Informa is a global business intelligence, academic publishing, knowledge and events business headquartered in London. The new CEO is driving a measured change agenda, and the finance function is involved in the action.
Finance transformation projects are difficult enough when a business is running smoothly. When the business and the surrounding economic and political environment are in constant flux, the degree of difficulty ratchets up considerably. That’s what Fred Smith has learned from the ongoing finance transformation at Informa. What started as an exercise about the review of some ageing systems three years ago, has more recently expanded into a transformation of the finance function, the implementation of a new operating model for shared services and in 2017 the implementation of a new ERP. The project has also entailed the transformation of the IT and HR functions alongside finance. “I don’t think we necessarily started out to do that,” Fred says, “but this project will now enable us to create a more scalable operating model and ways of working that will better support the company’s growth ambitions”.
The scope, and the opportunity, started to take shape when the leadership determined that the company should be reorganized from a grouping of relatively autonomous business units into five divisions. At the same time the company chose to move toward a more centralized decision-making structure.
Fred emphasizes the importance of leadership in these programs. As head of the finance transformation team, he was intimately involved in revamping the shared services organization. “You experience what people are going through,” he says, “and that buys you good will if people can see that you’re doing your utmost to help them resolve the key issues that may hold up progress.” Informa hasn’t reached the end destination yet, but Fred knows how important projects like these are to enable the company to build a more scalable platform for growth. “This definitely has been one of the larger projects that we’ve undertaken globally,” he says. “We have learned a lot from this. Whilst on the face of it this is a finance transformation project, it is actually helping us transform ways of working and deliver wider business benefit across Informa.”
“You experience what people are going through, and that buys you good will if people can see that you’re doing your utmost to help them resolve the key issues that may hold up progress.”