Chief Transformation Officer
Deep Shah has worked in SMEs, FTSE companies and multinational groups, and all of them had something in common. It became clear to Deep that technological transformation was fundamental for furthering the strategic vision of every organisation.
“Over the last few years, we’ve moved away from a position where the finance team just does the month-end reporting. The role of finance in itself is transforming into making better decisions, advising, consulting, to allow organisations to stay ahead of competition and really generate some sort of drive to scale up the business.”
Any transformation is focused on facilitating this change, moving finance teams away from the daily grind of monthly reporting and annual statements, Deep explains.
“Any project-based roles within transformation, ideally, should help the organisation align where they want to go with the strategic vision; how they want to achieve in the next few years.”
While transformation and technology projects once had a solid beginning and end, finance transformation should be ongoing; constant incremental changes are often more helpful than one big one, Deep explains. For one thing, you can focus on smaller but potentially valuable changes that will make a huge difference to performance. For another, incremental changes are easier for team members to accept.
“You don’t get that level of benefit if people are not actually aligned and happy to go ahead and try new things. Project-based roles involve a lot of speaking with different departments, understanding their needs, and then trying to build something with their buy in, and with management buy-in as well.”
Deep really enjoys the engagement part of the process; taking the objectives of the project to the wider team and asking them for their feedback. This often identifies areas of improvement that may not have been identified previously.
“It gives you something else to think about,” says Deep,
“If something is working perfectly, do you really want to change it? You could address the part that isn’t working properly instead of creating a whole new process. Those are the challenges that you uncover through an honest chat with people.”
The organisation needs to be clear about the type of transformational change they want to implement, and how it relates to the vision and objectives of the company. “If this is not clear and you try to change something that does not actually help with that company vision, then it’s pointless.”
Taking an ‘ongoing’ approach to transformation has other benefits, too. It’s more financially manageable to make smaller changes, and you can be more targeted in what you choose to do, potentially adding more value to the process and the organisation. It also allows for the flexibility to respond quickly as new technologies come into play.
“Organisations also should transform and adapt to what is available, but at the same time, be very specific to what they actually want or need.”
Once you get into the implementation phase, you must ensure that employees are still involved in the conversation, says Deep. Everyone on the team should know what they’re getting out of the project. Make sure the benefits outweigh the drawbacks for the change to take place.
“If they don’t, then in the eyes of the people who are working in that organisation, they will not see any benefit or add value of the expected change; they will just see a hindrance. It will seem like you’re doing something for the sake of it, which has absolutely no benefit to the employee, organisation and ultimately the end user.”
It pays to look at data and industry insight to inform decisions around transformation, he says. Deep always looks at data from other businesses in similar industries or organisation sizes to identify the impacts of similar projects to ensure it is worthwhile.
“That always gives you a benchmark to work with. It’s not just the insight from one business, you’re also looking at your competitors and doing a little bit of analysis into what has worked, what has not, to give the organisation an idea of what options they have before making the final decision and signing off the project to release the funds”
In future, Deep sees the emergence of a new role within or adjacent to the finance function that will look after the constant transformation necessary to keep an organisation moving in the right direction. The ‘Chief Transformation Officer’ role will work alongside the CFO to identify areas for change and overseeing relevant projects, engaging with multiple stakeholders along the way.
“This could be in finance or transformation in general. It will require new skills and levels of understanding, both in financial and non-financial data. It will be interesting to see how organisations adapt to that.”
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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