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Navigating Digital Transformation: 5 Lessons From ABM CEO Scott Salmirs

  • By Jim Kaitz
  • Published: 3/12/2019

5 Lessons From ABM CEO Scott SalmirsHow can finance executives navigate digital transformation? What factors should they take into consideration? Here are five lessons about navigating digital transformation from ABM chief executive officer Scott Salmirs on AFP Conversations: Leadership Series podcast.

I recently had the great pleasure to interview ABM chief executive officer Scott Salmirs on AFP Conversations: Leadership Series podcast. As the CEO of a 110-year-old company with $6.4 billion in annual revenue and 140,000 employees around the world, Salmirs can discuss many things. But our chat focused on digital transformation. In other words, how does the CEO of a venerable facilities management firm navigate the wrenching changes brought about by new technology? How can Salmirs and his finance team position ABM for the future utilizing state-of-the-art technology?

Here are Salmirs’ top five tips to help treasury and finance executives navigate their own course of digital transformation:

To get employees to accept new technology, you have to change the culture.

Salmirs: “You have to get people to start embracing and adopting these tools. And that’s not easy. So you have to lead by example, and you have to have proof points because you can’t just send out a memo and say starting now you have to do this. Because I think we’ve all seen across our careers when companies roll out tools that ended up just sitting on the shelf. We have to paint a picture of how it will help if they adopt these new tools.”

Teach employees in short bursts, because people are busy.

Salmirs: “People have less and less time and to think that someone is going to go and read through a 30-page manual or even for that matter an email that’s three pages is unrealistic. So for us with the training that we do, we think about short bursts. How do you send out an email or a training tidbit that is something that somebody could read in a minute or a minute and a half? How do you together a YouTube video, which is what we’re leveraging a lot, where it’s 30 seconds, 60 seconds, where it’s a tip of the day?”

Only adopt new technology that solves your challenges.

Salmirs: “Too many people come in and pitch us digital tools. And we always say to them, we see what you’re pitching us, but what problem are you trying to solve? And it usually ends up being a very short meeting because people don’t think that through. So for us, when we think about the kind of tools that we need and we think about digital, we start with the core element, what problem we’re trying to solve for. And once we get aligned on that and then we figure out what’s the right digital platform to either create or buy. And it becomes very clarifying once you align on what you’re trying to solve for.”

FP&A is the crucial role in finance.

Salmirs: “The FP&A role is really becoming more and more prominent in organizations. And if you look at our journey over the last couple of years, even with our FP&A people in the field, I would say two years ago our FP&A people were just really closing the books for the regional operators, just reporting the news. And now our FP&A people really have a seat at the table. They’re providing insights to the business leaders, they’re challenging the business leaders. It’s such a critical role and in a lot of organizations that FP&A role is overlooked.”

Network—in and out of your organization and industry—to learn new ideas.

Salmirs: “I read a lot, go to conferences like the AFP Conference. My first one was in Chicago last year, which I found fascinating. It’s just a great way to learn. I’m personally addicted to TED talks and I go to their annual conference in Vancouver every year. I just think it’s really important for leaders to be able to anticipate change. And if you’re going to conferences, if you’re networking, if you’re reading, that’s what’s going to keep you relevant. And I always tell my team to make sure they’re meeting with people outside of our industry because if you meet with people outside of your industry for insights, it’s going to help you become more well-rounded and there’s so many times that I find things that I could apply to our firm by meeting somebody that’s maybe in the advertising agency and what they’re working at or social media. So I just really feel, cast a wide net and be curious.”


Want to hear the full interview? Check out the first podcast of the AFP Conversations: Leadership Series hosted by Jim Kaitz, CEO and president of the Association for Financial Professionals.

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