In this Insight we talk to our CFO Rick Ogden about how finance technology is improving Ausenco’s financial nous, why he thinks customer service is so important, his career journey and why he’s an advocate for in-house Finance teams.
Ausenco’s Chief Financial Officer, Rick Ogden, joined Ausenco in January 2017. He leads a global team of around 100 Finance personnel located across six countries who are responsible for corporate and regional financial management, tax, treasury, business systems, shared business services and facilities management. He is a strong believer in client focus, the Finance teams’ role in building managers’ financial nous and the importance of streamlining business processes.
Q. How is Ausenco using technology and finance tools to improve its business outcomes?
Over the past six years Ausenco has invested in financial tools and systems that provide our managers access to their numbers. For a company of our size, Ausenco invested significant resources into installing a single instance of Oracle across the global business from 2011 and followed this up with the development of a custom management tool called iRIS in 2014. We are starting to see the benefits of these investments as our industry sector and company begin to grow after a difficult few years.
We now have a wealth of data and tailored tools that enable us to interpret that data and improve the understanding of our commercial levers with managers right across our business.
Q. How have you seen Ausenco Managers and the business benefit from using the finance tools?
Our Finance tools provide a single source of truth across the company. Our managers can easily see all their relevant data and those up their reporting lines also see the same data. This gives our people an increased ability to forecast potential changes to projects/assignments, people numbers and workflows in a constantly changing environment.
We have also established common KPIs, definitions and formats for reporting performance for our different parts of the company. In a global business with multiple lines of business, multiple practice areas, revenues and costs in different countries, with a range of currencies, the consolidation of this into common reporting enables our leadership teams to have very clear understanding of how the different parts of the business are performing and what is impacting on that performance. Our finance tools have streamlined the process for preparing and understanding our reporting, which helps improve the financial nous of our managers and leaders and helps ensure we’re prepared for changes in our outlook.
Q. How has the Finance team adapted new technology to support the business and improve the financial nous of its managers?
Some managers love to delve into the details of their budgets, but some don’t. Whether a manager is accountable for a practice area, their team, a project, long-term assignment, a region or for ensuring invoices and payments occur on time, understanding their own financial levers, the broader business levers and their interrelationships are essential for good decision making.
The finance tools provide the data, so our Finance team members can partner with their internal clients to help identify, generate and help them interpret the relevant numbers and options to ensure every decision considers relevant internal drivers as well as market, client and legislative drivers. It is particularly important for projects where people from multiple locations are collaborating and/or where procurement is occurring across multiple jurisdictions. Tax implications can also be complex and are considered with close involvement of Finance team members.
Q. Has the availability of more data and tools impacted on the Finance team?
The increasing use of the technology and reduction in manual activities also means we can focus our Finance team members on value-adding services that take best advantage of their different skill sets and keep our team numbers relatively stable, while the business grows.
For example, our regional teams, including our tax experts, provide ‘traditional’ management accounting, but also help guide leadership and project managers in understanding and working with their numbers for their parts of the business and on projects during proposals, bids and execution phases.
Our Shared Services team in Malaysia focuses on the transactional elements, including accounts payable, accounts receivable and management of payroll for some parts of our business. Since being established in 2014 the Malaysia team has expanded their scope and added more efficiency to our billing payment processes. We expect this to continue over coming years as the business continues to grow.
Members of our regional teams, our Shared Services team and our Business Services Group (which oversees our Oracle and iRIS tools), have also played significant roles in the acquisition and integration of our recently acquired environmental consulting group, Hemmera.
Q. What’s the number one thing a Finance team can do to help a consulting, engineering and project delivery business like Ausenco?
Customer service. I believe it’s essential that we listen and engage our internal clients. If we really understand what our business partners need from their Finance team, and deliver on that, we can collectively achieve our business goals.
Q. You joined Ausenco as CFO in 2017. How did your career path bring to you be working for a global consulting, engineering and project delivery company?
I knew I wanted to be in business from an early age. My favourite subject at school was Commerce and I started work experience with a stock broking company when I was 15. I worked in banking as a currency trader for two years after school before completing my accounting degree and joining Ernst & Young as a graduate accountant.
My career path from graduate accountant to CFO included a variety of finance roles across the chartered accounting, mining and building materials sectors. I’ve been based in four different countries and completed multiple post graduate education courses to develop my leadership and business expertise. During those years I also created a life outside of work with my family and our shared love of camping in our Volkswagen Kombi Campervan which continue today.
I joined Ausenco in January 2017 for several different reasons. Firstly, I was already familiar with the industry from previous roles. Secondly, the company was in a state of change – starting to come out of an industry down cycle and recently privatised, both of which I saw as opportunities to which I could add value. Thirdly, the global focus of the business was attractive. While I had worked in several countries before, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work across a business with Ausenco’s broad geographic and industry spread. Ausenco’s strong reputation in the industry was also a drawcard. I believed I could use my experience to make a positive impact on the company, and at the same time continue my own professional development. And I’m so glad that I did join Ausenco! My experience so far has certainly lived up to my expectations and I firmly believe the best for Ausenco is still to come.
Q. Why do you see joining an in-house Finance team like the one at Ausenco beneficial for Finance professionals?
I believe there are number of benefits working in house, particularly for a global company like Ausenco. Our Finance team is run globally, with regional teams who support the different parts of the business in their part of the world. Our global communities of practice promote sharing and professional development and there is close collaboration and communication across our technical disciplines. Because we are a relatively small group, there is real, regular interaction at different levels of the Finance team between locations and countries – it’s part of the way we work and helps team members gain knowledge and experience of different cultural, language and process differences as well as legislative and reporting requirements. This, coupled with my own experience means I’d recommend working in-house for finance professionals seeking to broaden their profession.
For more on Rick, visit his Expert profile.