'I’ve always enjoyed taking on and overcoming challenges in both my professional and personal lives'. Approaching the tenth anniversary of qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, Andrew Stokes talks about the challenges he has faced in his career to-date, what has he learned and how he has developed at a growing international digital transformation practice.
Andrew Stokes, Management Accountant
I’ve always enjoyed taking on and overcoming challenges in both my professional and personal lives.
As I approach the tenth anniversary of qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, the challenges I have faced in my career to-date have helped me develop my management accountancy skills. For the past two years I have developed in my role at Informed Solutions, a growing international digital transformation consultancy.
So what have I learned, and how have I developed at Informed?
As well as preparing management accounts, my role involves ensuring that our people, partners and suppliers are paid on time and that the business maintains a forward-looking view on revenues through accurate and dynamic forecasting – vital elements to get right in a growing business with respect to ensuring that as the business grows so does our capability to invest in the people, training, systems, processes and technology platforms that power a successful multi-country growth strategy.
The finance department provides the management information required to effectively guide business decision making, whilst controlling the resources and assets the organisation needs to thrive through management of its commercial supply chains. The team is the link between the Board, bank, shareholders, stakeholders and staff, providing accurate data, insights and models to all parties to assist with sustainable and responsible growth.
One of the biggest challenges of working in a growing business is making sure that business processes scale alongside revenue and people growth. This means working closely with other service groups in the business to deliver internal business improvement and efficiency projects in an agile way, making sure that our activity benefits end users (our people, our suppliers and partners and our clients).
The most recent project I have been involved with was the integration and delivery of a dynamic digital expenses system. Previously, and still an existing, time-consuming and inefficient process for many businesses today, expenses were submitted physically through an Excel spread sheet. The process required time-heavy manual checks and processing. As part of our business improvement initiative for the year, we took a leaf out of our digital transformation colleagues’ service offering and set about a user centred design of a new digital expense system. The first step was to talk to our people about how they would like to spend less time logging and managing their own expenses. We approached this with a viewpoint that whatever changes we made would not add to the burden of the finance team – we were looking for a win all round.
From extensive research and alpha testing, we identified Expensify as our chosen digital expense system. The experience of using the Expensify desktop system received very positive feedback from all teams at Informed. Added to this, intuitive mobile app meant that our people did not have to physically be in an office to submit expenses. The success rate of the character recognition played a big part in the positive feedback. Once fully configured, the expenses system was rolled out to our teams in the UK and Australia. Our expense system is now fully digitized and our people are happy with the experience of using the system and impressed at the speed of expense reimbursements.
Ultimately, the project taught me about the importance and value of designing systems around users’ requirements, not just implementing systems that dramatically alter end user behaviour, thereby adding risk to adoption.
Just as there are solutions to the challenges of helping the business work more effectively through smart financial management, there are solutions for an effective work-life balance for better family management!
I have a young family and it’s important to be able to spend time as a parent as well as being a management accountant. Anyone who has young children will know that there are times when you need the understanding, flexibility and support of your managers and team mates so that you can care for children. I am lucky able to have all of the above, which has been created through a mutual trust that sees me invest my time, experience and hopefully excellence in managing the company’s finances, whilst my team allows me an element of flexibility should I need to come in to work late, or leave early for appointments and important family events that shouldn’t be missed.
This trust and flexibility keeps me motivated. It shows that the business looks after its people, who in turn look after the business – it’s a symbiotic relationship that increases my job satisfaction and allows me the time to enjoy the results of overcoming challenges on both sides of the Work-Life puzzle.