heading and that there’s a shared vision. That’s how you’ll get followership.”
So how does Bulent, personally, achieve followership from his team?
“I see myself as a motivational leader,” he explains. “I want to develop myself and I want to see others develop, too. I’m also quality minded – I think through things really carefully, thinking through the implications and risks. That mindset rubs off on the team.”
“But I think that followership is also about the people you’ve got around you: who you inspire and influence and who they in turn, inspire and influence.”
The people side is one of the most enjoyable aspects of Bulent’s role, the other being the business advisory and analytical side.
“I like interpreting and analysing numbers, seeing trends and then deep diving into those trends and help facilitate understanding to help drive strategy,” says Bulent. “But it’s also about working with people, building the team and having the best people around you. That, more than anything, is critical for business success."
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Chris is the founder and MD of GenerationCFO.com and creator of the Digital Finance Function Model and a contributor to many articles on our platform. Chris focuses on the shift toward digital transformation in accounting and finance, shows you what good looks like, then helps to get you there!
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