CFOs discuss their role as change agents at intimate dinner

Never has there been a time when IT and business have experienced so many synergies and when the need to transform was so consistently urgent. Change management was the topic of an intimate networking dinner organised by CFO South Africa in partnership with Oracle and principal sponsor KPMG – both at the forefront of fast-tracking change – at the prestigious Four Season Westcliff hotel in Johannesburg on Thursday evening, 20 August 2015. Finance executives from various industries took full advantage of the opportunity to swap notes with their peers and expand their knowledge bases.

How do CFOs prepare for change? How do they determine how much to invest in change and the tangible returns? Is it possible for them to see themselves as true agents of change and the change itself as a crucial to business, rather than "pink and fluffy" or a small function of HR? These were just some of the questions posed during the dinner.

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A Country Manager from a tech company identified the modern CFO as a combination of a diligent Finance man and a risk-taking entrepreneur. He recommended that companies provide a platform advocating and instigating constant change to build a culture of transformation and focus on agility and eliminating bureaucracy to stoke innovation. "Change is very quick today. You can't look at it as a project. Companies need to be able to change all the time to suit the customer, not wait for the customer to adapt to them," he explained.

KPMG identified four stages of change management:

  • Make It Known (communication)
  • Make It Real (translating the change into real terms)
  • Make It Happen (managing the change through workshops and seminars)
  • Make It Stick (sustaining the change through HR policies and performance measures, for example).

Quantifying the change, being honest and authentic and constant communication were considered key tenets of change management. "Don't leave it till it's too late. Engage with employees and provide regular updates to create highly motivated teams. People want to be heard. We want to hear the resistant voice - there is often a lot of wisdom in it. You can often manage resistance by working with the dissenters," said a KPMG executive.

The role of the modern CFO is as much about transformation as it is about the numbers.

In its dealings with a large telecommunications company, the services giant found that CFOs were after more insights, data and trends from consultants because they were finding that it was important to have a better understanding to efficiently direct transformation. KPMG often uses dialogue sessions with executives to break through psychological blocks and manage down the risk of potential explosions.

A CFO of an international technology firm had gone through a painful process of revolution with his team after recognising that the financial department was in need of a serious overhaul to meet compliance requirements. The man he had tasked with the project had left the company soon after and three months after investing a lot of money into the new initiative, the team had insisted that the exercise was pointless. However, through the regular re-iteration of the vision, targeting of quick successes and outlining process and performance KPIs upfront, he was able to quell their fears. This was a prime example of a CFO getting involved in the operational side of a business and enforcing change.

Ultimately, the message coming out of the evening was that change is constant and here to stay - the only option is to embrace it; anything else is short-sighted.

  • For the photos of the event please have a look here.

Here's the list of attendees:

  • Alexander Visser, Philips Africa CFO Philips Africa
  • Ashley Francis, UCT Finance Director
  • Dario Drago, Novartis Country CFO
  • Deon Fredericks, Telkom South Africa Chief Financial Officer
  • Greg Field, Nissan South Africa Director: Corporate & Finance
  • Brett Tromp, Discovery Health CFO
  • Michael Mpanza, South African Airways Technical SOC Ltd Head of Department: Finance
  • Nichola Dewar, SAPO Acting CFO: SAPO
  • Paxton Anderson, Experian Finance Director
  • Refiloe Nkadimeng, Thebe Investment Corporation Group Financial Director
  • Kevin Johnson,Howden Africa CFO
  • Suren Maharaj pikitup financial director
  • Umar Banda, City of Tshwane Acting Group CFO
  • Eric Bauser, Amec Foster Wheeler CFO
  • Jan Van Den Handel, Business Connexion Group FM: EMEA
  • Kholiwe Makhohliso, Oracle Sales Director South Africa
  • Anees Mayet, Oracle South Africa Senior Finance Director
  • Graham Fehrsen, CFO South Africa Managing Director
  • Kevin Attard, Oracle Country Leader South Africa
  • Monna Monnakgotla, KPMG Director Advisory - Management Consulting - People and Change
  • Nhlamu Dlomu, KPMG Advisory Partner & HR Head

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