Dante Healy - How to Lead a Successful Finance Transformation Project

Dante Healy - How to Lead a Successful Finance Transformation Project

Episode - 014: - Where we learn from Dante, the building blocks of a great finance transformation project, project best practises, XP&A vs FP&A, the concept of technical debt, the evolving AI landscape, productivity & planning tools, and much much more.

After starting his career as a management accountant, and then financial controller, Dante went on to become an Accounting Manager at the Ford Motor Company, and then a Project Manager for the Accounting Centre of Excellence at Ford Credit.

Dante has a passion for bleeding-edge digital technologies in creating business value, is skilled at building digital solutions with his coding knowledge, and enjoys providing soft skills training to technical teams who struggle to interact with the wider business.

Audio Podcast Links

Show Notes

Where to find Dante

Tech Mentioned

[Note] Tech for finance are a Notion affiliate, but we also use and pay for their services

Companies Mentioned

People Mentioned

Books Mentioned

Other Mentions


[00:02:19] Dante's motivation for upskilling and move to finance transformation project management.

[00:08:30] The blocks of a financial transformation and aligning with business operations.

[00:13:10] Why you should build a business case before automating poor processes.

[00:18:05] Why benchmarking against industry leaders is important

[00:18:59] Leveraging internal resources and best practices to achieve competitive advantage

[00:21:14] Fostering creativity within an organization to break boundaries

[00:24:02] XP&A vs FP&A

[00:24:52] The importance of accurate data before implementing AI

[00:26:47] Robotic process automation: replacing people with desktops

[00:29:59] Technical debt: replacing legacy systems to avoid obsolescence

[00:32:35] Exciting emerging technologies: AI, data visualization, low-code tools

[00:34:43] Excel vs. code for data analysis, advantages of low-code tools

[00:36:31] AI bots and scaling

[00:43:06] Writing for CEO World, maximizing productivity and finance transformations

[00:45:40] Getting executive buy-in for finance transformations

[00:48:22] The apps and gadgets Dante can’t live without

[00:50:07] Personal productivity apps (Notion, Blue)

[00:53:33] The benefits of connecting with new and interesting people on LunchClub


[00:00:00] Dante: You can't afford to be too comfortable in your career because the moment you get comfortable, you get complacent.

So depending on the duration of the change, then that determines how much benefit, how much effort is involved because there's a lot of risk. Complacency is comfortable. And then when you're transforming, you have to have some justification. And in this case it's about were we competitive, was our accounting function cost-efficient given the revenues?

So integration, using APIs or even separate ecosystems to ensure that the data is cleaned up before it's actually transferred. And then making sure once that data is clean and it becomes a single source of truth, then you can look to run pilots, such as AI and machine learning, and then predictive analytics.


[00:00:55] Adam: Hello and welcome to Tech for Finance where we help Finance Professionals Leverage Technology to level up their lives.

I am your host, Adam Shilton, and in this episode we're chatting with Date Healy, who is a Freelance Finance Transformation Project Manager & Trainer for Agile Orca.

After starting his career as a management accountant, and then financial controller, Dante went on to become an Accounting Manager at the Ford Motor Company, and then a Project Manager for the Accounting Centre of Excellence at Ford Credit.

Dante has a passion for bleeding-edge digital technologies in creating business value, is skilled at building digital solutions with his coding knowledge, and enjoys providing soft skills training to technical teams who struggle to interact with the wider business.

In his spare time, Dante is an opinion columnist for CEOWorld Magazine, creates websites, reads non-fiction, hosts a podcast, and visits art exhibitions on occasion. He’s also part of a community called Lunchclub, where he enjoys 1 to 1 conversations with interesting people.

Thanks for joining me today Dante.

[00:02:00] Dante: Thank you, Adam. Pleasure to be here.

[00:02:02] Adam: Sorry, a very wordy and quickly given intro there. My apologies. So, we'll hand over to you.

[00:02:19] Dante: So I guess there's two tales to that. One is motivation and then the second piece being situation. So in the early part of my career, I was always doing some form of project. And I was also, as part of my career at Ford, I started out in financial reporting, which is basically accounting as well as internal.

So I ended up having an opportunity to work at a plant in Romania where I was the internal control manager, and obviously overseas assignment, great exposure, and also being next to the factory, which was a great opportunity to see everything from the sheet metal to the car rolling off the production line to be quality tested.

Now the nuance with that is that we took over the plant and it was previously government-owned. And it was involved in a massive restructuring. When we acquired the plant, we did an assessment of the level of staffing, and unfortunately, the staff, overhead was significantly top-heavy. And so we had to do an analysis of the team, especially on my side, the financial accounting team.

And it turned out that when we did a skills match, the people who were at the most senior levels were not up to the standard we expected for finance people. Part of it was being able to answer direct questions and the other piece, Technology.

So even things like Excel, a lot of them hadn't actually experienced using Excel, so spreadsheets, they were actually running systems off of AS400 and dot matrix printers. However, some of the more junior members were quite skilled. So when we did the skills match, obviously we ended up promoting some of the junior members and demoting some of the very senior.

So people who used to be reporting four, five management levels above certain managers that we promoted were actually demoted and maybe one or two levels down. Cause we had a flatter organisational structure. As you can imagine, that had an impact on me in terms of motivation, because I realize you don't keep up with your skills.

You can become obsolete pretty quickly when things get disrupted. From that on, I got a lot more motivated to upskill. And then in terms of situation, when I got back, two years later back to the UK, I was given a soft landing in accounting. That role that I was in was pretty much what I had when I.

So I was given this expectation that doing an overseas assignment would be good for my career. What I found with a global organization is if you're not at your home base, you lose visibility. And therefore, when the roles came up that I wanted, which were more on the FP&A analytical basis, they were already filled by people who were earmarked for those positions.

And I've been pigeonholed as a financial reporting slash internal control specialist, so I didn't have anything available that looked interesting. So I had to stick it out as an accounting manager. Until I heard from a mentor of mine who said that actually in their financial services division, they're going through a transformation of accounting.

They’re partway there, but they need someone to finish it off. It seemed like a very risky role, but it was also very exciting. And I thought, well, either I stay where I am and I get really bored and then become a menace. I take a risk and try something different, and that's how I got into finance transformation.

[00:06:43] Adam: Fabulous. It's always good to hear the story and I think you're dead right. If you're not at least conscious of the way that companies and roles are evolving, you stay in that sort of complacent, "I'll just carry on doing what I'm doing" mentality. The world changes around you and sometimes without even realizing, things change that you've got no control of. So yeah, I think you did the right thing there in taking back that control and saying, "This is more a future focus for me." So thanks for the background.

[00:07:16] Dante: You're welcome. And again, you are right. You can't afford to be too comfortable in your career because the moment you get comfortable, you get complacent. It's better to be overwhelmed and underwhelmed.

[00:07:29] Adam: Yeah. What was it? I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt that said, "Do something every day that scares you" or challenges you or something like that. So I think that's the sort of mentality we need to be going after more and more.

So, coming back to the transformation piece, and transformation is a word that doesn't have a clear focus, really, does it? You know, transformation could apply to quite a lot of things. So, in this example, obviously we're talking specifically about finance transformation relating to technology, I guess is probably as accurate as we can get for this discussion.

So with that in mind, what do you consider to be the building blocks of a good financial transformation? Who needs to be involved? How's best to structure it? And then, not just in terms of a pre-enduring project, but then how do you ensure that the benefits of that transformation are then realized post-project?

[00:08:30] Dante: Okay, so that's a great question. And to start with any project, you have to start with the business case. What's the benefit you're going to get for investing all that effort into changing? It obviously comes with a strategy. Depending on the duration of the change, then that determines how much benefit, how much effort is involved because there's a lot of risk.

Complacency is comfortable. When you're transforming, you have to have some justification. In this case, it's about whether we were competitive, was our accounting function cost-efficient given the revenues? So when we did a benchmark, we found out we could do better, and we had to.

So the first pillar was really around how could we reduce costs, and that was through work transfers. We shifted work from Central Europe to a low-cost location. And then the next pillar was enabling that next level of deeper work transfer and optimizing the processes through automation and rationalization of the systems. We had multiple locations that had organically built their local accounting functions, and there was not much alignment.

The business case was clear that we could, we should be doing more, and therefore that set the strategy for the future vision. And coming back to your question about how you set it up, it all starts with where you get the value and then what's that future target state. So the operating finance team supports the overall business model.

Fortunately, there was also a business transformation of the operations, and that had to align. We had to align with the business. So it was kind of like we were transforming first, and it was based on cost efficiency. But then the business saw that this was being successful, and they decided to start up the rationalization, which was framed around consolidation and centralization to a shared service center.

Now, through that, you get economies of scale, but you also get a certain degree of inflexibility and also disruption in the sense that when you are changing things, invariably there's a risk that things may be complicated or you may need to staff up extra heads to manage the transition in case things go wrong, almost like hypercare.

So throughout that process, you also need to know where you are, and what are your interim stages on your blueprint? So we were tracking project milestones to make sure that through each of the swim lanes, or initiatives, for example, in order to centralize the accounts payable system, we had to launch a new platform, same with the accounts receivable and also cash management.

There were also different finance pillars involved in that, like treasury, financial management, and commercial finance. And also, the local accounting and financial management. So in the end, what we managed to do was centralize about 76 heads out of Europe and distribute it across Asia and also our head offices in the UK.

[00:13:10] Adam: Okay, so just paraphrasing you there a little bit then business case first. We need to be working towards something before we do anything at all.

And, and I think that's valid, especially at the moment. You know, when you look at the current economic climate, you need to be sure that anything that you do is moving you towards a better state rather than just automating a poor process, for example. So, so I think that's pretty valid.

But then on top of that, you've got the concept of who does this affect? So you mentioned there, not only have you got the subdivisions of finance, you know, AP, AR, Cash management and that sort of stuff, but it was also tied into a wider digital transformation initiative there as well. So sometimes we do have a habit of looking at things in silos, don't we?

You know, I work in finance, this is delay the land according to me, but doing something in a silo doesn't work anymore. We know that. You know, so, so that comes back to your point about taking those 75 people and aligning them with each other. Right? Yeah. So, so that's fair. So I think there's also a point that you raised there that needs to be pointed out as well, which is the milestone management and.

I think that seems common sense for anybody that has a project management background like yourself. Yeah, so, so if we've got a deadline, you know, if we've got something to achieve, then we need to break it down into these phases. As I've mentioned on the podcast before, I have quite a lot of experience with smaller businesses and I do believe that there are actually some ideas that smaller businesses can pinch from larger organizations.

Right? Yeah. , so, and I'll try and stop myself from speaking too much, but quite often a small business because they've got limited resource and bandwidth rely too much on the supplier to tell them what those milestones. And it's great, but that supplier can't tell you as a business how that ties in with your internal processes, how it ties in with the other projects that you've got.

Yep. So internally having to think about what those milestones gonna be and what needs to happen and what time is just as important for them as it is for the people that are delivering the solution. Right? Yep. , The second question is, can we do this ourselves or do we have to bring in somebody like AE to help support this transformation?

Because again, lots of people do sometimes think, well, we'll just do it ourselves. Yeah. But in doing so, they're restricting their bandwidth. Yeah. So I dunno whether you've seen that.

[00:15:50] Dante: Yeah. And that's true because doing it yourself, it's gonna take a lot longer even being brought in as a project manager.

I didn't have a project management background, at least not formally, and I realized quickly there are different roles within there and different specializations. You can be a scheduled jockey, which means you're tracking just the milestones, or you can be something more hands-on like a business analyst where you're mapping out the business process, you're creating a formal business requirements document that gets translated into a technical specification that goes to it in order.

Build the automation, for example, that you need. Hmm. But within that, you have to be looking at more than just mapping out what's already there. You have to be keeping an eye out for opportunities, process inefficiencies, things that you have to challenge and ask, well, why is it done this way? And there may have been a good and valid reason, but you have to always question it.

And can I do this better? Because there's also a lot of opportunity for cost savings. Yeah. And within that, you get the benefit when you're doing it on a large scale, you can compare different locations and see, you can benchmark them and see, well, this process is actually better than our central process.

Let's build some of those best practices into our own process. Or you could be seeing the, yeah, what we are doing is much better and we need to just deploy it out into the location. It's all based on as well a strong team. So in the early stages, and I'll count myself in that, I didn't have the necessary project management skills at the start.

I realized I had to get upskilled very quickly, which is why I got motivated. Get myself formally trained, both in business analysis as well as project management and then program management because towards the end it was growing into a program where I was managing multiple system launches at the same time.

[00:18:05] Adam: Mm-hmm. And you mentioned benchmarking it a couple of times when you just explained that process, and it's a question that wasn't in the preset question, so don't worry if you can't answer, but the businesses that are doing the right things or what we'd say to be the right things, which is not just trying to improve a process that already exists, but trying to build based on a process or an end result.

If they don't know what the benchmark is or what they need to be aiming for. How can businesses go about benchmarking themselves against other industry leaders? Do you have sort of a set go-to resources or a location for people to start unearthing some of these benchmark reports and some of this performance analysis?

[00:18:59] Dante: So the time I was using, I was leveraging a lot of the available resources internally. We had A P Q C as well as c e B, which is now Gartner. And they did a lot of benchmarking studies, so I had access to the portals and I was able to pull out data on that. Also best practices. So there were a few white papers there that I relied on and leveraged for ideas as well as just to sense check whether what we were doing was correct or at least closely.

And then thinking beyond that, you have to go beyond best practice. Best practice gets you to parity, and then thinking more innovatively will get you to competitive advantage.

[00:19:48] Adam: No, hundred percent. Yeah. Yeah. And I think that innovative piece is crucial again, because yes, you can go through the Gartner, Deloitte, all of the mainstream providers to say, look, let's download white papers, benchmark reports to assess where we are in the industry. But that doesn't account for the unknowns. Yeah. So what is that gap that's gonna allow us to innovate, what is that gap that allows us to differentiate, and that's the trickier piece, isn't it? You know? Yeah. Because that does rely on creativity and an element of fluidity against logic and structure, I guess.

[00:20:30] Dante: Yeah. And we're all busy as well. So if you are stuck in the day-to-day routine, it's hard to step back and think bigger picture and think, well, are we doing the right things? Do we feel we're succeeding in this marketplace? Also, you can see in your bottom line there's opportunity there. If you're not making as much profit as your competitors or if there are areas where you just challenge, well, why are we spending on these income lines? Is there opportunity to reduce it or should we be doing more on the revenue side?So you can develop a personal brand internally, especially if you work for a big company. So even if you've got no ambition to move jobs, improve your visibility, whether it's to get a promotion or something like that.

[00:21:14] Adam: Yeah. And I'm just thinking out loud, it's a bit of a tangent, but I've been working my way through a book called Loonshots.

L O O N S H O T S.

Yeah. Because the concept of a moonshot, it's like we want to take ourselves to the moon, a loonshot is crazy ideas that change the world. And just going back to your point there about being busy and not necessarily being obviously the bigger picture, I sometimes find that reading content that isn't aligned with my role and my industry and that sort of stuff can sometimes provoke ideas.

So Loonshots is a good one because it's a study of all of the businesses that broke ground, that broke boundaries by essentially allowing a creative incubator within their business. So you focus on the sky stuff, you spend your time focusing on that, and then we'll have a process of vetting whether it makes it into the roadmap or not.

I suppose when that became more mainstream it was Google, right? That was saying, you know, was it a day of the week or something like that? Just do whatever you like, you know, and I think stuff like Google Maps came out of that, didn't it? So yeah, I think there's a lot to be said for fostering that sort of creativity within an organization.

Anyway, I'll share the links in the show notes, but yeah, if you haven't read it, Loonshots is quite a good one. But back to the tech know. So from the work that you're doing at the moment, what sort of technologies are you seeing having the greatest impact on finance teams at the moment?

[00:22:49] Dante: Again, another good question, and I think with the advent of XP&A. A key thing is really integrating those various systems. So you've got your HR, you've got your CRM, and then on the finance side you've got your ERP and your EPM or CPM. So it's really getting those data sources talking to each other.

So integration, using APIs or even separate ecosystems to ensure that the data is cleaned up before it's actually transferred. And then making sure once that data is clean and it becomes a single source of truth, then you can look to run pilots, such as AI and machine learning, and then predictive analytics.

It's facilitating getting the data quality right. Otherwise, if you don't have good quality data, then you've got no chance on AI or machine learning. Or you can try to apply it based on approximate mathematical models, but the more granularity you get, the better the quality of the analysis.

[00:24:02] Adam: And for those that aren't familiar with the term, how would you describe XP&A compared to FP&A?

[00:24:12] Dante: Yes, it's more collaborative, whereas fp and a is planning in a silo. XP and A is more holistic, talking to HR, talking to IT, talking to sales and marketing and operations. Getting them more involved in the planning process and getting that buy-in on the operational performance.

Assumptions that you're going to tie to your financial performance. So it becomes more of a rigorous exercise than doing it in a finance lab, in your ivory tower.

[00:24:52] Adam: Yeah. That's it. Very good. But you're dead right about the data. People sometimes go overboard with data, and it becomes a bit of an obsession, and you can lose your lives to it.

So I'm sure there could be a totally different discussion on how accurate is accurate. But what you're saying there is we need to get as near as damage to our accurate information before we can scale. Because if you've got a process that's feeding partially accurate information into the back end, do you want that volume to increase to the point where your predictions are inaccurate?

No, you don't. And I read a post about it recently, which was the concept of the difference between robotic process automation and AI. Robotic process automation is obviously not AI. It's basically automating the manual stuff that you don't want to do. Yeah. Rigid, this is your instruction. Do it automatically instead of a person doing it. Whereas AI adds in that creative element and that sort of more human brain, UL type stuff that isn't just following a process, it's then additive. So it's adding information and making predictions that weren't there.

And my viewpoint is a lot of people now are seeing all of the AI and especially with ChatGPT and all of that sort of stuff. AI is in bright shiny lights and organizations are thinking, "I need AI in my business right now." But often they miss the first step, which is getting the basic automation right.

Yeah, you can't go from completely manual administrative processes to building in AI. On top of that, you do have to go through the steps to at least automate at a base level before you can start leveraging some of these advanced technologies. I don't know whether that aligns with your thinking or not.

[00:26:47] Dante: Yeah, it does, and in my experience we have run pilots with robotic process automation and essentially what you're doing is you are replacing a person with a desktop and they're basically doing manual keystrokes, automating manual keystrokes. So data entry between two systems as if a person was doing it. So it'll read from one system, enter a form on the other system.

And there are, when we did a business case around it, very few use cases where it made complete sense just because the work I was doing was project related and therefore didn't really warrant a long enough time horizon where I could get the payback. Because you're basically, when you're doing low-cost outsourcing anyway, you're basically replacing one low paid or a hand.

A small handful of low paid manual data entry clerks with a portion of very expensive software developer's time. So again, and then when you have the fact that you still need to pay for the licenses and the computer for the robot, unless you've got enough work for them to be running 24/7, 7 days a week, there's no economic benefit and, you know, you factor on top the cost of actually changing processes. Then there's very limited benefit.

So in that regard, it was better just to get the processes right, align them to the system, so the system will automate it. And for example, I did use some RPA to enter supplier information. We had one location where they had 7,000 suppliers, which was really funny because it was every other, the next largest had about 500. And it was more about a business process where they had multiple small suppliers rather than one consolidated for one particular service.

I won't go into that. Hmm. But yeah, so again, it's thinking really when you look at the context, you have to think, am I automating the right thing or am I just augmenting an inefficient.

[00:29:16] Adam: Yeah. And, you're dead right, because some elements of automation are no-brainers. You know, if we've got somebody manually keying invoices and it takes them half a day every day to do it where a bot could capture that information and process for them, yeah, great. You've got your business case there. There's a clear return, but as you've just said, if you've already got a base level of automation and the base is there, there can be such things as too much automation.

You get into this territory of diminishing returns whereby you've swept up the 80% to get those real gains and then you may be wasting your time with the additional 20%.

[00:29:59] Dante: Yeah. So it's also the point, you're also digging your heels in as well. You are building in what's called technical debt in the sense that part of my remit was to replace legacy systems. And a lot of the inherent risk was they had a mature process, but they also had systems where they were scared. If we can't do everything that our old systems did, there is a risk that the business could suffer some financial loss, reputational damage, because we're not servicing a customer or not paying a supplier on time.

However, over time you become less competitive. And it got to the stage where we had one system that was owned by a 76 year old developer. It was, he was the sole owner and the sole expert. He was busy training up some people to manage it, but it was essentially his business. So the only, so that was something that was on the risk register, which we had to replace quite quickly.

We had a project that lasted two years gradually phasing out various bits of functionality over time and taking out chunks of the operational processes, which were basic customer transactions and also payments. So that piece was, that was a big win. But in theory, if we couldn't do it, if we couldn't take them onto the corporate systems because they had their own local system, we would've ended up not being able to roll out the new global ERP.

And that would've meant potentially the business would've had to run on Excel spreadsheets and had an army trying to replace if the system couldn't be supported. And you know, with software, when you get regular updates, upgrades on operating systems, hardware, you're looking at a serious obsolescence risk.

[00:32:18] Adam: Mm-hmm. Never heard the term technical debt. I might start using that a little bit more.

[00:32:25] Dante: It's a great buzzword.

[00:32:26] Adam: I love a good buzzword. So what are some of the emerging technologies that you are getting excited about?

[00:32:35] Dante: It's hard to say really. So many. I think AI is pretty interesting. On the finance side, it. I guess we're seeing a lot more data visualization and new open source codes that are enabling people to do more flexible analysis without having to necessarily learn how to code themselves. I think that's great. That's exciting because it democratizes data. And I guess from my side, it's more about scale and dealing with large data volumes. So big data sets where you can do deeper analysis with granular data.

Because I love Excel and use it a lot, I do a lot of data modeling in Power Query before I commit anything to code, just to sense check it. Excel is as a code base, it's quite heavy because it's so feature rich. And therefore, if you are doing any sort of analysis on tables that are more than a hundred megabytes, you're gonna be running it for potentially 30 minutes. And data latency is one of those things.

Whereas if you're running with parallel processing on a spark cluster, you can get the same result in seconds. So I guess there's the advantage really when you talk about why people trash Excel. I don't think Excel is great for what it does, but it doesn't handle the same level of volume of data that a good piece of code or even some of these low-code tools can handle, and therefore you can get much richer.

[00:34:43] Adam: I think you're right to emphasize the low-code piece. And I think it's clever how these technologies are emerging now because when you're using a system, you don't always appreciate that you're using a low-code application. So for, and I use a really simple example, something like Zap. Previously if you wanted to integrate something like, and you know all about this, right? You're going through a systems integration project at the moment, but traditionally for complex integrations, you'd need to pay a developer to connect the two. Then you'd be reliant on whatever work was completed.

And then you've got the associated maintenance and all that sort of thing. Now we live in a world of SaaS whereby you can sign up for a Zapier account and you can just choose what fields map from one system to the other. You know, so that's a low-code technology without people realizing that it's a low-code technology just because they're thinking, "Right, well, I just want to integrate my systems together."

But I think in terms of resource and this is where it's gonna be interesting, and we won't go down the rabbit hole of chat GPT cause I've spoken enough about it and I've written enough about it. But if we take the example of the VBA code, for example. You know, so, so I've seen videos and I've shared it on the blog of people asking chat GPT to generate VBA code.

And one of the examples was write your VBA code to merge these 20 Excel spreadsheets into one, for example. And I don't need knowledge of VBA code to ask the question and to get a pretty decent result out the other end. Now I always caveat that by saying double-check your work.

[00:36:26] Dante: Yeah. Test it.

[00:36:31] Adam: Yeah, test it. Because just because an AI bot gives a credible answer and it appears to be working first time round, doesn't mean that it scales and it is actually gonna work properly. So, I always caveat that by saying, double check your.

[00:37:25] Dante: I think data democracy is where you have to be. It puts the power and information, and when I say power, I mean empowerment because people can make better decisions when they're where they're better. So it puts that empowerment at the hands of people closest to where they need to make the decisions so they can fact check, well, should I be doing this?

And again, you don't want to be the bottleneck when people are asking you for data all the time or certain insights. Can I have this report? Can I have that report? I remember when I was. Financial controller. We had one IT person for a mid-size company and he was a go-to person, even though he reported directly into me and he was managing the database, but there were people who were taking up his time and that invariably meant he was sometimes late on some of the things I had him working on.

[00:38:33] Adam: Yeah, AB absolutely. And. From a personal perspective, I don't do much modeling and all of that sort of stuff. I'm more focused on the tech and the enablement side things. Yes, but from a personal perspective, you can actually use your own data from an improvement perspective, you know, so even if you're not having conversations with other people in the organization that's telling stories with data, I've recently written a blog post about it.

You. Just tracking your own time can surface a huge amount of data that you would previously have been completely oblivious about. You know, I challenge everyone to, even if they're not using a clever app, just write down what you're spending time on in an notepad every day, and then by the end of the day, look back over that and think, does that weigh up with what I think that I probably would've done today?

Because it's always drastically different. So, I think as well as data being obviously invaluable to businesses and business communication, there's a real gap in people using their own data for self-improvement as well.

[00:39:38] Dante: Yeah. And, so you recommended a book, I'll recommend a book, James Clear, atomic Habits.

Yeah. So really falling down to the level of your habits and systems, rather than rising to the level of your goals and aspirations as they. Amateurs focus on strategy professionals focus on logistics. So if you really wanna be productive, you have to have the systems and processes in place. And it's funny, I can probably tell you for nothing, in a large organization you'll find that most people where they lose their time is in meetings.

Yes. And I know that because I have an AI tool, it's a friend of mine who has his own company and it basically, you can load it on your desktop and it tracks. Internet activities. So I find that a lot, a huge chunk of my time tends to get eaten up by meetings. But then as a project manager, that's what I have to do.

A lot of my work is communication, alignment, and in this sense I'm being productive. But then you also have to prepare for the meetings. Yeah. And there's also time needed to think through a problem. Or a challenge and analyze data and even get data in order to make those recommendations.

[00:41:01] Adam: Yeah, no, you're dead right. And, and something that you just mentioned there about having time to think about something. People just don't build that in anymore. We go back to back teams or Zoom meetings with very little thought in between. So another book, and it's Old hat now, I suppose.

But it's High Performance Habits, which I suppose is similar to Atomic Habits. That's Brendan Burchard, I think his name is or something like that, that he talks about. The concept of release, I think is the term that he uses between meeting. So in the five minutes before a meeting, relax and then think, how do I get the best out of this?

You know, what am I hoping to achieve from this conversation? Because otherwise you just get swept up in the noise. Yeah. And we've gone on a complete tangent here, haven't we? But I think it's valid, you know, points to data. Whatever gets measured, gets managed. And the better that we can be with ourselves and start tweaking those habits to the point where we're becoming more efficient, can then have a ripple effect.

You know, so no harm in bettering oneself, I guess…

[00:42:12] Dante: Yeah. And there's no, you know, it does come back to first principles. It's about being more efficient with your resources. In this case, time is the most valuable resource you have.

[00:42:24] Adam: Yeah. Yeah, and what do, can you say what that AI tool is that you're using? Or is it

[00:42:28] Dante: Yeah, sure. It's rize.io. I can send you a link, actually have an affiliate link, but I won't send you that. It's funny, but yeah, it's

[00:42:39] Adam: Rise as in R I S E

[00:42:41] Dante: R I Z E

Z for Zebra. Okay.

Rize.io Z E dot I O.

[00:42:53] Adam: Fabulous. So I'm gonna continue on a tangent a little bit. Cause I mentioned in the intro that you do a bit of writing for CEO World.

[00:43:06] Dante: Well, I've only written two articles in that. It's so hard, you know, do I choose my son or do I choose my daughter? It's like, you know? And, in all honesty, that's because I've got my own website now, and I tend to, when I have time to do blogs, tend to go there and create my own content.

And, you know, I have full ownership of the release. Although, to be fair to CEO, they're pretty quick with publishing my article, and it's high traffic website, whereas mine, I know the data on mine. Yeah. It's so small. It's embarrassing.

[00:43:46] Adam: But you gotta start somewhere.

[00:43:49] Dante: Exactly. Exactly. But yeah, I guess given what we've spoken about you, you won't be surprised to hear that I have two articles. One is maximizing your personal productivity, which was the most recent one. Okay. And this, the one that is my favorite is top three Reasons why Finance transformations fail. And that one basically distills my experiences at the time.

I wrote it as to what were the lessons I learned from having those setbacks when I was dealing with those finance transformation. As a project manager slash functional specialist trying to achieve an outcome whilst learning on the job. Yeah, so the key things are really clear on what you need to do and why.

So the strategy, then executing it well, so how you do it. And then finally, and this is really key, is getting buy-in from the leader. So if the executive sponsor commits to a transformation, they really need to have some commitment on their side because you will get blockers, you will get resistance from other parts of the business, and you do need to get that alignment upfront.

Otherwise, at my level at the time, it can become very difficult if there are very senior people on other parts of the business that are resistant to that change. And they may have valid reasons, but we need to get the right trade offs in place between all of the various functions.

[00:45:40] Adam: Yeah. And that sponsorship is so important because somebody needs to be banging on the table to say, this is why we're doing. These are the reasons why we went down this route. And these are the benefits we're likely to realize. Because if that is not continuous, then people lose track. You know, as we've just discussed, people get swept up in their own wells, don't they? And then, you know, six months later they start thinking, hang on, why are we doing this again?

So it takes somebody to steer that and make sure, and it goes back to the question I asked earlier about how do you ensure that the benefits are realized when you go through any of these finance transformation projects? It's one thing to have somebody banging on desk during a project to say, we need to get it in by the state. You know, and we, and these are the benefits, but it's a completely different thing once you've gone live and you need to then continue to make sure that you realize the benefits of these solutions. So it's not just during the project, it's afterwards as well. Right?

[00:46:42] Dante: Absolutely. Otherwise, you're in danger of having someone whose job has been taken away from them and they're still working there, but with much less to do. And that's okay, but they should be gainfully occupied. And that doesn't necessarily mean making them redundant or removing them from the business, but getting their time deployed elsewhere so that they're still productive, they're still contributing.

And on the flip side, when you're replacing legacy systems, the business case around that is, and this is the beautiful part, is that you save a lot on hardware. You save maintenance costs and you save licenses. Yeah. So you have to go back and make sure those savings are really realized.

[00:47:39] Adam: Yeah. Yeah. All comes back to the roi, doesn't it? Because there always should be an after the fact exercise that takes what was the original business case and weighs that up against the actual results achieved. So that's one thing.

But no, you're dead right with that. Cool. So the one question that I always ask, and you've mentioned one already, rize.io with a Zed. But are there any other apps or gadgets, maybe just one in either your personal or your professional life that you couldn't live without?

[00:48:22] Dante: My smartphone and you can't see it because of the green screen. It has all my apps. That's simple as that. And it means that even though it's basically a mobile tracking device and edge device collecting all my data, I'll be lost without it because it also has all my apps. So, for example, my banking app, only recently I discovered I can pay in checks by taking a photo through the app. I mean, how cool is that?

[00:48:58] Adam: Is that Starling?

[00:48:59] Dante: No, it's a normal high street bank. I don't want to say which one, in case anyone is listening, but most of the incumbents are adopting FinTech technologies, so it's always worth checking if your bank has an app and checking the features and functionality.

Yeah, any other favorite apps? I have a Kanban app called Blue, which I use to manage my personal tasks. That's B L U E dot CC. It's a nice one because it's a fixed monthly fee but I have unlimited Kanban boards. But mind you, you can use Jira, you can use the free tier on Jira. Anything that gives you a task management system, that's another personal productivity hack I'd recommend.

[00:50:07] Adam: Yeah. I've been using Notion, which is also free. It's one of those do a bit of everything, but maybe not do one thing well. But it serves me absolutely fine because it replaced Evernote as my notetaking app and then it replaced Trello as my Kanban because you can have an embedded database that you can turn into a Kanban. So I can have my notes to dos and my Kanban in one place. Granted, it probably doesn't go to the level that you'd want it to with a dedicated app, but it serves me just.

[00:50:47] Dante: Yeah, it does. I've got Notion as well and my wife swears by it. Only recently, they deployed the beta version of their AI writer, which isn't that far removed from ChatGPT. It actually generates AI content as well, and I've been testing that out in Notion.

[00:51:12] Adam: How did I not know this? How do I set that up?

[00:51:16] Dante: You go to your account, and I think under settings there should be a box where you can opt in. It's like a radial box that says AI.

[00:51:29] Adam: I'm gonna have a look at this. Right. I'm not gonna do that now because we'll be here forever while I try and click around Notion, but I'm gonna do that as soon as we come off this call. Amazing stuff. Thank you for that. You learn something every day.

[00:51:46] Dante: Right? You're very welcome. I'm learning every day as well.

[00:51:50] Adam: Yeah, absolutely. And did, sorry, bonus question, and I was gonna ask this earlier on before I ask you to tell people where they can find out more about you. Is the lunch club. So lunch club and I had a bit of a look at it when you mentioned it when we spoke online. It's basically you enter your interests, and then it matches you with people that are similar. Is that the theory? You just hang out over a coffee, over lunch, or do you just chat online? How does it work?

[00:52:25] Dante: It was originally set up pre pandemic and lunch club used to be, as it suggest, A face-to-face in-person meeting over lunch and therefore it had to be local. But then during the pandemic it went online and therefore that was what, when I was being isolated, I used it. It was actually introduced to me by a friend and I used that during the pandemic when I wasn't, when I wasn't working, cuz I was in between projects.

I used it to keep myself relatively sane.

[00:53:00] Adam: What sort of people have you spoken to? LunchClub by the way, for people that are listening? Yes. What sort of conversations have you had?

[00:53:10] Dante: Partners in venture capital firms, tech CEOs, startup founders, things like that. I didn't actually add consultants in various innovation spaces, teachers. And everything else in between.

[00:53:33] Adam: Wow. I will sign up, but as you and I have discussed on this call, there's often not enough hours in the day. Is there Agreed. Yeah. So, but no, definitely, I mean, there is nothing wrong with connecting to new and interesting people, like a hundred percent.

If there's a way to do that, that makes it easy. Then, you know, you can see where some of these platforms gain real success currently. So, no, I'll definitely check it out. Cool.

[00:54:05] Dante: Alright, so where's the best place for people to find you? Your podcast is called, is it Business Breaks?

[00:54:51] Adam: And the website is?

[00:54:55] Dante: Dantehealy.com.

[00:54:57] Adam: Oh, very good. And that's D A N T E H E A L Y. Exactly. Yeah. And that's the same on LinkedIn. So LinkedIn dash dantehealy and then dantehealy.com. Yeah. Perfect. Alright man, well absolute pleasure having a chat. Thanks for coming.

[00:55:14] Dante: A pleasure to be here, Adam. Thank you for having me.

[00:55:17] Adam: Yeah, no worries at all. Hopefully, we'll have a round two in the future. Have a bit more of an, at cause we've never got enough time for these sorts of things, have we? But, no, really good. Thanks ever so much.

[00:55:26] Dante: You're welcome. Thank you. In a bit. Cheers. Thanks mate.


tech for finance

©2022 by Adam Shilton. Privacy Policy - Terms of Use

©2022 by Adam Shilton. Privacy Policy - Terms of Use