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Building a Curious and Predictive Team

Building a Curious and Predictive Team –
By Bernard Hickey

Datacom Group CFO Rachel Walsh does something unusual when hiring for roles in her team these days.

She looks for curiosity, resilience and the ability to thrive when things are changing.

Because there’s a lot of change right now, in both the systems finance professionals use and the way they interact with the rest of their businesses.

Like many other CFOs, Walsh is looking at her team using more Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) in their work, and extending that work out into the business and beyond to the businesses’ partners such as tax offices and clients.

The days of just inputting the numbers, crunching them and handing them over are gone.

Datacom’s finance team have a particular role known as Finance Business Partner, which works with other parts of the business to improve performance, predict performance and bridge the gap between operations and finance.

“They’re the straddle to drive the data and analyse the data coming out because they’ve got both a deep understanding of what the General Managers are trying to drive in the business, plus they’ve also got that financial and data analytics backgrounds,” Walsh says.

“They’re able to set up the lead indicators as well the lag indicators, which finance has been all over in the past,” she says.

The Australasian-based company knows plenty about the power of data and systems to transform a business. Datacom has more than 6000 staff working in Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Europe and the Americas, truly world-class in capability, and proudly local at heart. With nine of its own data centres, Datacom supports its customers through a broad range of services that span hardware, software, cloud, digital transformation and Artificial Intelligence, all underpinned by robust industry experience and insight. Built on strong local values, world-class technology, and experienced people who genuinely care, Datacom works with organisations and communities around the world to solve their biggest challenges, imagine new possibilities, and help move them to a better place by connecting people and technology.

Walsh cites the area of payrolls, where Datacom is heavily involved, and the increasingly active role of the Australian Tax Office and New Zealand’s Inland Revenue Department as examples of where data automation is taking a larger role and changing the way her team does its work.

“The ATO, in particular, has been very aggressive with digitization and being able to analyse large amounts of data from different companies and pick where some of the dark economies actually are,” she says.

Walsh sees the increasing sophistication of the finance role and the decreasing role of data entry as a positive for her team, particularly as an opportunity for job satisfaction.

“They’re realizing: I’m not just data entry, I’m actually thinking about what the numbers actually mean and doing something meaningful upstream.”That’s why Walsh looks for curiosity and resilience.

When I’m interviewing for any role I’m looking for people who are curious and open and willing to learn. Resilience comes to mind and the ability to embrace change, she says.

“That’s key: teaching kids how to fail quickly so you can then move on from. Because if you don’t fail you’re not going to learn, are you?”
Walsh’s team of Finance Business Partners and analysts help the rest of the business make bids for business, forecast Datacom’s results and help it build its strategic plans.

Datacom is going through an ERP change which will see it use more predictive analytics and RPA, she says.
“That’s the whole area we’re excited about playing in the next 18 months,” she says.

Datacom’s focus on moving systems into the cloud and making it easier for both itself and its clients to be flexible and ‘handheld’ makes that even more interesting.

Pulling that data and processing into the cloud is helping to accelerate the use of AI and RPA, which Walsh is looking forward to using more in a new ERP environment with a team of curious and resilient people.