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Jamie Lyon

By Jamie Lyon, head of corporate sector, ACCA

There’s a new kid on the block for business service delivery and it could be a threat or a major opportunity for finance chiefs. We’re all pretty familiar now with the advent of finance shared services and outsourcing, but Global Business Services goes one step further, leveraging sourcing methodologies, organisation structures and operating locations to create a cross-functional business support operation across HR, IT, Finance, Procurement, delivered under one governance framework. In theory it should mean greater business efficiencies, better visibility on end-to-end processes across the organisation, better insight into organisational data, and greater organisation flexibility and scale. There are, however, few examples where all support functions are wrapped around this new delivery framework – it’s an aspiration rather than a reality for most right now, with some but not all of the “GBS” boxes ticked, and it could be that GBS is more of a marketing term to signify a major business transformation, when it reality what we’re talking about is still finance transformation for many….

So what’s the implication for CFOs of GBS aspirations?  There’s plenty of evidence that those organisations which have GBS aspirations are typically putting CFOs in charge. With functional silos broken down, and processes managed end to end, the real prize for the finance organisation is that they should have access to a scale and scope of corporate data being brought together that they have previously unknown. This enhanced data visibility across the organisation, combined with new technologies and business partnering capabilities could help finance chiefs deliver the sorts of insights that truly make a difference to the strategic direction of the organisation, or which impact directly on bottom line performance.

But do many CFOs care about GBS or indeed want ownership? Are some likely to see it as a major political headache, riddled with enormous organisational complexity and logistical challenges. Could GBS be seen as a significant diversion from all their other responsibilities? CFO’s don’t have to “own” GBS to get the potential benefits, and it can be someone else’s problem. Maybe it should not sit within the CFO domain at all, perhaps the CIO or indeed the COO is better placed to ensure it has an appropriate seat at the corporate table.

One final note – if GBS aspirations are realised, moving finance operations and finance “service delivery” into a cross-functional structure and reporting model is likely to impact on the skills needed; it will almost certainly impact the career paths that finance professionals have access to.  These are some of the issues we have been raising in ACCA’s latest report. Co-authored with Deborah Kops of Sourcing Change: Global Business Services – a game changer for finance? we explore some of the questions which aren’t necessarily being asked. GBS has enormous potential for many businesses, but there remain a lot of unanswered questions.

This blogpost was first featured on CFO World website, November 2013

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By Arvind Shankar, managing director, Accenture Business Services, and Julie Spillane, EMEA director and Ireland director, Accenture Business Services

When evolving to a global business services (GBS) model, a key challenge is how to quickly grow, at scale, in an offshore environment with the depth of capability and tacit knowledge typically held in the onshore environment, which has been developed over many years.

Immediately, from a sourcing talent perspective, the question becomes how you seed the operation with the right mix of capabilities, and whether you buy some of that talent in externally, borrow it from the onshore environment or build the skills locally. This is particularly important when you recognise the breadth of management and business capabilities you need in a GBS environment typically extends beyond traditional functional boundaries. The approach to sourcing and developing talent and the ‘build, buy, borrow’ question will not be addressed fully by looking at talent recruitment and development solely through a Global Business Services or solely through a functional finance lens. An integrated approach is needed that views talent through both lenses.

As GBS itself is cross-functional in nature, GBS organisations often find it easier to cultivate an ‘integrated’ approach internally; for example, providing opportunities for employees through programmes such as rotational assignments in and out of different areas to grow individual capabilities and skills. The demarcation between technical, business and functional knowledge also starts to disappear in GBS where roles are created in areas such as programme management, service management and quality management. In short, there are more opportunities for employees to grow and enhance their skills given GBS multi-function structure.

As the GBS organisation continues to grow its reputation and its mandate increases, it is more able to push the talent agenda. There are, of course, challenges in the GBS environment; while in some senses the talent base and pool in more cost-effective locations may be much broader, the turnover is also higher. Robust succession plans, training programmes, and knowledge transfer processes become critical in these environments.

In contrast, traditional functional finance organisations often find talent management challenging, and that’s a reflection of historic practices and functional structures. It is also a reflection of the impact transformation has had particularly on the retained finance function, the re-articulation of its role, its capacity in the future in terms of career opportunities and the engagement levels of staff. Those in the retained organisation that have embraced the shift towards global business services are better placed to capitalise on the opportunities. This is particularly true if they have experience on both sides of the ‘fence’. This puts them in a strong position from their own career point of view. From an organisational perspective we have to be very mindful of these challenges and differences in the two organisational models when developing an integrated approach to talent.

Solutions – creating a global integrated approach to talent development

  1. The development of integrated approaches to talent is essential. In a global, matrixed business such as Accenture, it is essential to adopt an integrated approach to talent which provides both a GBS view and a finance function view of middle-senior management talent. This gives business leaders much greater clarity to where their talent sits, how it cuts across geographies, functions or role levels, and how it may be deployed across the entirety of finance and GBS roles to best meet the needs of the entity as a whole. It’s a much more holistic view which helps drive an effective succession planning process as well as identifying capability gaps. It also helps GBS become more integrated in developing the broader finance leadership.
  2. Create ‘finance’ roles as part of the finance leadership team that bridge GBS and the retained finance function. A number of senior level roles within the Accenture organisation have evolved which have both GBS and finance functional responsibilities. This helps drive synergies between these different entities and gives a view from both sides of the fence so that challenges and opportunities that may arise as part of the broader transformation journey can be anticipated. It also brings informed insights to cross fertilise talent between GBS and the finance function.
  3. Deliver learning interventions that drive a more global outlook and help strengthen GBS – retained finance relationships. To ensure parity of understanding and knowledge of our finance teams within GBS compared to the retained/in-country finance teams, we have supported colleagues through the ACCA qualification in our centres. This has significantly raised capabilities across GBS and brought strong reputational benefits. It helps develop a global perspective across GBS as well as providing individuals with greater career opportunities. In addition, we have invested in building coaching skills and have also introduced a career counselling programme which is independent of line management. For the senior management team in GBS, their career counsellors are actually based in the functional organisation, which helps strengthen relationships.

This case study appeared in an ACCA report on Talent and capability in global finance functions. As part of ACCA’s qualitative research leading organisations shared their approaches.

By Madelein Smit, vice president Corporate IS & S Ceva Logistics

At CEVA several years ago we embarked on a finance transformation programme which included outsourcing of certain finance processes, and we viewed this as a critical lever for change, not only transforming the finance cost base, but also helping us evolve the skill-sets of the organisation so that we had the right capabilities and talent in place across the embedded finance teams, the retained finance organisation and our outsourced relationships. There is always a balance to be struck between driving out cost across the finance organisation and ensuring you are well placed to develop and keep the appropriate talent and knowledge inside the organisation.

These developments have given a new purpose for the retained organisation and its focus is now on new capabilities such as business partnering, financial insight and ensuring appropriate management of our outsourced finance service operations – so strong relationship management is key. It’s also about being prepared for the finance organisation to ‘let go’ of previous responsibilities that have transferred to the outsourced partner. We fully recognise that the retained finance team is being asked to develop new skills because their role is re-articulated, and we also recognise their engagement is vital in driving the finance organisation of the future.

  1. Solutions – driving engagement in the retained finance team. Recognise the changed role of the retained finance team and plan for the development of new capabilities. We’ve implemented a talent management process, a mentoring process and a wide range of learning opportunities to ensure we develop the new capabilities and skills needed by the retained team. Don’t forget developing the right behaviours is key too, and proactively plan for this.
  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. The finance transformation journey is difficult, particularly for the retained finance team which typically reduces in size and is impacted most. Having a clear communication strategy to keep retained finance staff engaged and motivated is critically important; celebrate successes publicly and make sure you have communication channels in place to acknowledge exceptional performers.
  3. Embed a culture of personal responsibility for careers too. Our people have a wide range of tools and interventions at their disposal, but we also want individuals to take their own responsibility too. One of the areas we are investigating is the encouragement of cross-border and cross-country movement, but of course as the number of roles reduces, this becomes more challenging so we have to think innovatively of how we do this and carve out opportunities for ambitious people.

This case study appeared in an ACCA report on Talent and capability in global finance functions. As part of ACCA’s qualitative research leading organisations shared their approaches. 

Jamie Lyon
By Jamie Lyon, head of corporate sector, ACCA
What will the future career path of a CFO look like? It is common knowledge that the role has been evolving for some time. However, much less discussed is what the implication might be for ‘where’ the future talent pipeline of finance leaders would come from?

There are a number of huge issues likely to shape the debate. In some quarters, we have seen more CFOs come from non-traditional finance and accounting backgrounds, particularly those with banking and deal-making in their career history.

Then there are regional trends as to the likely backgrounds of CFOs. One could also ask if the changing footprint and focus of business operations (more on emerging markets / less on western mature markets) might raise the longer term possibility of an increase in Asia-based CFOs leading western organisations in the future.

There are also other significant factors shaping the talent equation. For instance, the growth in shared services, outsourcing and the increasing trend towards global business services may significantly change the geographic footprint of future finance talent pools.

Another question is whether technological changes would lead to exponential changes in the face of finance operations rendering traditional CFO / finance skills less relevant? One could also mull over whether finance functions are likely to reduce their headcount more generally and the finance talent pool shrinks as a result (the more for less idea)?

All of these things are quite possible, but I am bound to say that I still think there is a bright future for traditional finance and accounting training in the face of all these developments.

A core grounding in finance essentials is always likely to be beneficial, but also other attributes that can be gained through training towards a professional accounting qualification – a critical mind-set, being able to exercise professional judgement, and above all else the “independence” that finance professionals can bring to decision making that is enshrined in their training.

From me, these qualities should always stand the test of time. Do you agree/disagree?

This blogpost first appeared in CFO World, April 2013

By Tony Campion, strategic business partner HR, Coca Cola

As our shared service operations are reasonably new, we are still in the process of working through some of the talent challenges we face, and a key area of focus is how we keep people engaged and how we develop them. We have quite limited bandwidth to continuously promote people into new roles within the finance centres, and with on-going challenges in the wider economy we find people are tending to stay rather than move on to new opportunities in the external environment. Our focus is on establishing the reputation of the finance centres and making sure a ‘them’ and ‘us’ culture does not prevail across the broader finance function, because this obviously impacts in driving mobility of people from the business into the shared service centre but also vice-versa. We also recognise that the skills needed by finance professionals in the shared service centre are quite different – they aren’t skills that are always prioritised or developed in a traditional finance organisation.

Solutions – building capabilities in new operations

  1. Recognise different locations may bring different capabilities. We see strengths and weaknesses across our different locations, so it’s important to think more broadly in terms of capabilities that are needed in different areas, and how these complement each other. You also need to factor this in to location selection.
  2. Appreciate that shared service operations call into play a different skill-set, and plan to develop these. We consistently use a 70/20/10 blended learning approach which develops the technical, business and management skills increasingly needed – we see capabilities such as cultural skills, virtual working, change management, working in a matrixed environment and of course customer service as essential. We are currently establishing a coaching programme to provide opportunities for individuals to learn from more experienced hires.
  3. Ensure a talent review process is embedded into the performance management process and plan for succession. We use a rating system which rates both the achievement of objectives and the achievement of competencies. We also assess those with high potential and build this into a transparent formal succession plan.

This case study appeared in an ACCA report on Talent and capability in global finance functions. As part of ACCA’s qualitative research leading organisations shared their approaches.