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A Unique View across the Business Lines

By James Bates, VP, Finance Shared Services, The MENTOR Network

James Bates, VP, Finance Shared Services, The MENTOR Network

Working at The MENTOR Network as vice president of Finance Shared Services, I am responsible for running the finance functions that are housed in The MENTOR Network’s shared services center including the accounts receivable and accounts payable functions. I am involved in helping internal stakeholders understand, evolve, and develop more effective end-to-end revenue streams. I spend the majority of my time developing stable and seamless processes that lessen the burden on our field operations and allow them to focus on our mission of providing quality of life enhancing services to the people supported by The MENTOR Network. Throughout the course of my career, I have come to understand that flawless processing allows you to work at optimal speed and dedicate more time to growing your business.

In today's world, there’s so much turmoil and evolution that nimble and durable processes are critical. For an organization like ours, that boils down to a couple of things. First is the need for real-time, meaningful business metrics that measure success. Secondly, data security is paramount. One only needs to read recent media reports to understand what is at stake when data security is compromised. With oversight responsibility for billing, accounts payable, accounts receivable and related transactions, one of the most important parts of my job is building and managing processes that ensure business information and stakeholder data is secure.

At The MENTOR Network we are focused on continuous improvement—and it’s important in our back office functions to help ensure accountability. It’s really about building a strong team that is productive and focused on our business goals. Having that view across the business line is the key as it helps us collaborate in a better manner and in addition, we can collaborate with our peers in other support functions including legal and HR. When people are process-oriented, it avoids the confusion created by business transformations and technological shifts. A comprehensive data governance structure and accountability of the data owners to present accurate data have been critical success factors for us.

The role of a VP in organizations has evolved over the years. A decade ago, not many finance personnel were asking process-related questions but today most of them are involved in helping other people in the business. In finance roles, you can engage with different organizational levels and effectively communicate with them to ensure that everyone is on the same page. My piece of advice for fellow senior leaders would be to:

1. Always try to understand the customers (both internal and external) and guide your function from their perspective.
2. Organizations must have a good tool-kit around change and business process.
3. It is always better to let the stakeholders and peers know when things are not being carried out according to the existing plan.
4. Building accountability in the processes is indispensable for growth.
5. Ensure that every person on the team knows what is expected of them.
6. Be passionate about your work and help other people make informed decisions.

When all these aspects work together coherently, organizations can progress on a clear and comprehensive success path. IT is a powerful tool which can engage an organization and transform it, but before an organization dives into an IT solution, they need to understand their processes and that’s the bottom line.

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