By Steve Deverill. Published on 18 July 2018
Interim support for a Finance and HR transformation project
With 28,000 customers in over 100 markets, CDK Global is the largest provider of integrated information technology and digital marketing solutions to the automotive retail industry.
In 2015, CDK Global took the decision to set up a near-shore shared service centre. A key component in the company’s back office efficiency strategy, the initiative was centred on transforming Finance and HR service delivery – alongside the supporting IT systems.
During the summer of that year, CDK Global engaged the services of one of the big four consultancies to help develop the business case. A process that had the aim of analysing the benefits behind such a transformation programme, and to establish what the completed project would look like.
“Having used one of the big four consultancies to help design the blueprint, we were looking for a delivery partner to implement the plan as part of a blended model. This would ideally be comprised of external interim subject matter experts, CDK employees, and a few select consultants.” Andy Thomson, VP Finance, CDK Global
To find a subject matter expert, CDK Global turned to Eton Bridge Partners. The remit provided was to find an experienced interim with the skill set and experience needed to take the theoretical business case and turn it into reality.
“I contacted Steve Deverill who Heads the Business Transformation & Technology Practice at Eton Bridge Partners. He was able to respond very quickly to our requests and presented a number of very credible options to fit the Programme Director brief provided; one of which has led our programme successfully throughout its 18-month duration”. Andy Thomson, VP Finance, CDK Global
The successful candidate was Jeff Fenwick, who brought with him a track record of success from the world of chartered accountancy – including 15 years experience working with big four consultancy firms – before becoming an independent interim executive. Importantly, Jeff had also spent seven years at the Volvo organisation gaining relevant insights by helping transform their European Finance function.
BAPTISM OF FIRE
The selection of the interim appointment was also based on an ability to ‘hit the ground running’.
“I joined the project in early September 2015, and was immediately involved in a three-day initiation workshop to help kick start the activities. I found myself in a room with members of the entire European Finance team, all keen to understand how the project would unfold”. Jeff Fenwick
It was during this meeting that the specific objectives of the transformation were detailed:
- To consolidate the back office functions of 25 countries
- To replace multiple instances of older, legacy systems and ERP functionality
- To achieve measurable and sustainable cost savings
- To simplify existing business processes and create European-wide operating standards
- To put in place ‘future-focused’ capabilities that supports CDK’s growth strategy
In addition, there was the desire to improve the value add of Finance, and positioning the function as a true business partner. The goal being to develop Finance leaders in each geographic market with the capabilities to support business decision-making, add insight, and help grow the local operation.
GETTING TO WORK
Attention soon turned to the creation of a shared service centre in Prague. Bringing this to life meant transitioning the entire EMEA Finance and HR operation into the centre, alongside all associated roles and responsibilities. Making this happen involved a three-phase process spread across a two and a half year period:
Phase 1: Design
In this first phase, which lasted four months, all the major Finance and HR processes were catalogued, reviewed, analysed, and then re-designed. The purpose here being to create a common, simplified standard across the extended EMEA operation for all Finance and HR workflows.
Phase 2: Build
The next phase, spanning months 5-12, involved specifying the system requirements needed to support the new re-designed processes – including the upgrade of existing ERP functionality.
In addition, it was during this time that the facility in Prague was identified, commissioned, and the process begun for recruiting the team that would take on the 65 new roles being transitioned there.
Included in this recruitment search was the need to find a head of the shared service centre. Again, CDK Global turned to Eton Bridge Partners to help support the executive leadership team in finding the right talent. Once the individual was found, Jeff was able to work with the new starter to define the structure of the Prague facility, to scope out the processes to be performed, and to agree governance and performance management models.
Phase 3: Implementation
Starting approximately a year after the commencement of the project, the implementation phase involved the transitioning of legacy Finance and HR processes from local markets into Prague. This was done through a succession of waves over an 18-month period, to de-risk the activity and help ensure end-user acceptance. In addition, it was at this time that a range of new supporting systems and capabilities went live.
Jeff’s involvement was central from the very beginning. As the Programme Director he was responsible for designing the project roadmap, governance processes, and the team structure itself. To help, he had two project managers looking after planning and administration, as well as the heads of specific workstreams who directly reported into him.
Workstreams that included:
- A process workstream – that owned the redesign of individual workflows and their subsequent implementation
- A HR workstream – that owned communication, and training
- An IT workstream – that owned the development of new support systems
- A facilities workstream – that owned the commissioning and fitting out of the Prague shared service centre
“In terms of what I brought to the role, it’s that depth of experience and the fact that I’d seen it before. I knew where the pitfalls were, what it took to run these types of programmes, and how to make them successful. Crucially, I could also add value when it came to engaging the team and the business throughout the process, keeping them on board, and making sure it was all heading toward a successful conclusion”. Jeff Fenwick
As for the challenges to emerge during all this activity, clearly there were significant technical hurdles to overcome. The systems development work was highly intricate in nature with a wide scope of capabilities to provision. Then there were the complexities of working across a range of local markets and labour regulations, which in turn introduced a whole new range of stakeholders into the mix.
But arguably the biggest challenge was in ensuring the business understood and actively supported the project. This was the task of change management, and minimising the impact any the new arrangement would have on established business processes – and on individual roles. Doing this effectively meant ensuring all stakeholders were aligned from the top down, including the US headquarters and the executive leadership team in EMEA.
“Success was always going to be dependent on our ability to ‘bring the business with us’ on the journey. That’s why it was vital to involve the executive in all decision-making throughout the process. Equally it was just as important to work with the ‘customer’ in all this: the country teams who’d actually be using the shared service centre. We needed to keep them informed throughout, manage expectations, and support their transition into this new reality”. Jeff Fenwick
The project’s success criteria were, at the highest level at least, straightforward: was the project delivered on time, on budget, and to the necessary functional specifications? The answer was a resounding yes, with the project successfully concluded by March 2018. Beyond this headline, the project has also been successful in improving the capabilities of Finance itself with the implementation of standardised processes and systems.
As for other measurable outputs, the programme has led to the transitioning of all 25 countries into the shared service centre over a 30-month time frame. Additionally, numerous roles have also been transitioned to Prague, which has meant that the planned headcount and cost reduction targets set out in the business case have all been met.
As a result, the EMEA leadership team are now confidently able to look to the future, and to move beyond the development phase to that of improvement and refinement. In effect, this represents Jeff’s succession planning for the business.
“When re-designing processes and systems you’re not going to get everything right first time round. CDK Global understand this, and are fully prepared for a period of continuous improvement over the following 12-18 months to help to fine-tune the solutions put in place. One of the last tasks I completed was to put some shape around how they’re going to approach this process, to help detail the scope, and to identify what projects to begin looking at first. The end goal being to optimise all the new processes and systems put in place, as well as refining performance inside the Prague facility”. Jeff Fenwick
A VALUE-ADDING PARTNERSHIP
Finally, there was the role of Eton Bridge Partners in helping CDK Global deliver on their transformation agenda. For Jeff, the value to him was a proactive service that stayed in constant communication as an interim – and offered the right candidates at the right time when he needed to fill out the project team.
“Speed of response is also important if not vital. Having spoken to Steve and his team, I was confident that they’re all good guys who are very engaged with the client, very thoughtful about our needs, and very responsive to any request with a seemingly endless list of quality candidates. This to me stood them out from the competition”. Jeff Fenwick
AS FOR THE VIEW FROM CDK GOLBAL
“The resources placed into the programme team by Eton Bridge Partners have all been extremely high calibre individuals, and together they’ve helped make sure the programme was delivered on time and to budget. In addition to this, Eton Bridge has placed functional experts across Finance and HR, and have proven to be a trusted partner. I would highly recommend Eton Bridge Partners and will not hesitate to use their services again”.
Andy Thomson, VP Finance, CDK Global