Transforming Finance into a Strategic Business Partner

Transforming Finance into a Strategic Business Partner

By Mark Kaye, Chief Financial Officer and Lori Tansley, Head of Data Analytics & Financial Transformation, Moody's Corporation

Mark Kaye, Chief Financial Officer and Lori Tansley, Head of Data Analytics & Financial Transformation, Moody's Corporation

At many companies, finance departments are in the midst of a fundamental transformation - from a back-office function built for accounting, budgeting, controls, and transactional activities to a strategic business partner - one that is evaluated on its contribution to enterprise-extensive value creation and growth. Successfully making this shift requires new investments and refocused priorities. Most importantly, it requires a changed approach to people and culture.

"A team that plays an active role in the journey from the start will more likely be engaged and energized"

As we began this shift at Moody’s, we prioritized investment in our people to help them build the skills required to meet increasing expectations from the business and adapt to an accelerating pace of global change. At the same time, we invested in digital capabilities and tools - not just to automate routine transactional tasks, but to develop essential competencies around emerging disciplines such as data science, robotics, visualization, and business intelligence, with the targeted goal of holistically transforming our organization and the value we provide our customers. To lay this foundation for the future, we are moving to an intelligent, next-generation cloud-based ERP business suite while also standardizing global processes.

The transformation is a collective effort, supported by leadership, that brings together our global Finance, IT, and HR teams, as well as our business leaders. Among the partners in this effort, we have worked to build a shared understanding that transformation requires us to challenge organizational norms and the status quo while engaging with leaders and managers at all levels to ensure buy-in and accountability. We are supported by Accenture, our implementation partner, which is providing us with industry-leading practices that support our efforts.

A culture of digital exploration

Moody’s is also fostering a change in lifestyle to a workplace where digital research is encouraged, and employees are empowered to learn and to identify opportunities in support of disruptive innovation. Through a “Champion” program, employees identify automation opportunities and build solutions that can free up resources to focus on higher-value activities. For example, we introduced robotic process automation (RPA) solution that automates the routine task of sending follow-up emails to customers with outstanding invoices, saving hundreds of hours of manual work each year. We assign a scoring to our automation opportunities based on value-added and keep a dynamic pipeline for building and rolling out solutions.

Empowering employees to explore emerging technologies has been a critical element and driver of our cultural change. Several teams have built a working knowledge of data visualization tools, allowing them to spend more time providing analytical insights and less time creating static presentations. As team members develop skills, they have come together to share their successes and inspire their peers. Through digital learning webcasts, teams share their knowledge with colleagues globally and demonstrate how they use new self-service tools. This collaboration has had a significant impact on evolving cultural change.

We have also begun to explore and invest in data science, to leverage finance data as an asset that can provide meaningful insights to senior leaders and the business. We are currently building a pipeline of business challenges that can be addressed by various data science techniques. For example, our team is now leveraging historical billings data to improve the granularity and accuracy of cash flow forecasting.

Skill-building at the forefront

To support the finance transformation, Moody’s is developing workforce priorities for the future based on digitally-fluent workers finding insights and value from data. At the core of this work is the establishment of a future capability framework focused on critical competencies and skills aligned to a mature digital finance organization. Our focus is to maintain the traditional finance skillsets such as planning and budgeting, analyzing and advising, while incorporating the emerging digital finance skills needed to advance our teams in areas related to FinTech, “human + machine” innovation, creativity, and data science.

At the core of our development plan is a “by the people, for the people” approach. We established a cross-functional working group with a dedicated change management lead and created short-term and long-term curricula to build specific skills for Finance of the Future.

Some of our key tenets

§ Give people a voice in the transformation from the start A team that plays an active role in the journey from the start will more likely be engaged and energized, ensuring they work hard and drive success throughout the journey

§ Take risks, fail fast Exploring disruptive technology might be viewed as risky while the status quo is more comfortable. Encouraging and rewarding risk-taking accelerates change while celebrating those who step outside of their comfort zone.

§ Success starts with partner alignment Tone at the top drives exact culture change. Start with the Board of Directors and senior leadership team alignment. Establish a robust governance structure on Day 1 between all functions and key stakeholders. Clear and consistent communication is vital with the early escalation of progress, issues, and risks for debate and resolution as a team.

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Our investment in technology provides a foundation for our future. But it’s the investment in our people that is accelerating our advancement towards a mature, progressive Finance of the Future. With the right technology and a skilled workforce, we will effectively and efficiently leverage data to identify trends, communicate as a business advisor, and drive organizational change.

Mark Kaye is the Chief Financial Officer of Moody’s Corporation and oversees all of its global financial activities. He joined Moody’s in 2018 after a series of leadership roles in business finance, financial planning, and analysis, strategy and large-scale project management.

Lori Tansley is the Head of Finance Data Analytics and the Finance Transformation Office of Moody’s Corporation. She joined Moody’s in 2018, after serving as Senior Vice President, Chief Accounting Officer for a global loyalty company and previously held a series of leadership roles in controllership, financial planning and analysis and auditing at a Fortune 20 multinational conglomerate.

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