My client applied for the role of Senior Manager Financial Services within State (NSW) Government, progressed to the job interview stage and was offered the role. A two-page statement in letter format addressing two targeted questions was prepared. A full example from one of the questions follows.

Describe your role in a significant process improvement project to streamline financial processes and improve internal controls.

When I first commenced in my current role, I identified the organisation had minimal cash reserves on hand to pay invoices. I developed a plan to improve the organisation’s cash flow with a focus on reducing outstanding receivables via improvements to the debt collection process. I was instrumental in identifying key issues with the existing process – the original practice and policy was complex and time consuming and was not adhered to by staff. I conducted a review of the process and outlined a plan to restructure the debt collection process, and presented my recommendations to the senior management team.

With their approval to proceed, I led and managed the project of restructuring and improving the debt collection process; the project lifecycle spanned four months in duration. To help with the body of work, I selected two finance staff members, one of whom had in-depth knowledge of the existing process, and the other was highly analytical and process-oriented and I trusted in them taking over management of the process after it was rolled out.

Throughout the course of the project, a key difficulty was encountered – many of the key stakeholders were resistant to change and believed it was a process/procedure they did not have to follow. To counter this difficulty and to transform their mindset and attitude, I facilitated numerous meetings over a four-month period to explain the situation and the reasons why improvement to the process was necessary, and I emphasised the negative impacts of the organisation’s lack of cash reserves and outstanding debt. To maintain engagement, I kept them regularly informed of the project’s status and asked for their feedback and input into the process.

As a result, key outcomes and metrics were realised in 12 months: the organisation’s outstanding debt was reduced by $884k in the most recent financial year period over the previous, and the debt ratio dropped by 1.33%.

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Annie Cerone