Call for change

Accenture faces a dynamic market of new trends, services and future possibilities that leads us to periodically change our business model to remain relevant and grow. An in-depth strategic evaluation and business case led us to launch a new, next-generation growth model to be a catalyst for Accenture to create the next waves of growth.

For Accenture Finance, the growth model offered an opportunity to unleash capacity and make an increasingly bigger impact on Accenture’s business. Our challenge was to implement major changes with agility in a short period of time to help bring Accenture’s new growth model to life while carrying out business as usual. The launch also helped to accelerate our recently developed Finance Reimagined vision and strategy.

When tech meets human ingenuity

To address the new growth model and the changes Finance would need to make, we began with a core team of Finance leaders experienced in large-scale transformations as well as newer leaders who could learn from the experience. This approach was also intended to enable the new leaders to understand new roles and make transitions quickly on the set start date of only six weeks away.

The announcement of the new growth model immediately set change in motion. The Finance team was able to draw on regular, proactive leadership imagination sessions and on an array of potential economic models, technologies, policies and approaches. The team prepared a high-level design to identify what to keep, newly design or build to represent the financials of the new growth model and to create the capabilities to perform the necessary activities. Solutions were based on collaborations within Finance and with other corporate groups. We took a fresh look at everything with a perspective of how to serve the business better and were open minded about changes.

Changes were implemented using agile methods and sprints, knowing we would need to rethink and redesign some elements after the new model start. Moreover, areas that were already set up well were maintained, and solutions leveraged; while for some areas, we needed to start from a blank slate and build solutions quickly. The major areas of focus, actions and changes included the following:

Organization design
For Finance, the growth model changes drove a reorganization of the function’s structure and the technology to support it. Chief financial officers were appointed to markets, market units and services. Finance eliminated organization charts, eliminated hierarchies and created a horizontal organization in order to promote greater collaboration within the function. In addition, Finance CFOs and other corporate function leaders now represent multiple interests, working toward a shared common goal rather than siloed, individual goals. Other functions, such as Treasury, Controllership, and Client Financial Management, however, remained largely the same.

Technology and system changes
Across Accenture, corporate functions implemented their changes starting from a strong technology foundation. The new organizational structure in Finance was enabled rapidly due to Accenture’s IT strategy of having a single instance ERP fully in the cloud. Accenture’s move to SAP’s in-memory database HANA, the adoption of SAP S/4HANA and the move of Accenture’s production instance to Microsoft Azure provides corporate functions the flexibility to address new business requirements, such as those driven by the new growth model, and the ability to scale with the demands of the business.

With this technology foundation in place, Finance, in collaboration with Accenture’s global IT organization, was able to:

  • Rapidly convert master data to align with the new go-to-market structure.
  • Move from the use of profit center hierarchies to leveraging attributes in how we define the different dimensions of our business and our financial transactions.
  • Rearrange half a million people into new cost centers without issues—while completing the move outside normal release windows.
  • Conduct extensive testing quickly. Operating Accenture’s IT infrastructure in Microsoft Azure enables us to spin off test environments much faster and with less hardware capacity constraints. It also has brought tremendous agility, proving to provide major business benefits when dealing with large-scale programs like the new growth model.

Policies and processes
The new model presented a fresh opportunity to re-examine Finance policies and processes, and with objectives to simplify, improve collaboration and empower market and market unit leaders. It also enabled Finance to embed some of the important themes of the new growth model, such as putting more decision making into the hands of the individuals close to account teams and drastically reducing approval points that in turn cuts bureaucracy.

We reinforced consistent and standard practice of some existing processes. The expected benefits are more compliance, efficiency and accountability into the field. At the same time, we enabled our people to focus more of their time on analyzing, planning and advising the business.

Capabilities
The new model opens the door to creating new ways of working, supporting the Finance Reimagined strategy. This included the launch of a new capability, Performance & Advisory (P&A), that reimagines the roles of legacy, decentralized decision support teams. The P&A team empowers Accenture’s interests across both Finance Planning & Analysis and Commercial Management with deep functional expertise in a defined set of finance functions, extending our reach to Commercial Directors and Client Financial Management.

The approximately 200 individuals are assigned directly to Accenture markets, market units and services teams. Their main areas of focus are forecasting and planning; data science and storytelling; portfolio and account performance; investments; and payroll and cost optimization. They are also tasked to promote central-led and standardized reporting, processes and analytics, and to scale automation and innovation.

The P&A name is deliberate. The Performance component directly reflects that success is based on business outcomes achieved; while Advisory represents the expected contribution further along the value chain, with shared accountability for results.

Moving to the next-generation growth model required a realignment of people into new roles not just for Finance, but for other functions of Accenture as well. In Finance, we mobilized a working group that created a new organizational design that aligned people to the roles and skills needed, working in real time and even before the new model design was finalized. The effort was agile and challenging, requiring the group to be flexible and iterate until a suitable design was reached. Anchoring to the new growth model vision and principles as well as having the Finance Reimagined strategy in place helped keep efforts focused.

Deploying training soon after was critical as many people were in new roles and needed to build their skills quickly. This need was addressed with a combination of complementary in-person and virtual training. This training was, and continues to be, followed by spot training, recorded virtual sessions that are targeted, on-demand, "snackable" and effective.

Shifting from operating in functional siloes to working collaboratively across functional teams with market services is a major culture change. Communications emphasize collaboratively serving Finance clients and building a strong culture of common objectives and celebrating successes. Finance is also becoming "center-led," that is, providing our people with the vision, objectives and assets globally, but empowering decisions to be made locally.

The new model created the opportunity for changing our Finance culture, and we spent time on cultivating new ways of working.

A valuable difference

Accenture’s new growth model has driven change throughout the company, but also created, and continues to create, opportunities for Finance to further advance our strategy to reimagine the function to support the business as key advisers and drive further value for Accenture.

Major changes were implemented in time for the mid-year start date. Despite this challenging timing, Accenture Finance was able to change reportable segments as part of this process while maintaining its operations. And, just as the new model went into effect, the world found itself facing the COVID-19 pandemic, driving Finance to respond with agility once again to manage another tremendous change.

Throughout all this disruption, Accenture Finance people have demonstrated tremendous ability to adopt changes while carrying out business as usual. A key to the continuity of Finance’s support during this time is a formal business resiliency strategy and plan, which includes having practices in place to ensure that critical Finance operations run continuously during business disruptions. Finance also commits to operational readiness through knowledge transfer and rigorous testing.

The journey to reimagination is ongoing. Finance’s design to the new growth model endures in an active design and redesign environment, continuing to delve into more complex areas.

Notable outcomes:

Moved fast to change while also supporting Accenture business leaders to meet the required financial regulations and accounting practices.

Enabled our people to focus more of their time on analyzing, planning and advising the business.

Launched a new Performance & Advisory capability that provides an agility and level of insight in Finance’s support to the business that have been key to understanding and responding to COVID-19.

Simplified Accenture’s data model enabling Finance to better capture what Accenture sells and to whom thereby helping drive continued growth.

Enabled Finance to move capacity from internal structural roles to roles that support revenue-generating activity.

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