Bain’s Proven Strategies for Getting C-Suite Buy-In for Your Finance Transformation Project

Bhavik Patel

Bhavik Patel

Associate Partner
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Bhavik Patel is an Associate Partner in Bain’s New York office and he is a leader in the Performance Improvement practice, focusing on G&A transformations and optimizations, particularly for Finance functions.

Session Summary:

Takeaway 1:
Multiple forces that are re-shaping the demands on Finance
Key Points
  • The ongoing economic uncertainty and the business complexity, for example, new pricing and the new revenue models.
  • Regulation, globalization, and investor activism brings up more complex, multi-market relationships with customer
  • Cost and cash pressure have increased focus on net working capital management.
  • Digital finance organizations are expected to be digitally enabled, by increasing adoption of cloud, analytics, automation, ERP modernization, and data volumes.
  • War for talent and the future of work has increased the use of global business services and outsourcing.
Takeaway 2:
Finance is evolving to add higher business value
Key Points
  • Although everything is getting centralized, Cost management is difficult when technology needs adequate investment like cloud-based ERP, SAAS, AI automation while maintaining a business partner model on the FP&A.
  • To avoid inefficiency and customer services, clients are following a Zero-Based process.
  • The talent engine is evolving from recruitment to retention.
  • Every finance organization is thinking about the work from a home model, As we are moving the workforce home due to the pandemic.
Takeaway 3:
How to enable commitment and sustain it to transform the Finance department?
Key Points
  • Finance needs to be advocated with transformation, preferably a business unit.
  • Finance has to maximize your value to Identify and quantify the benefits of a transformation which includes both Financial and non-Financial.
  • Finance needs to bring in other stakeholders and build advocacy by conducting risk mitigation workshops, also Develop a targeted understanding of who is impacted by transformation by conducting an impacted population assessment.
  • The key to finance is to make sure you’re ready to deliver. So don’t underinvest in upfront training and create distinct initiatives, targets and tracks their progress.
Bhavik Patel

Well, as was just said, my name is Bhavik. I’m an associate partner at Bain in the New York office. And apparently, I am the person standing between you all and happy hour. So a really nice time slot I got here. But with that said, I am thankful for you guys all being here and I’m thankful for HighRadius for inviting me to speak here, you know, as a New Yorker was a childhood dream of mine to perform at the Meadowlands looked a little bit different than this, but this is just as good, if not better.

Alright, for those of you who are not as familiar with Bain and company, I’ll just spend a quick second on us, we’re one of the top management consulting firms in the world, we have 12,000 employees in 37 countries, we’ve worked with over 6500 clients globally, including most of the global 500. And importantly, we’ve worked on over 900 finance projects, usually hand in hand with the CFO typically working on big transformations and optimizations, including in order to cash. So while I’ll be speaking a lot about driving change in finance writ large, you can apply this to any part of finance or even any other function or be your What have you at your respective companies. And again, as I mentioned, I’m really excited to partner with HighRadius because in a lot of our transformation work, especially with respect to our audit, the cash work high radius comes up a lot. And in generally pretty positive ways, because I think they’re technologies making quite an impact on folks, companies, as you just heard the Wesco story.

So I’ll take a second and talk about some of the things that I’m sure you know about, or you are actually personally experiencing that. What is changing, like the demands on finance, right? There’s a lot of things, a lot of driving forces and factors out there, the page just captures a handful of them. But there are a few things that are happening, you know, globally. And so some of the things include like business complexity is going up in certain industries, right? There’s new business models, new types of competitors emerging. Along with that there’s a commensurate increase in uncertainty. And with the increasingly global world, the regulatory and legislative environments change a lot more dramatically than they once did, or a lot quicker than they once did. And you also have things like, investor activism is changing. And there’s also focused on ESG costs and cash pressure as finance folks, you’ve been dealing with that your whole career, but I’m sure you all have felt, especially post-pandemic, this renewed in focus and intensity on it, right thing, focusing on liquidity, focusing on having flexible cost structures, digital finance organizations are expected to be, you know, digitally enabled, dealing with more complicated data sets, being able to present more real-time, updates, more real-time, insights across multiple formats, and also finances. You know, for some, to some degree competing against different competitors when it comes to talent, right? The things that folks are looking for, and finance organizations, in addition to your typical accounting and finance skill set, are things like advanced analytics and communication. So you’re to some degree competing in the same pool as, say, a Bain, right for this type of talent. And the shifts in org design, five finance organizations look way different than they did a few years ago. So with respect to Order To cash, how is that playing out, so you’re seeing new pricing and revenue models, right. And so I know that I worked with a media company, they were having a hard time getting their arms around billing and collections for the new subscription revenue models, which is quite different than the old affiliate revenue models where they would just kind of build cable companies, you’re seeing I’m sure, a lot more complex customer relationships in multiple markets. I know that some of our clients are really struggling with having customers that are also vendors in multiple markets and getting a single view on what their net position is at any given time. cost and cash pressure, I’m sure you’re probably hearing a lot more questions now about networking capital, and there’s a big appetite for more real-time visibility and a lot more sophisticated networking, capital projections, right? I think a lot of companies historically have gotten away with your, you know, take your rolling days outstanding average for the last year and kind of apply that and that’ll generally give you go forward. But there’s an appetite to have that be more sophisticated now. And in terms of the structure of finance, with an order to cash is probably a lot of you are familiar with GBS models, IBS model shared services. Some of those have been around a long time, but the sophistication of these models has, you know, kind of skyrocketed in recent years.

So all that’s to say is that the finance organization of the future, and the Order to cash organizations of the future, you know, have different expectations. I think once upon a time it was like get the numbers right, get the books done, get it on time. Don’t make mistakes, do your reporting. And if you tackle the backward-looking stuff, you know, that’s kind of weird. And now it’s a lot more. We need you to be our partners you need, we need you to help us figure out how we’re going to add value. When you’re reporting to investors, it’s not like how we have done recently, what we’re really asking you to do is tell the story of why you should invest in us, conveying the equity story. And then there’s also things that are around being a lot more proactive when it comes to risk managing data, deploying technologies, and trying to incorporate more. I’m sorry, that keeps showing I didn’t touch it that time, I promise. And so what does that mean? Like one of the big areas you’re seeing that is around talent, like what we have on the page is like some of the words that we used to see in all job postings for financial analysts, and it used to be very, very focused on, you know, numbers, get the numbers do the reporting. And now you’re seeing you’re looking for more holistic skill sets in finance people, right? You want them to be effective communicators, you want them to be grounded in business judgment, you want them to think strategically, in addition to doing the things you have in the past, right.
So what does that mean for finance teams? Well, in order to kind of meet these demands, we see a lot of transformation efforts and finance organizations. What I have on the page is a handful of them, we see a lot of different things. But I think these big buckets you all should be reasonably familiar with or even experiencing, or, you know, have experienced. So we’re seeing a lot of finance org being centralized, you know, historically, we would see a lot of us have our own mini finance teams, or the shadow teams, as we call them. That’s kind of all being pulled out centralized within, you know, you shared service functions or what have you. But while maintaining a business partner model, especially on the FP&A. side, you’re seeing a lot of investment in technology, cloud-based ERP, you know, SAAS technologies, AI automation, and what is difficult for finance organizations, they’re expected to evolve and be more value-added. But you’re not expected to add too much to the cost that you’re allocating back to your businesses. And so commensurate with these changes, we’re seeing a lot of our clients doing Zero Based process redesign of the finance office, and specifically, what that looks like, is that thinking through the finance or all the processes they have, they’re thinking about which ones do we want to be best in class? Which ones? Do we want to be just proficient in our best and cost? How do you want to describe it? And how do we rethink our organizations to do that? You’re also, as I mentioned earlier, a lot of folks are transitioning to GPS and shared service functions. FP&A is basically top of mind for every finance org I deal with, which is how do we, how do we provide better insights to our businesses? How do we move on from our static, you know often quickly, outdated budgets and forecasts to do something more rolling in real-time? And how do we train our new generation of finance people to actually operate in that world, right? It’s kind of the talent engine that needs to change. And then you’re also seeing things like moving the workforce home. And, you know, that’s certainly been accelerated by the pandemic. I think some of that was happening anyway. But now every finance organization that we’re dealing with these days is like, thinking about that model, some of us are just going to be home all the time. And can we still be as effective in that?

So a lot of finance inicisery are underway, but all of them are most of them typically run up against certain things, right, which I’m sure, as you all have endeavored to make changes to your order to cash operations or other parts of the business. You’re probably meeting up with some resistance, right? And some of the ways we’re seeing the reasons that we see this resistance is, number one, a lot of things like upgrading technology, or upgrading skill sets, or what do you require money for. Asking for money is always challenging. Asking for money as part of a support function can be extra challenging sometimes because there’s usually an incorrect perception that it doesn’t add as much value as money that goes to, you know, the front line, if you will, we disagree with that, I think that there’s finance can really unlock a lot of value in order to cash can really unlock a lot of value. I don’t think that folks outside of finance necessarily understand that in the way that they should. The other thing that’s tricky about finance is, you know, finance transformations, you typically can’t do the things you want to do yourself, even if you have the appetite and the bandwidth. And you’re just like we’re going to do it, you typically always need the support of HR, and IT and they may have priorities that don’t sync with what you have. Sometimes it could require upgrading finance could require temporary or permanent upgrading costs, right. And when you see budget pinches, I’m sure some of you have experienced this, and the bees kind of see that number on their P&L. This is what we’ve been allocated for finance, they stopped, they seem to conveniently forget all the improved services that they’re getting. And just focus on the fact that the finance number has gone up and then start giving you grief about it. And it’s typically hard, right changing finance, multi-year effort. There’s got to be some trial and error. Some of the real-time forecastings are not going to Quickly the first time some of the reporting is not going to be as perfect as they want it the first time in order to cache you might get a couple of slip-ups with some of your collections calls or what have you. And then what we find is that it’s difficult to get an initial commitment. But it’s even harder to maintain that commitment over the years when things get tricky. So we’ll do a poll here. Just curious what you all see as your biggest challenges to get a C suite. Is it around the, you know, the ROI, the little limited understanding of the tech, the building the business case, or resistance to change? Generally, speaking? Think I have the app? Yes, I think the results should be. Okay. Well, similar to the previous speaker, I don’t seem to be getting the results, but maybe when in the Q&A, we can see how you all responded to that and kind of tailor some of the conversations around that, right?

So the big question, then, is how can finance get sustained commitment? We would say that there’s four things that you all should be focusing on, right. And some of this stuff might seem a little bit common sense. And to some degree it is. But I can say from experience that folks typically do not do this well. And so this, enrolling another change leader early, if you had to take away one thing from this presentation, that’s the one and I’ll get into all of these in detail. There’s the maximizing value, it’s identifying and maximizing the value. There’s engaging your broad key stakeholders, as we mentioned, you’re going to need support from HR it or what you know, some of the Salesforce, for example, engaging them early. And then ultimately, the key thing for sustaining commitment will be to deliver results.

So in terms of enrolling the change leader, right, finance cannot do it alone, you can try, and you could have some success. But you will need somebody to advocate alongside you. Right? So that could be IT. The ideal partner, especially when it comes to Order to cash to kind of advocate change or transformation with you would be and so how do you get that? How do you get them to kind of do that with you? And the key is that you should co-create a recommendation with them. Before you kind of suggest a transformation or start bubbling up to the leadership, like what you’re trying to do, you should have proactive buy-in from the bees, right? And so what does that look like? That means kind of co co-designing the ambition with them. And so in order to cash, this could be something like we’re going to be best in class in both customer NPS and day standing outs, day sales outstanding, right? It’s to create that ambition with them, don’t come up with them, and then one and then go to them like Hey, what do you think of this right? Go create it with them? In terms of the options set of things of your transformation, have that conversation with them, Right? Are we going to outsource? Are we going to insource? What do you think of doing this? I know that when already cached a lot of us are really, really worried about outsourcing because they think that, you know, you’re going to have random people who don’t know the business, contacting your customers, I’m going to mess things up. And it’s really not true. They don’t know this stuff, as well as you all but co-creating that with them is important. Talk to them about the story, you’re going to communicate this is part of proactive change management, the change management starts right away, it starts with the story. He is why we’re doing this, he is how the organization is going to benefit. And also importantly, here’s how you as an individual are going to benefit, right, we just heard the story of you’re going to lose some people, I think what oftentimes folks don’t do is kind of distill down the benefits to the individual level, it’s like, here’s how the, here’s how the firm is going to benefit right, and here’s how the networking capital situation is going to improve. But if you’re the frontline person is going to have to undergo the stress of the change, you might not understand how that benefits you personally and so making sure that that is part of the story is like a key step in proactive change management and then outlining the responsibilities early right, typically in these final transformations finance is going to lead it but you’re going to need your other partner to also do some work at some point and the big one that be us are going to have to do and I’m sure you have experience is that there’s going to need to be behavioral change on their part right? And so saying early, here’s what we’re going to need to do here at activities finance is going to take you to know 80% of what it but there’s 20%, you know partner we’re gonna need them Are you aligned with that because then later on down the line when you have to get that out of them, you’ve kind of agreed with it upfront and the other pieces and Bain has a lot of different ways to do this. Try to do this co-creation in an engaging way. workshops, working sessions, things like that. The more interactive engagement you can make, the more likely you’re gonna have people show up and participate.

So in terms of maximizing value, there are a couple of things. This again, this might sound pedantic but upfront, quantify the value going to realize, right? There’s these two things. There’s the quantitative and the qualitative. And so your things should be both of those, right? So a date for the order to cash, here’s how our days, sales outstanding is going to improve. He is our networking capital is going to improve, but then also focus on some of the softer things that we talked about. A big thing that resonates with the sales team in the US will typically be like, here’s why our customer NPS will improve. I think there’s a fundamental underappreciation amongst businesses of just how important is a customer touchpoint invoicing and collections is right? I think when we think about customer experience, at least the bees do that typically thinking about sales, post-sales service, things like that. They kind of think about the invoicing and collections, maybe it’s a little bit of an afterthought. But it can really, really make a difference. I think this is particularly true in B2C, but also in B2B. Right? You remember the bad experiences you have with a collector or something? So if you kind of highlight to your business partners and sales teams, like Do you realize that this is a real, you know, a factor of customer NPS? Or similarly, do you realize that there’s actually a lot of information that we collect from our customers in this process that we could feed back up into our CRM to improve the effectiveness of your sales team? I think when you kind of like to highlight some of that, it has a much bigger impact. And the more you can kind of support it with benchmarking and external data, the more powerful it will be right?

Then we want to engage key stakeholders, I think there was a previous speaker that was kind of talking about this on the change management side, what we think about, you know, had been, as we’ll think about something called a population impact assessment. And so as you think about your transformation, we will literally have, all right, this transformation is going to impact the day-to-day of all these people. And it’s going to impact the data of all these people by varying amounts, right? And so once you have that, you have kind of a universe of people who you’re going to need to get buying from you who you’re going to need to train up, you’re going to need to communicate to the level of interaction you’re going to need will differ based on you know, who’s most impacted. So in order to cash transformation, obviously, the folks doing the work are going to be most impacted. But you could also, as I mentioned, the sales teams could also be impacted. So for example, if collections is done a different way, and you’re getting information collections and feeding it back upstream, there’s going to be new information available to your salespeople that you need to communicate to them like hey if you look in your CRM, there’s an additional piece of information that once upon a time you didn’t have right. And so thinking about that gives you the people impacted, and then you can start proactively thinking about what’s on top of their mind, what are risks that they’re going to be concerned about? And how do I mitigate those? Now, to be clear, you don’t need to do that all yourself, right? Because what’s the benefit also of impacting that impact of identifying that impacted population assessment is you can figure out who people within those organizations are that you can have be your advocates to spread the gospel along with you. Typically, you find people who are influential organizations who are well-liked, who are good communicators, and have them do the talking for you, right? Rather than you talking to all the sales folks and saying, he is why you know, updating our collections process, make sense, have someone in sales, do it kind of pick someone you know, who is a change-oriented person who’s willing to listen to you, who is excited about what you do, and have them go and talk to the other sales folks. And like, this is why I think this is a good idea. This is why we should support you know, using a High Radius and why we should support segment and collection strategies or what have you.

And finally, and to some degree most obviously is to deliver early and often. The key to delivering is to make sure you’re ready to deliver. So don’t underinvest in upfront training. That is something that we see often folks are not necessarily ready for, you know, call it day one activities because we’ve under-invested in the transformation, the training for them, so get them ready to go. We typically will set up specific initiatives in the transformation with specific individual owners with accountability. And we will support them however with a centralized results delivery office. Now the results delivery office isn’t there to kind of like supervise them it’s more a centralized point to aggregate
to aggregate process data but also to unstick things for these individual emissions. And especially if there’s cross-functional you know, an engagement that they need and they’re unable to do it. The results delivery office can go right. Hey, the collections team can’t get a hold of the salespeople to help them think through the scripts. Results delivery office will kind of try to make that happen. Right and then these initiative owners should be tracked and have targets and have those targets tracked in the using this stage gated way. You know Early Stage results you’re expecting medium-term longer term. Ideally, those targets we thought of incentives. But as you will know, it’s pretty hard to change incentives. So that’s kind of nice to have as opposed to a must-have. But it’s certainly more effective if you can do that. And the other pieces, communicate your success stories, right? A lot of times you’ll be having these improvements in your DSO’s as working capital MPs, if they don’t know about it, it doesn’t, you know, you’re probably not going to get the credit for it. So it’s, you might feel a little bit icky, but you know, what, brag about your successes, brag about it to the other stakeholders, and then share it with your own people, right, young people going through a lot of stress a lot, a lot of change, they might be a little bit overwhelmed, they might be a little bit fatigued. One thing that is certainly an energizer for them is to say thank you to say like, you know, here’s a, b, and c that we’ve been doing over the last four months, and we put a lot of hours into, but here are some of the beneficial outcomes. So kind of be loud and proud of what you’re accomplishing both amongst your internal teams and external. So with that, I’ll open it up to questions. Like I said, I think the key to remember is don’t go it alone. If you just have to take away something, think about how you can enroll change agents with you. You would always be the strongest change agent you can get. But anyone who you think is impactful in these impacted populations, who you think is influential, who you think has the ear of other folks, those are who you need to look for, and get them into the fold as early as you can. So that opened up to any questions.


Hi, thank you. I think a lot of what you said resonates with me and a spot on from my experiences. And my question to you now is what do you think is the most effective way to get executives to buy in and implement now and execute against these autonomous solutions like HighRadius?

Bhavik Patel

Yeah, I think it is generally what we see with executives, right is a few things. Number one, the quadrant really, is the thing that they typically focused on. But it’s too tight to the ambition of the overall company. That’s what I would say, right? When you are with executives, you typically have a mission that you’re constantly focusing on then after that, or in line with that you’re also focusing on like, especially if you’re a public company, you quarterly EPS. So the more you can tie to those things, the more effective it is. That’s why I keep bringing up with Order to Cash, harping on the potential impact on employee satisfaction and frontline impact avoided Order to Cash improvements, really, really makes a big difference. Because almost all companies have customers, right? Well, one of their key tenants will be like, maximizing customer value, maximizing customer experience. And if you tie it to that most, I’m sure all the companies you work for have stated very, very clear ambitions missions, I’m sure they have very, very clear near-term or longer-term targets. And the more you can kind of tie the wording and the objectives to that the better. Right? This is a good time to do it. Right, because as I mentioned earlier, a lot of companies have this liquidity and cost crunch. You always Order to Cash owners to go in with a story, you know that networking capital is so worried about, I can get our day’s sales out down by 20%. And here’s how I can do it. And he is kind of what the ROI is right? We kind of implement HighRadius. It’s, you know, it has some cost but this is a perfect time to have your IT partner with you. Your IT partner could say we can install this on top of ERP’s existing tech stack, it’s not going to cause a lot of disruption there. And here’s what the ROI is on it. So always come back to tying it to the overall ambitions of the company. Tying it to customers is really, really important. But then having that quote backup, here’s ROI. Here’s why. You’re going to have a good story to tell your investors on the next quarterly call. All right.

Marketing Coordinator

All right, Well, thank you so much. Let’s give him a round of applause. Let’s give him a good one. Let’s give him we have twice as many people in the room round of applause. Good job. All right, everybody. Remember when I said this was the last session I fumbled. There is actually one more session to go. It is a training session but I will say that there is still the happy hour that is going to start in about 10 minutes so you will not miss the happy hour but I highly recommend staying around for the training session, which is going to start right now we’re going to let this finely dressed gentleman up on the stage we’re going to get his slides ready to go. Our training session is an analytics deep dive created to x impact with the right reporting for shockingly order to cash. Oh, yeah Sarah we can. We’re getting them over the phone. Oh, boy cannot forget that. All right our presenter for this training course is going to be Ganadeep Rey Patlolla. He’s the director for digital transformation at HighRadius. Like I said, this is only a 30-minute training session. Please stick around there will still be drinking. Wow. Unless he breaks everything then there might not be any drinks for him waiting for us. All right, anyway, please feel free to stick around in the happy hour we’ll still be there. But it will start at 4:20 or so. So about 10 or so minutes the Happy Hour does begin but please we are going to get rolling over right now.

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