How Women in Finance are Leading at Speed
In today’s volatile economic environment, Finance teams are constantly having to react and respond to diverse challenges. And Finance leaders are at the forefront of helping their organizations overcome siloed decision-making caused by external forces and internal complexities. As businesses navigating through these challenges, Finance leaders can find opportunity to implement strategic initiatives that will empower their organizations to lead at speed.
In OneStream’s inaugural Women in Finance webinar, we discussed the evolution of finance and what that means for women in business today. Following the success of that discussion, OneStream hosted a second Women in Finance webinar, moderated by Pam McIntyre, Corporate Controller of OneStream Software. The webinar featured three dynamic leaders in very diverse organizations which included Jacqui Allard, Chief Accounting Officer of Cimpress, Cathy Kresnak, VP Finance, Finance Transformation Program at Johnson Controls, and Kathleen Le, Director of Finance at Zayo Group. Below are the highlights of the customer panel discussion, including their thoughts on how Finance is leading at speed and staying agile in the 2020’s.
The Keys to Leading at Speed
The customer panel discussion kicked off with the women reflecting on what leading at speed means to them within their unique organizations. Overall, the leaders agreed that it requires a combination of factors, but adaptability was a key theme. “Being a leader during these times means continuing to push the organization towards success no matter what gets in the way, and to do it with the best tools possible,” said Le. “For me leading at speed combines the ability to adapt, the ability to motivate, to make efficient decisions and most importantly continue to move forward.”
Allard added: “Leading at speed is really important. But if speed is your goal you will miss opportunities in what your company is trying to accomplish. You have to be able to pivot and adapt with the path to get to your goal successfully.” Allard stressed the importance of effective communication and alignment across departments, roles, and levels within the organization to ensure buy-in from everyone who will be impacted by the initiative. Kresnak continued this point: “Working in a large company, there are a lot of challenges when trying to do things quickly – a huge ship doesn’t turn easily.” She continued, “In a complex environment like ours, it’s important to get the enterprise excited and the teams encouraged to see the benefits of a new tool. It’s about the balance between accomplishing it quickly, accurately and delivering a strong result in the end.”
Rationalizing Finance Systems at Cimpress
According to Allard, Cimpress needed a solution that would produce a smooth and fast close process to enable improved planning and reporting processes. “We have so many different businesses with different brands, different identities, and different initiatives. When we looked at the CPM market, many solutions were positioning the businesses to be on the same system, with the same controls, and that they should be more efficient because they are marching down the same line. But that wasn’t going to work for us.” Cimpress needed a solution that was going to appreciate and accommodate all of the different ERPs and all of the different sizes of businesses to make sure they are all successful.
“Finding OneStream was like finding a unicorn. Instead of trying to get the data aligned at the bottom level, we let the processes happen as they should and grab the data at the top,” said Allard. “OneStream aligned with how we think about our business strategically, by letting local teams keep their systems, with an added translation layer that enabled the teams to become much more efficient and speed up the close.” Cimpress went live on OneStream across all their businesses with full consolidation and management reporting and are looking to go live with their budget solution next month.
Zayo Group Goes Live with a Big Bang
Next, Le discussed the approach Zayo Group took to eliminate multiple point solutions for financial consolidation, rolling forecasting, task management, vendor analysis and dashboarding. Le and her team went live on OneStream – with everything at once – in a short 6-month period. “We move very quickly at Zayo, but we wanted to make sure on the financial side that all the data was talking to each other so that we didn’t have any questions on the accuracy. We were able to eliminate our prior consolidation tool, Prophix, and add on a Task Management solution for the accounting close which helped us get from a 17-day close to a 5-day close. The platform has given us so much more efficiency and visibility into the data.”
On top of this success, Zayo Group was able to eliminate their Excel models and implemented a rolling forecast. They now have a standardized forecasting model and have automated processes that used to take hours to run in Excel. The trial balances are in OneStream and they are able to transfer that data onto the forecasting side to report all operational metrics.
Finance Transformation at Johnson Controls
With over 100K employees and $30B in annual revenue, streamlining internal systems and processes at a large enterprise like Johnson Controls is a critical factor to leading with agility and speed. That’s why the organization is moving from Oracle Hyperion Financial Management to OneStream. “As we embark on our transformation journey, we think about it in phases of process, technology, and people. What are the processes, how can we standardize them through technology, and how can we make sure they are globally accepted?”
Because of the complexity of Johnson Controls’ landscape and the global nature of the organization, they have over 100 ERPs plus tons of separate tools that are used to get data sets and perform analytics. External reporting is the top priority now, but Kresnak and her team see a future roadmap to benefit from all capabilities of OneStream. “We look at this project as the opportunity to set the platform for the future and how we look at Finance. We want to position OneStream as a catalyst for change as our organization and the businesses within in continue to evolve. It’s not just a consolidation tool – it’s much more powerful – and anything the users need and want, we can accomplish. I want to push the limits with OneStream to add as much value as possible back into the company.”
Women in Finance Leadership
As we consider how the Office of Finance is evolving and moving into a much more strategic role, the customer panelists shared how they personally have adapted their leadership styles as they navigate an environment not particularly known for having female executives. “When I started my career, I didn’t have a lot of women to look up to, so it’s been nice over the years to see that evolve,” said Kresnak. “I think as you get more mature in your career, you have to be adaptable to different environments, different teams and team members. For example, I look at our OneStream project, and how our relatively small team is managing this major deployment that is going to have a massive influence across the company. So I think whether male or female, it is that experience and collaborative effort that we bring to a team that really adds value.”
Allard attested to having strong mentors throughout her career – both men and women – who have helped shape her leadership style. “When I first started out, there was a very cookie cutter idea of what a strong leader should be and overall, we’ve seen an evolution of style in corporate America,” She continued, “Through my 20s and 30s I spent a lot of time building my foundational skills and leading with those to communicate how I can add value. As I was influenced by different leaders and gained more confidence, I became much more comfortable opening myself up from a personal perspective which has helped me connect with diverse teams with very different skillsets.”
Le also shared the importance of mentorship for woman in Finance roles. “I tried to learn from example throughout my career, and over time I took the things I liked about my mentors’ individual leadership styles and put those factors together to build my own,” she said. “Above all you need to be able to have a voice. Speak up to help with any strategy and do what is best for the organization. Being a female leader in Finance gives me the ability to make sure my organization is planning, forecasting, operating as efficiently as possible so that we can reach our goals and initiatives. And as long as our organization can continue to move forward and adapt, that’s where leading at speed is successful.”
To hear the full Women in Finance discussion, be sure to watch the webinar replay. And if you’re ready to empower your Finance teams with the ability to adapt and lead at speed, contact OneStream today!
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