Creating a culture of innovation doesn’t happen overnight. The impacts of change can cause unnecessary disruption on a business, especially when it involves enterprise planning, finance and accounting.
Southern Company, a large electric and natural gas utility in the US, has taken a new approach. They embedded a business readiness coordinator into their IT and business teams at the onset of their transformation project. Part of the newly formed Enterprise Readiness and Enablement Office, the coordinator designs learning plans that will manage the impacts of change on back office staff.
Recently, we sat down with Joe Harvey, Vice President, Enterprise Technology Solutions, and Stacy Lucchesi, Director, Enterprise Transformation, Planning & Governance at . Among their full portfolio of projects, Joe and Stacy have been leading a program to overhaul finance and accounting.
“We set a course with a new roadmap for technology and business process to take leading software, take it out of the box, change our business process, adapt to industry best practices for how those processes should work, and simplify how we operate,” Joe explained. The goal is to consolidate seventeen general ledgers into one, cut the number of enterprise applications in half and increase ease-of-use in the tools employees use day-to-day. That means a lot of change for back office staff.
While Joe and his highly skilled team focus on the implementation aspects of the project, Stacy is simultaneously designing enablement programs with an emphasis on long-term learning instead of one-time training classes. This drip-feed approach helps staff retain information better and is delivered in creative and engaging ways. For instance, they’re introducing an animated avatar, Sophie from Southern (see lead art above), who will teach finance and accounting staff about new processes and tools being rolled out across their affiliates. They’ll also activate digital assistants, or “chatbots,” to become job aides within the application.
“We're very excited about the opportunities. When we look at this transformation for Southern, it's not just about installing Oracle or going to the cloud. It's much more about what we look like on the other end as a new foundation for the company. And in fact, we called the project Enterprise Foundations,” Stacy explains.
PwC is helping with the transformation of finance and other organizations at Southern Company, institutionalizing change management and accelerating project implementation. Throughout the pilot phase, the team has seen a 45% increase in purchase order (PO) to invoice match rate and a reduction of account reconciliation from days to hours.
The future is bright for Southern Company. With this solid new foundation, the utility will have the flexibility to manage mergers and acquisitions and the agility to adapt to new operating models and grow their business.
Use of Sophie from Southern avatar courtesy of Southern Company.
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