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Call it what it is – a reflection on “Transformation”

Transformation- let’s discuss. I hate the word.

I hate it because it usually means new ERP and that might be fine and transformative but just call it what it is.

There comes a time you need a new ERP but many times a client who blames the system and thinks that is the solution hasn’t turned on 60% of the modules or capabilities in their current system or have bought a Tesla (we previously said Cadillac) but they drive it like a civic with no training & the same spreadsheets they used long before the last upgrade/implementation.

Or even worse is the consultant who sees $$$ and therefore sees a need for a new ERP despite the fact that if they weren’t the smartest dude in the room they may have noticed that the client said nothing of the sort and the symptoms they have described could be solved much quicker and much cheaper by leveraging the current ERP or adding a bolt-on program or even adjusting the processes.

Here is the thing, there’s no such thing as Transformation. Change happens with the following

– Tone at the top: a strategic dedication to a roadmap of change which gives a mandate to others & the investment

– Continuous improvement projects that are part of a larger strategic roadmap supported by the top

– Strong change management & project management & an investment in both

But most of all change happens by middle management. They drive change once they have the mandate to do it. They drive change by understanding where the impacts and quick wins happen. They drive change one project at a time with training, change management & project management.

They drive change by getting change done.

I love this article which discusses this exactly as I’ve seen it and experienced it: http://ow.ly/pv6C30l0vOP New Automation Is Smart, Fast, and Small #automation #transformation #continuousimprovement #change #changemanagement

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Time – never less than in summer

No better time to find a way to capture time than the summer. Stampede is sneaking up on us, followed by Q2, juggling around vacations and regret for the lack of time on the greens. Summer is busy for all of us, as accountants, in business and with family. I read the other day you get 18 summers with your kids – it added more summer pressure! Here’s a possible solution and I think it has merit for a workday too! http://ow.ly/zaso30kICUP

#timemanagement #summerpressure

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Leases – the last of my hot topics

Originally published via LinkedIn on February 27, 2018: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/leases-last-my-hot-topics-jamie-l-smith/

You are reading the last of my 2018 hot topic articles – Leases. None of my predictions are overly bold or unexpected: Talent, Automation and Leases. One could say I saved the safest for last. After all, Leases is hot because of compliance – we have to do it and we have to do it for 2019’s first quarter.

So as we come off our implementations of Revenue, Financial Instruments we now face another. Meanwhile many of us are experienced enough to still have distinct and near memories of transitioning to IFRS to begin with.

I’ve been interviewing for our team and one of the first things we address is how key Leases and the implementation of the new standard will be for our upcoming 18 months. I ask “Are you comfortable joining us and working on Leases for the next year or year and half?” And yes, we have attracted and recruited some amazing people! Professionals who recognize that Leases isn’t just compliance and it is more pervasive than most of us have previously experienced. It’s far beyond technical and complex accounting and there is an impact once implemented that extends past the limited disclosure impact many other transitions resulted in. It’s an exciting opportunity for CPAs and articling students to gain a deep understanding of a complex and new standard while also putting themselves in Finance Leaders’ shoes with consideration of the process, the technology, the controls, the business partnering and other elements that are widespread with this new standard.

Alberta and Calgary companies are largely in businesses and industries that rely heavily on leases which brings us to the first obstacle – scoping and triage.

Scoping and Triage – the first obstacle

Scoping and triage is often underestimated and extremely time consuming. If you haven’t started – despite how busy you have been with year-end and how quickly quarter-end is coming you need to make this a priority.

·       What defines a lease?

·       How do you manage contracts?

·       Where are contracts located?

These are simple and basic starting points but many organizations have to involve a great number of stakeholders to address. And guess what? The more departments or business units, the more functions (Finance, Operations, Capital Assets), the more people …. the more time consuming and complex that first step of triage and scoping becomes. Yes, I know what you are thinking “we’ve quantified the impact of leases for years in our external disclosure, how is this such a big deal?” True but the materiality and diligence of that disclosure versus what is required to implement the new standard seems to be differing widely for most and comes as the first unwelcome and unexpected surprise of the project.

There are many of the usual project steps required for the implementation of the Leases standard and many of the usual challenges as well. An operational one that stands out is the calculations and journal entries which are required.

Systems and processes – operational considerations

The data collection, the process and the technology considerations go far beyond what most industries had to tackle with recent standards or changes in GAAP. For many, the volume and risk of the calculations and journal entries will eliminate the possibility of using Excel. There are numerous software solutions available and the sophistication (and price) varies widely. It will be key for organizations to understand their requirements and their business objectives and growth as they decide what, if any, system solution they will select.

Does the system:

·       Deal with contract modifications, re-measurements & variance payments

·       Integrate with your current ERP or system

·       Provide an audit trail associated with the journal entry and provide continuous  journal entries with liability, interest and amortization

·       Track renewal and termination options within the agreement

·       Assist with financial statement disclosures

·       Provide industry agnostic alignment or was it build for real estate or other specific industries?

·       Electronically store documents

·       Calculate the lease liability and ROU throughout the contract

·       Are current users happy with it? Are they using it for similar purposes?

And let’s face it experts in technical accounting don’t always have expertise in process and systems so how will the Steering Committees and project teams ensure that decisions are being well thought out and that the right information is being considered? And the right team members, business advisors and consultants are included?

And how will those committees and teams ensure that their people don’t get so tangled in accounting research memos, system selection and implementation and project management that they forget to take a step back and think of the key performance metrics, the balance sheet presentation and the financial statement user (investor)’s perspective?

What about covenants and other ratios?

And how about controls and the audit?

It is a lot and I haven’t covered it all. Meanwhile, as per usual, Finance Leaders and their teams have been busy, so I think it’s hot for 2018. It is pervasive and stimulating and an opportunity. Do you agree or are you already in the final stretch?

Articles and videos that relate:

My original article: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/too-late-post-2018-predictions-jamie-l-smith/

My Talent article: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/talent-hot-finance-2018-jamie-l-smith/

My Automation article: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/automation-finance-lightbulbs-jamie-l-smith/

Deloitte point of view on leases: https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/risk/us-advisory-lease-accounting-overview.pdf

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Automation, Finance and Lightbulbs

Originally published via LinkedIn on February 14, 2018: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/automation-finance-lightbulbs-jamie-l-smith/

So for 2018 I said that another hot topic was “Transformation and the ‘lightbulb’ moment that we need to get on board with automation and strategic opportunities that exist”.

We have been talking about automation and technology in Finance for years. It was my buying and interest in reconciliation software that introduced me to the Deloitte team I’m part of today.

Disruption, robotics, cloud commuting and the “dangers” of excel are all common and old discussions. We work with clients on their technology requirements and solutions regularly.

What is the ‘lightbulb’ for 2018?

The media in general is over-rotating on all of this with much fear added in. Fear is great for entertainment and shock value. New capitalism (once all our jobs are gone), the dangers of artificial intelligence (AI), the need for new educational focuses and many other discussions are hot on podcasts, news programs, articles and social media. Movies have always explored the science fiction ideas of robots, AI and technology. We see television following suit too and even revisiting history and the perceived dangers of technology (For example, Manhunt Unabomber was recommended to me 3+ times so my husband and I jumped on the trend and finished the binge last night).

What is lighting up for Finance?

As I previously started to discuss (see links below) we see a conflict within Finance. On the one hand there are change agents that have pushed for improved efficiency, better controls and a less costly Finance department for years. Some of them have found it an uphill battle and some are tiring of fighting that case largely on their own.

Meanwhile others have tried before and they fell into the majority and experienced a rocky or failed implementation where the value expected was not achieved and the road to Day one was hard travelled. They are hesitant now and struggle to believe and communicate the value of transformation or even continuous improvement investments.

In the meantime, most Finance professionals recognize that the millennials they hire expect a certain level of user-friendly interfaces and access to tools and technology that enhance their abilities to provide value in a meaningful way. They won’t stay in jobs that feel repetitive or do not feel part of a larger meaningful goal.

Similarly, most Finance professionals recognize that given this repetitive nature and the manual tasks that there is an opportunity that is strategic and transformational.

We, as Finance leaders, feel underutilized and crave the opportunity to add value and step up as strategists and catalysts within the organization. Our team members that are loyal stewards and operators want to be doing their roles in support of a leader and a team that is seen as a business partner and has a seat at the decision making table.

These conflicting forces have prevented us from making strategic transformation decisions relating to our Finance Operating Model. And yet, we know that we may not be ready for a large scale transformation in all cases but we also know that at minimum we need to proceed with some continuous improvement projects and a Finance IT strategy.

What is ahead?

I heard someone say the other day that with cloud computing a review of process was not applicable. Due to the lack of customization and the automatic upgrades the new system would force best practice. I don’t agree. I think there is no “magic bullet” and that there is many considerations that technology alone can not address. While best practice may be forced that doesn’t eliminate the need to review process (and consider people). For example:

When I discussed Talent ((see link below) I asked: Do we have a culture that supports the technology? Do we have talent that has the right training? Do we have the change management expertise to help us transform?

Additional questions would be around the data quality and inputs – are they set up in a way that allows us to get what we expect from the technology? Is the level of detail appropriate? Can we use the technology to get what we need for financial reporting, disclosure and compliance as well as operations and financial planning and analysis?

These considerations and others lead to additional work around process and controls and people and can be discouraging. After all a silver bullet or the sales pitch we heard from the vendors didn’t sound nearly as challenging.

But the business cases are strong and the options available can meet or exceed the requirements that most Finance teams set as objectives. We have seen cases of reduced days for close, cases of sustainable full-time employee numbers during high growth periods, reduced employee costs in cases of less growth, cases of reduced cost per transaction/invoice/receivable, cases of >100% decline in manual journal entries and other measurable metrics which were outlined as objectives.

We’ve seen clients who had failures, “okay” projects and successes. The difference? Nothing complicated but the often rushed, misunderstood, informal or neglected:

  • Roadmap with clear milestones, some quick wins and patience for the long-term initiatives
  • Project management
  • Change management
  • Clear scope and requirements assessment
  • Dedicated staff and well-understood roles and responsibilities
  • Tone at the Top and decision makers that are educated and understand the landscape of options and the art of the possible

So much more could be said about this. Let’s discuss? Do you agree it is hot for 2018?

Articles and videos that relate:

My original article: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/too-late-post-2018-predictions-jamie-l-smith/

My Talent article: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/talent-hot-finance-2018-jamie-l-smith/

A Deloitte discussion on the future of work: https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/focus/technology-and-the-future-of-work/evolution-of-work-seven-new-realities.html

A Deloitte discussion on the CFOs and technology: http://deloitte.wsj.com/riskandcompliance/2017/10/24/technology-and-talent-are-among-cfos-top-concerns-cfo-signals/

Jack Ma on education and computers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQCF3PtAaSg

Ed Weinstein on new capitalism from automation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYsy6qbKp3Y

As previously shared, discussions that relate to transformation and automation and talent:

https://work.qz.com/1096816/productivity-is-not-only-about-individual-performance/

https://hbr.org/2017/12/fulfilling-the-promise-of-ai-requires-rethinking-the-nature-of-work-itself?_lrsc=0ecd19d6-3658-4ebc-ba92-29cbeed61694&id=wl:2sm:3li:4elevate:5awa:6oth:105083:253258