A host of ideas and solutions that are not only fast and practical, but also efficient. If an international concern like Deutsche Bahn goes about rethinking its finance function, then something special like FINANCE 4 DB is created. The innovative group programme converts the finance and accounting into the central factor of success in competition and in digitalisation.
Support instead of control
In order to achieve this, four fields of action have been defined. They form the framework of the overall FINANCE 4 DB project: realigning processes and structures, in order to increase the reaction speed of the group; to develop methods and instruments which function cleanly, effectively and intuitively; to refine roles and how we see ourselves, in order to guarantee transparency, innovation and customer orientation; to expand capabilities and collaboration in order to operate in even closer proximity to the customer.
“In the past, the finance function was not necessarily the teacher’s pet. We want to be represented strongly again in the role of supporter”, says Dr Julius Goldmann, Senior Project Manager for Change Management at FINANCE 4 DB. The process and system environment of Procurement, Accounting, Controlling and Treasury are being reshaped – on a consistently user-friendly basis using agile methods. A course of action that also shapes the work of the digitalization experts at DB Systel. The Deutsche Bahn IT specialists are on hand to support a series of digital projects within the FINANCE 4 DB group programme. “Together with FINANCE 4 DB, our account team is drawing up the solution concepts.
It is also establishing the necessary contacts with internal product teams and is checking the possibilities of cooperation with external IT providers”, explains Martyna Hutek from DB Systel (Pre-Sales & Senior Consultant). One factor for success is that a member of the Account Team acts in an advisory role on site with the customer, even during the design phase.
Supported by DB Systel, FINANCE 4 DB is currently working on three focus projects: “Procure-to-Pay” (P2P) is all about the redesign, digitalization, automation, transparency and standardization of the procurement processes in the area of sales. The second focus project, “Plan-to-Steer“ (P2S), also focuses on an end-to-end orientation of the process, in particular the reshaping and digitalisation of the planning and preview process for the DB-wide corporate planning. The aim of the third focus project “Integrated Data platform” (IDP) is a database as a “single source of truth” which raises efficiency and quality. This is where the foundation is established for a modern, data-based corporate control, which permits overall control by combining financial and operative data. “The starting points is the financial data from the existing central environment, but also the operational data from the Digital Situation Room. These are brought together in the IDP”, explains André Obiora, responsible for the IDP focus project and for broadly applicable IT activities at FINANCE 4 DB, DB AG.
Everyone can make a difference
Small projects that can be implemented quickly ensure the necessary dynamic: DB Systel is likewise involved in these “speedboat” projects. “These have been launched because the focus projects, which sometimes run for several years, threatened to pass under the radar of the workforce”, asserts Goldmann. The speedboats prevent this by involving colleagues: ideas from the finance community are now developed within a matter of months into a minimum viable product and are given three months in which to achieve mature application status. People use this opportunity to become actively involved in the project.
And if a speedboat “runs aground”, “Failure is allowed”, says Goldmann. “This is one of the lessons learned within the speedboat projects. Not everything is feasible – but, all things considered, a lot more than we thought at the start.” On the credit side, there is also the experience that DB can always provide “quickly and easily”. Another positive factor: when successful, the speedboats enrich the day-to-day work. This is because they minimise corrective and validating routines. They leave more time for attractive control measures and decision-making support. “Colleagues notice that they can make a difference to something”, says Obiora.
Together with DB Track, for example, a software robot for construction projects was developed: the solution programmed by DB Systel automatically collects the documentation for the grant approval. “For the personnel, this was always a boring and mind-numbing activity”, explains Goldmann. Even in the Treasury department, a speedboat ensures that the work processes are now freed from manual activities by means of Robotic Process Automation. And the “Blockchain” speedboat is also developing in a positive direction: it is aimed at documenting all compliance measures within the Group and completing them at the suppliers.
Partners at eye level
New “speedboat” ideas are presented roughly every four months in a pitch event of the DB finance function, in which DB Systel also participates. “The last pitch took place at the beginning of December. Five new projects were selected”, recalls Hutek. Now it is a case of how they can be implemented and with which partners this is done. “Needless to say, we ask DB Systel first”, says Obiora. “But, of course, there are also speedboats with other partners on board”. And Goldmann adds: “DB Systel with its people on site is in action at the heart of the finance function.” For the accumulation of know-how this may be very valuable. At the end of the day, bringing the topics of Business and IT closer together may be decisive. “And we manage that very well with FINANCE 4 DB”, says Goldmann. “We are profiting from the IT expertise of DB Systel. It’s a win-win situation – and always exciting!”