How new financial directors can champion change in the first 100 days

New year, new job? When joining a new organisation, the first 100 days are often key to implementing change and creating value for your organisation. Richard Hughes, Chief Financial Officer at Proactis, outlines the four key considerations for any transformation.

Entering a new workforce allows financial directors (FDs) a unique opportunity to review their company’s position with fresh eyes. Making a meaningful impact in a new role is often at the top of the list for newly appointed FDs, but it is never long before urgent work and, very often, firefighting takes over, meaning the due diligence required to conduct a holistic review of processes and procedures can often be pushed to the side.

Harvard Business Review found that utilising internal networks is key to making an impact[1], allowing newcomers to fully engage in their role, and boost productivity and innovation. The initial period of settling into a new role offers a unique opportunity to effect organisational change. So, during this time, a new FD must take it upon themselves to quickly get to know the environment and dynamics of their new workplace, as they aim to make a positive impact.

As a senior leader, it is important to understand the exact position of your company and, in order to be effective in this determining period of the first 100 days, financial decision makers must identify the most valuable information through a series of strategic reviews.

The four-point checklist

Following four key steps will help to ensure business-critical decisions are impactful and evidence based – closing gaps and creating opportunities to reduce costs, save time and improve Purchase-to-Pay (P2P) cycles.

  1. Spending – It is essential that FDs have a clear overview of all spend – direct and indirect – within the organisation. In identifying which departments are spending over the odds, or attracting penalty fees by delaying payments, problem areas can be identified and rectified.

Automation is one of the most powerful tools for streamlining spend management – and any business practice for that matter. Modular solutions, which can integrate with the enterprise resource planning (ERP) or finance systems, can be implemented swiftly – a key consideration that could offer ‘quick wins’ in any FD’s first few months. These automated P2P procedures can help businesses to drive maximum value by saving time, money and creating visibility, providing an unprecedented level of control over their spending.

  1. Suppliers – Conducting a holistic review of the suppliers linked with your organisation, particularly with a fresh perspective, can help to uncover inconsistencies in procedures, such as contract management and invoicing systems.

Transparency is central to driving cost savings, and relying on outdated methods for supplier handling can lead to duplicate agreements and auto-renewals of contracts that could have otherwise been reassessed. So, when it comes to supplier management, easily accessible contracts managed through electronic contract management systems can better inform procurement decision-making when compared with manual, de-centralised processes.

  1. Risks – It’s vital that new FDs look to identify weak links in their organisational structure. Where there is lack of visibility, there is risk of additional costs being incurred or, as previously suggested, inefficient contracts being automatically rolled over. Having a clear view of how agreements are managed is key.

Risk management cannot be seen simply as a one-off – or even annual – exercise. In order to be effective and allow organisations to reap the maximum benefit from contracts, it must be built into ongoing business interactions. In today’s complex world, risk management is just as critical to your organisation’s financial health and competitive performance as an individual’s focus on value creation.

  1. Processes – ‘Walking through’ a random invoice’s journey through your payment process is a simple yet incredibly informative task to help uncover such risks. However, it is also important to take on verbal and written feedback from employees who have been working with such systems for years. What do they feel is working, and what are their hurdles?

Being able to automatically collect, manage and track all financial information throughout the P2P system in one central repository means the need for manual searching or managing multiple software applications is eliminated, helping to improve accuracy as well as efficiency. It can identify errors and discrepancies, which can be rectified without delay to ensure the organisation is driving maximum value across budgets.

Across all four of these strategic areas, FDs should look to get a clear sense of where things are now, and where they want things to be. In order to get there, what must be changed? And how can their organisation make this change happen? All of these elements combined will provide a robust grounding from which transformation can be built.

Implementing informed change

Ultimately, a newcomer’s role at any organisation is to bring experience and fresh perspective to operations. The most important thing a senior leader can do is to establish a culture of change by promoting an environment that embodies this change, and propels it forward. Change must be credible, clear and compelling – and the way this is communicated throughout every layer of the business is key to how well it is embraced, thus how effective it can be in the long run.

This change does not need to be a large-scale, sweeping overhaul of operations to be meaningful. It can be as simple as modernising existing processes, and introducing automation to support current ways of working. Once organisational inefficiencies are identified, solutions that can be quickly and efficiently implemented with minimal disruption can then be considered.

If seeking to make a substantial impact within the first 100 days of a new role, FDs should turn to automation to support their goals. Employing digital tools to enhance existing procedures illustrates leadership skills and can be enforced rapidly, in return delivering a swift realisation of cost savings, in addition to winning over employee trust.

[1] https://hbr.org/2021/11/how-to-succeed-quickly-in-a-new-role

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