Accelerating Finance Innovation in the Era of Covid 

By Nilly Essaides, Gilles Bonelli, and Vanessa Keating
January 18, 2021
Season 1, Episode 7

Nilly Essaides, senior research director for Finance and EPM at The Hackett Group, talks with Gilles Bonelli, practice leader of Finance and EPM Advisory for Europe at The Hackett Group, and Vanessa Keating, director of Digital Finance and EPM Advisory at The Hackett Group, about how finance organizations have been accelerating their drive toward improving innovation, agility, and the strategic value they offer in response to the global pandemic.

Show Notes

Today’s episode of the “Business Excelleration Podcast” is hosted by Nilly Essaides, senior research director and global practice leader at The Hackett Group. Her guests include Gilles Bonelli, practice leader of Finance and EPM Advising in Europe for The Hackett Group, and Vanessa Keating, director of Finance and GBS Advisory at The Hackett Group.

As the episode begins, Nilly asks Gilles why innovation is essential to the success of finance and other general and administrative functions in this environment of economic and business disruption. Gilles details how factors, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, have been influencing finance organizations. The way these factors have shaped circumstances demands adaptation on the part of the financial sector; this, in turn, requires innovation. Vanessa offers an example to illustrate the point made by Gilles, explaining how the story of a particular client working to digitize its finance operations demonstrates how companies can leverage a variety of tools and process knowledge to improve their end-to-end process.

Next, Nilly wonders what role finance plays in the innovation process. While there are a couple of different ways in which finance plays into innovation, Nilly focuses particularly on one topic both Gilles and Vanessa have mentioned throughout the conversation – finance digital transformation being key to accelerating finance innovation. Gilles addresses the core technologies involved in the digital innovation process within the finance field, explaining both what we are seeing and what he expects we will see moving forward. Vanessa adds an operations perspective to the conversation before Nilly turns back to the topic of mindset, which Gilles had introduced. He explains what he’s observed that it is necessary for a company to form a successful and sustainable innovation culture. His idea of an innovation framework also leads into Vanessa’s next point – that companies need to embrace agility in order to flourish as innovative organizations and achieve operational excellence.

As the conversation winds to a close, Nilly raises a final question for both guests: What is one piece of advice you would offer to a finance leader looking to bolster innovation capacity and culture at your company? Gilles highlights the need to lead by example, while Vanessa explains how leaders should invest in talent and enable leaders to enact change but avoid requiring perfection.


:58 – Nilly introduces herself and guests Gilles Bonelli and Vanessa Keating.

1:36 – Nilly asks Gilles about the necessity of innovation to success.

3:08 – Vanessa offers an illustrative example.

4:52 – What role does finance play in the innovation process?

6:55 – Nilly circles back to the topic of the strength of the digital component of innovative solutions.

8:57 – Vanessa adds an operations perspective.

10:47 – Nilly asks about the need to change mindsets.

12:54 – Another necessary component of an innovative framework is agility.

15:07 – Nilly asks a final question of each guest.