In an environment where there are fewer and fewer roles in finance because of outsourcing, transformation is one of the best areas where you can still give people succession development opportunities to make them ready for the next step.
Transformation projects mean exposure to different experiences and dealing with a variety of people. It means working across different functions, whether it’s IT or HR, as well as with external parties like consultancies and systems integrators. This experience will be vital when you get to the top and need to engage and liaise with the board.
The good news is that with 80% of companies currently going through a transformation of some nature, the opportunities are rife.
Many big corporates are implementing shared services, ERP systems and business intelligence platforms where high performing Finance Directors are required to sponsor the change. That person may drive it to success, but they also might fall on their sword, and that could really damage their reputation.
The organisation has a responsibility to ensure that the person they put forward to lead the transformation is set up for success. This could mean providing them with a mentor or offering specialist training.
To successfully sponsor a transformation, you don’t need to know all the answers, but you need to know how to get to them. It can be a lot of pressure to put someone into a transformation role. They need the right people and support systems in place to help them.
A divisional Finance Director who is highly successful in a particular region and delivering great returns to the group may be identified as a future leading light who will drive the business on to great things. But that doesn’t mean you can elect them to be the sponsor on a global shared services project, when they have little or no experience of delivering transformation on that scale.
This is where you may need to consider bringing in external talent. If you bring in an interim executive with specialist experience in the area you need, they can work alongside the Finance Director as a mentor and advisor. They provide the assurance and governance to support them in successfully delivering the transformation.
There’s every reason why a company should invest in high-performing individuals. If they get it right it will improve their confidence and give them a better shot at being a future CFO. But they need to be supported by the business to be successful. Otherwise, it’s a case of one step forward two steps backwards, and that’s only going to set them back on their journey to the top.
Ultimately, the responsibility lies with the CEO to make sure that whoever they have invited to be the sponsor is given the right tools or taught and developed in the right way to lead a major transformation. Because these skills don’t just develop overnight.
Transformation projects also provide people with opportunities to fix an area of the business they’re frustrated with. Even if they don’t want to progress or be the next CFO, it still gives them the chance to do something that will help improve their experience within the business and retain them.
If a CFO has been engaged in conversation and dialogue with their team, they’ll know where the areas of frustration are. They’ll also know who is being most vocal about a particular frustration, which will lead them to the right person to drive its improvement. Again, whether they will be successful comes down to whether or not they are equipped with the right skills.
Transformation gives people the opportunity to gain experience in different areas and build up their knowledge about how these areas work. It gives them access to skills and learning that they wouldn’t normally get when it comes to business as usual. And this can set them up with the skills and resilience needed to be successful at the top.