As one of the largest listed companies in Australia and number one bank in New Zealand, ANZ is one of the companies riding the wave of technology innovation in the finance space. They recently undertook the implementation of a tool to automate many aspects of the reconciliation process.
The project marked some firsts for the global company, most significantly, making the leap from on-premise to cloud-based information storage for more than 25 countries. They also decided to approach the project management differently by appointing a Financial Control Senior Manager, to be the Project Director within Finance Systems, which is part of overall Finance team. Colm presented on stage at Finance Innovation & Tech Fest 2017 where he shared lessons learned from the project and valuable strategies for successful large scale business process transformation.
Big Business Process Changes
ANZ is an established company – 181 years old, operating in more than 34 markets, employing more than 40,000 people and servicing 10 million customers worldwide. Colm has been at ANZ since 2006, mainly with Financial Control. Three years ago he made the jump to Finance Systems – bravely taking on the role of Finance Systems Project Director.
Colm’s first task in this new role was a large business process change project – implementing Blackline, a reconciliation automation tool, globally for ANZ. It was ANZ Finance would be putting information in the cloud in over more than 25 countries.
This was implemented as a SaaS to perform all reconciliations, give greater control, automate the mundane and to generally make reconciliation processes easier.
The implementation was a success for the finance team. They’ve seen centralised and refined processes, less manual maintenance, quick upload speeds and reporting, ease of use and remote accessibility.
3 Key Learnings from the Finance Guy in Finance Systems
Because of his background in Financial Control, Colm had a unique perspective when implementing this SaaS solution, which is highly configurable from a business perspective, in this case the business, being ANZ Finance. He had an appreciation of the business users’ point of view and his top three take away points when looking back at the project’s learnings reflect this.
Interview the Three Different Extremes of Users
When building a business case for a new technology implementation think about the people who are actually performing tasks and engage with them right at the start. Colm and his team identified three different types of users and set up extensive face-to-face interviews with each type of user to ensure they gained a wide range of user insights.
These three groups were:
- The Newbie – a new graduate who has just moved into finance. They offer fresh eyes as a brand new user of a system, with no legacy expectations.
- The High Performer – a user who constantly searches for ways to improve the processes and systems, they want to see constant progress.
- The Team Leader – someone who has responsibility to streamline processes, wherever possible.
The team got great insights into user experience by asking all of these users the same open question:
“If you had the opportunity to modernise Finance, what would you do?”
“We presented these perspectives to senior leadership. Leaders hear the same concerns from Finance teams all the time, but when the insights come from actual users it’s a valuable thing. When real insights come direct from the source, leaders take it seriously,” said Colm.
New System and Business Process Change Have to go Hand in Hand
Spend a lot of time to make sure that a new system is really speaking directly to helping with business process improvement.
“People want to be freed from the mundane tasks. We aimed to automate these tasks wherever possible to make processes more efficient, and to take the mundane out of the equation. It is important to tie business and system process changes together so that they are truly complementary,” said Colm.
Colm and his team also plotted out business processes in a visual way and identified exactly how the new technology would work to improve the processes. They also used visual cue’s to get stakeholders across the line.
“Plot out the processes that will be improved visually. Present to the CFO group in a visual way that stays with them, not just another PowerPoint,” said Colm.
Choose Someone from Finance to Lead Your Transformation Project
Encourage the use of a finance SME as a Project Director, rather than (or as well as) a project practitioner. In this case Colm had a good understanding of the needs of the Finance users, he could explain and sell the new implementation in their language and he got good buy-in from his finance colleagues.
“Stop looking externally for a solution, be in control of your own destiny. It really helped to have “one of us” from finance to lead this project. So, finance folk – be brave. Step in and lead to get the results that you want,” said Colm.
He also recommended being on the ground for training and choosing to communicate face to face to avoid email noise wherever possible.
About the Speaker
Colm Giblin is all for ‘progress’, as he sees he can help people contribute more readily through this lens, as opposed to ‘change’ which a lot of people struggle with. Colm has in recent years broadened his core finance experience, making the jump from financial control into the finance System part of finance, where he has been Project Directing global system implementations and other business change progress improvements.
Colm is a qualified accountant. He spent a decade working in various large US corporates before joining ANZ head office in 2006 where he has worked in a number or roles across finance control and Finance Systems.