Strategy & Operations » Business Partnering » Sky finance chief on building an anti-fragile finance function

How is Sky developing a resilient business model that fits the ‘anti-fragile’ characteristics identified by economist Nassim Taleb?

For a business model to be resilient it needs to be able to be able to survive market change. But to be anti-fragile and prosper, it needs to take advantage of such market changes to be even more successful. It goes beyond resilience- to being best placed to make continual improvements all the time.

That means it needs to be customer led – not just in the sense of responding to current customer demands, but also anticipating and proactively shaping future demand-through extracting insights from data. Effective judgements on those insights can then inform good decision-making.

What is meant by a self-improving finance function that Sky is developing?

I define a self-improving finance function as one that has the culture and practices that allow it to regenerate and refresh as the business changes, making Finance even better, and to do so without needing to lock itself away in a darkened room for six months every time it does so. In practice this means a culture of continuous improvement and challenge – being forward looking and restless. Practices are required that create both the environment and frequent opportunities to realign, as well as the ability in the Finance people to embrace change. Such a culture and practices become self-fulfilling and self-renewing.

How is the self-improving culture being developed at Sky?

An example of how we develop this culture is by rotating our finance people every two years, so that they are better capable of coping with change. This becomes a win-win for the individuals who become less wedded to an area and more adaptive to change.

This approach develops more effective teams, especially those involved in business partnering, because it creates more “touch points” with the rest of the organisation. The cumulative effect of exposing people to regular change can reap huge benefits for a business like Sky which experiences a huge amount of change.

How important is this factor in a fast-changing business environment defined by an empowered consumer that Sky inhabits?

It is definitely the case that the media industry is enjoying an exciting convergence of technology with more traditional entertainment. But as per the Marc Andreesen quote “software is eating the world”, show me an industry where technology isn’t driving fast change, where at the heart are new consumer demands and expectations!

How can the resilient, yet highly adaptive finance function, ensure an anti-fragile culture across a large organisation?

Creating an anti-fragile culture requires the same implementation disciplines of any cultural programme. It requires a clear shared understanding of what we are doing and why, at all levels. It needs translated into what it means for each individual, who can see good examples and enjoy positive reinforcement. It needs to appeal to the head, heart and pocket.

Rob Collie is Director of Group Finance Delivery at Sky, where has worked for nine years looking after finance transformation whilst leading the group’s finance shared service centre. He previously worked in corporate strategy at confectionary giant Cadbury Schweppes.

Hear from Rob Collie on how Sky has tried to develop an anti-fragile finance function to drive through marginal gains, improve processes and support organisational change at CFO Agenda:

https://www.thecfoagenda.com/