Alexei, you are the CEO of OMK-Audit and also the CEO of OMK-Information Technologies, captive units of OMK (United Metallurgical Company). Is it difficult to combine two different and very responsible positions?
It is indeed true that I currently combine two positions at OMK – I run the accounting and IT functions simultaneously. Naturally, the specifics of these operations differ, but they are also to a large extent closely linked. Furthermore, the principles of organizing and managing these functions are in my opinion similar to a certain extent – intangible management item, focus on internal clients, and the provision of professional services to effectively attain business goals. The logic underlying the construction of the IT and accounting functions is fundamentally identical. These are corporate services that are used to process flows of documents or requests (incidents).
In work over the past few years I have been directly involved in information technologies, in particular during the implementation of the SAP system, the design and implementation of the electronic archive system at OMK, and the establishment of remote accounting centers based on 1C, and have accumulated significant experience of business process change management during the implementation of IT projects at OMK.
OMK Group has fully reformed the accounting function and implemented an electronic archive system. You were in charge of the project to create a shared service center - so-called accounting centers - and actively participated in the Electronic Archive project. Can you tell us a little bit more about these projects? Are you satisfied with the results?
The creation of shared service centers (SSC) is a common trend for international and Russian holding companies incorporating a number of enterprises and companies. The main goal of such projects is to separate the service function, a non-core function for the main business, into a separate unit or legal entity. For example, in January 2009, OMK management decided to merge the fragmented accounting function into one legal entity based on OMK-Audit, with the simultaneous consolidation of accounting centers and transfer of the main operations to the region. During 2010-2012 a geographically distributed shared service center was created to manage accounting and tax accounting with a single administrative chain of command. The accounting of all the legal entities of the holding company (approximately 40 entities), which had previously maintained accounting functions, was transferred fully to the SSC.
We pay significant attention to improving the organizational business processes at the Accounting Centers. We have established in all regions a “one-stop service” – single points for receiving source documents and internal client requests. The Electronic Archive project is a key tool that enabled us to improve the quality and speed of the processing of source documentation and ultimately the overall effectiveness of the accounting function. When a document is received, where necessary barcoding is performed (documents printed off the accounting systems already have bar codes), followed by preliminary registration – information is entered on the employee responsible for this document, the bar code is read with the help of a hand-held scanner to automatically determine the date of receipt. In the case of the industrial scanning of documents, special software recognizes the bar codes and places document icons in the target folder as part of the local area network. Consequently, the received electronic document icons, which were printed off the accounting systems, are partially automatically indexed, classified, and a hierarchical array data structure is also created. The employees of the one-stop service fill out the card with the main attributes for each document. Then the scanned document icon is transmitted electronically directly to an employee of the transaction center, who also performs operations in the system based on the scanned icons of the source documents. This means that you can browse directly from the accounting system the scanned source documents – the grounds for the operation.
The most important area of improvements to the accounting function concerns the improved quality of the financial statements and tax reporting. In order to process a document within the established timeframe – 20 hours for placing a document in the electronic archive system from the time of its booking in the single shop service and 20 hours for the appearance of the operation in the accounting system, – we actively use dynamic control tools, which make it possible to identify peak load periods, the rhythmic nature of the booking of documents and the processing time at each stage in the Accounting Center. Now we are actively working to reduce these deadlines.
A key performance indicator is also the clear, rapid and simple process where our internal clients can contact any accounting center in any situation and obtain a response to any question. Understanding the importance of effective communications, we implement a program aimed at increasing client focus: we have developed and implemented employee service standards, compiled a training and subsequent control program, established a standing quarterly services committee. This is a type of “hotline”, when any employee may turn up the most convenient time for them on a specific day and designated time slot and ask any question, make a suggestion or observation on the work of the accounting centers.
What interesting IT challenges await you?
Over the past year I have been focusing primarily on the establishment of the information technologies shared corporate service. Considerable progress has been made during this time. We have managed to merge and restructure the work of the IT functions of plants and the corporate office (based on the newly established legal entity OMK-Information Technologies), transfer many of the tasks being resolved in Moscow to the regions, restructure IT project activities in the holding company, implement a number of significant IT projects achieving effective savings from the implemented solutions. We have succeeded in our main goal – the underlying framework has been established for completion of the construction of a unified cost-effective shared IT service throughout OMK Group. As a rule, we are moving forward.
What do you love most of all about your work? What inspires you?
In work I love to set myself ambitious goals and achieve them. I am inspired by new unconventional complex challenges. Naturally, I am motivated most of all by successes and tangible results. Interaction with my colleagues and subordinates, the search for joint effective solutions and constant progress, are important components of work for me. In my opinion, the most important achievement of leadership is to organize work so that the function works as a system without requiring constant interference. Then you can focus on future-based tasks.
Does the experience that you acquired working at KPMG help you in your current work?
It goes without saying that the experience I acquired during work at KPMG is priceless. Participation in audit engagements enabled me to see and study the business models of a large number of Russian and international companies. This helps me to be flexible, apply and adapt best practices at our company, work in a team and find common ground with different people. At KPMG I acquired effective communications skills, learned how to cope with stress and practice intelligent time and risk management when implementing changes. I am extremely grateful to my irreplaceable counseling manager Aaron Woolsey for all his support and coaching.
During your work you worked for KPMG in Italy for two years. Can you explain how this assignment affected your professional growth?
First and foremost, I learned Italian very quickly and to date speak it fairly fluently. Without this mobility opportunity, I think that I would not have been motivated enough to achieve this goal. If I am serious, the international assignment enabled me to realize that everything is not so bad in Russia. A large number of processes in Russia are structured in the optimal and correct way. The main problem concerns discipline and the responsibility of the people implementing specific tasks. In addition, the experience of inter-cultural communications in professional activities expands significantly your general horizons and develops the flexibility of thinking, which subsequently helped me at work.
Do you maintain contacts with former colleagues and friends from KPMG?
Now and then I talk to former colleagues on professional topics at different events and conferences and occasionally attend Alumni meetings. I have several close friends from KPMG with whom I stay in touch. However, owing to the current pace of life, I do not manage to meet up very often. Nevertheless I have retained fond memories about everyone whom I had the good fortune to meet during my years of work.
What do you like doing in your spare time? In your opinion, what helps you find the right balance between work and free time?
In general I spend any free time with my family. I love taking a break in nature far away from busy urban life. I manage to keep a balance between work and free time thanks to self-discipline and an ability to switch off from business during rest.
In your opinion, what has been the secret to your success in your career and life?
For me the secret to success is to believe in what you do in your career and your life. I believe that you simply need to take up and do what you believe is necessary and right. And naturally you need to continually move forward!