As Vice President, Finance Transformation, at Singapore Post Limited, Jason Ang has an ambitious mandate: to transform the culture, skills, technologies and processes of the organization.
Bryan Lapidus, FPAC, AFP’s Director, FP&A Practice, caught up with Jason, who is also a member of AFP’s Asia-Pacific FP&A Advisory Council, to discuss the meaning of finance transformation, the challenge of organizational change and the need to upskill teams.
Bryan: You’ve been in your current role for a couple of months. How did you get into finance, and then how did you get into this role?
Jason: I did not start my career doing finance transformation. In fact, I started my career with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in Singapore and Sydney, largely focused on financial statement audits and advisory work. After more than a decade, I transitioned to a commercial role for a large multinational corporation where I was the Business Controller for the global technology team.
Shortly after, there was a major restructuring at the organization, and I was called upon to drive finance transformation for the global finance function, a role I subsequently had for over three years. Most recently, I continued that finance transformation specialization with my current role.
Bryan: What does finance transformation mean for you and the Singapore Post?
Jason: I think it’s a broad mandate. A lot of people I speak to seem to equate finance transformation to simply implementing a couple of systems, but that’s not what it is. Transformation speaks to three broad pillars: people, processes and technology. We need all three pillars to work in sync.
Case in point: Speaking on the people pillar, the teams need to be upskilled to be able to operate in new ways and with new technologies; we need to transform the culture of the teams and make them more collaborative as finance is expected to become more people-facing. All three pillars need to go hand in hand before a successful transformation can occur within our organization. If we neglect any pillars, we will run into issues later. The transformation is only as strong as the weakest of the pillars.
Bryan: Why is it so hard to get those three pillars working hand in hand?
Jason: People adopt change at different rates. In any organization, we sometimes have change enthusiasts who can quickly adapt. On the other end of the spectrum, I have seen people who are “institutionalized” — people who have been doing the same role for a long time and are comfortable with status quo — trying to persuade them to jump on the bandwagon means convincing them to get out of their comfort zone and that is not easy. You have all these variations of individuals on the adaptability scale and you have to pitch it differently. Right from the start, you need to make sure that everyone understands the vision and purpose of the transformation and feels like they can contribute and have a part to play.
Bryan: If you could give two pieces of advice on finance transformation, what would they be?
Jason: First and foremost, we need sponsorship from the leadership team, which includes the CEO. They will be there to remove obstacles as they arise. Without them, we will not succeed.
Second, make sure that we communicate constantly and transparently about how things are tracking against the vision and the progress that we have made. Show progress and create momentum! In fact, we need to overcommunicate — either in a large townhall format or through informal small group sessions. We need to feel the pulse of the teams and then pivot and change course based on the feedback we are receiving.
Bryan: You are also on the Asia-Pacific FP&A Advisory Council. What are you looking forward to learning from your peers?
Jason: FP&A is a part of the finance function that I’m hoping to transform, so one thing I’m keen to learn is what technologies my peers are using and hearing about their learnings, success stories, tips and tricks.
Digital transformation is a process, not a project. The 2022 AFP FP&A Guide: Get Your Data Right, underwritten by Workday, leads you through a progression of critical steps in the digital transformation process.