Drawing the Plans at Accenture

In her role as strategy manager, Alexa Michl devises finance plans for clients, then finds ways to put their goals into action

I work for Accenture, a global consulting services firm. I'm based in the New York City office -- though I'm rarely there -- and I'm a manager in the strategy group with a focus on finance and performance management. My responsibilities on client projects include managing the day-to-day workload and client expectations. This means managing teams of Accenture analysts and consultants, working closely with the client and our Accenture partner, and ultimately making sure that we deliver on time and to everyone's satisfaction.

The scope and objectives of my projects vary greatly, but in general I work on finance strategy assignments. This entails meeting with senior finance officers of our clients and discussing their two- to five-year goals for the finance organization and how these goals align with their corporate strategy. Formulating a better finance strategy, gaining agreement, and then translating the strategy into concrete objectives that can be put into practice typically takes a few weeks.


  The challenge lies in interviewing stakeholders who will be affected, discussing the strategy and its impact on operations within all levels of the organization, capturing their ideas and points of view, and then gaining their support. If this isn't done correctly, the strategy will remain a theoretical formulation that's disconnected from day-to-day operations. This is where a lot of strategy projects fail.

Once the interviewing is done, we spend a few weeks on making the strategy implementable, for instance, determining what changes will need to be implemented in the various finance departments, what the new workflow will be (e.g. consolidating redundant processes, automating or outsourcing certain functions), what technologies will need to be implemented or upgraded, and what new skills need to be taught or brought in. In addition, we'll formulate new performance targets, work on determining what metrics and key performance indicators will be used to monitor progress, and suggest how to best reward success. Such a strategy project can last anywhere from 6 to 15 weeks, depending on the scope, the finance areas involved, and the level of detail required.

I'm currently in the middle of a small strategy project with six Accenture and eight client-team members.


5:00 a.m. -- I get up and get ready to leave for the airport, praying that New York City traffic is light and that flights are on time. Check voice mail.

6:30 a.m. -- I catch a flight to Chicago, where my current client is located.

9:00 a.m. -- I arrive at Chicago's O'Hare airport, rent a car, and drive 30 minutes to the client site. I check voice mail on the way and make a few phone calls to the partner leading the project plus my team.

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