#138: Mastering Change & Transformation In Finance with Niall O’Sullivan

with Niall O’Sullivan

Our Guest Mentors:

Niall O’Sullivan is currently Google Finance Director for Emea, responsible for implementation and maintenance of financial controls and statutory reporting across Europe and Africa in a highly centralised model. Niall is also CEO of Google Payments Ireland – recently granted a payments licence by the Central Bank of Ireland

Niall has built an exemplary reputation for relentless execution of organisational change and complex cost reduction programmes. He devised Vodafone’s Finance Strategy and executed large scale transformation programme with investment of over £1bn and annual savings of over £300m. Led the implementation of an SAP programme from the beginning across 24 countries and 100,000 users. Niall has managed diverse teams of financial, legal, technology and operations experts across multiple geographies, and at Vodafone he managed a large team of over 2,500 people across 20 countries including 3 Shared Services Centres.

Niall is a speaker at many executive level conferences on change and transformation He also holds an ACA designation and lives with his family in Dublin, Ireland.

Key Quotes From the Episode: 

“[On early experience as a young financial controller] the fundamentals of any business is knowing your cash.” [04:30]

“[On being successful at driving change] I was driving so much change I actually had to have a limit on how much change I could implement and I put a detailed project management system in place.” [08:54]

“[On the need to be aware of transformations in finance] The age of the traditional is pretty much gone.” [12:58]

“[On getting the most out of best practice sharing] six months after joining the business I used to ask them [new team members] what 3 things do we do better than your last company and name 3 things that your last company did better than us.” [15:05]

“[On hiring great people and the extra finance need to bring] Everybody on your team should know more about something than you do.” [22:54]

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Key Points From the Episode: 

  • How you get handed a €1 billion global transformation program and be the business finance guy that leads it;  
  • 3 key focus areas where finance professionals can help drive successful change; and 
  • Why the role of the traditional accountant is gone although the importance of the discipline of our core audit & accounting skills is higher than ever. 

Time Stamped Show Notes 

[02:10] – Niall shares his career journey from law degree to the meritocracy of accounting, getting started in the technology spaceSoftrans learning the importance of cashflow, Dell, Oracle, shared services, EircellVodafone, a move abroad, running global finance transformations with a project up to €1billion. 

[08:30] – On how you get handed a €1 billion global transformation program and be the business finance guy that leads it. 

[11:00] – How to drive successful change (strong finance people; the precision for finance in running the business; discipline around accuracy despite pressure on the business). 

[12:52] – Why the role of the traditional accountant is gone although the importance of the discipline of our core audit & accounting skills is higher than ever. 

[15:00] – Niall’s 2 key tips on how to get the most out of best-practice sharing. 

[17:01] – What’s exciting Niall most about his current work, the rate of change and what their highly leveraged model (Very hard to reverse engineer). 

[19:15] – Key skills for us to remain relevant (data & analytical skills, seeing patterns, change management, project management, understanding business drivers from core process, the source of data, how numbers get into financial statements, controls & compliance and the risk of machines. 

[22:16] – The best bit of advice Niall has ever received and why it’s important to hire the best people you can, as well as the importance of strong communication skills. 

[26:17] – Niall’s parting thoughts and why it’s important to be open to learning from others outside your own world. 

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