Interviewer: Maiko Tsuji
Created by： RGF Professional Recruitment Japan Marketing Team
Globalization and technological advancements are both rapidly changing companies and our society.
Given these circumstances, consulting firms are expected to lead the new era as their role becomes increasingly more significant to society.
This time, we interviewed Mr. Hiraji, Product and Research Development (PRD) Managing Director of the world’s leading consulting firm, Accenture.
Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us. Could you briefly tell us about yourself?
After graduating from university, I started working for Accenture as a new grad. I focused on global supply chains and operating models in the Communications, Media, & Technology (CMT) department for around 14 years.
After that, I got a chance to move to the PRD department. Currently, I am in charge of financial advice in technology consulting.
Why did you choose to work for Accenture?
There were two main reasons.
One was personal. I am the type of person that likes to constantly try new things. For this reason, I wanted to work for a company that allowed me to do different things and engage with different clients.
Also, I wanted to do something that would help others and make others happy – so I decided to try consulting.
The second reason was because Accenture is a global company.
There a number of companies considered as “global” but I chose to work for Accenture because their working environment made me believe that it was a truly global company.
How does Accenture’s “One Global Network” foster collaboration around the world?
While I was job hunting and speaking with the HR team, I looked into Accenture’s employee training programs, overseas expansion, and collaborations all over the world.
After that was when I concluded how Accenture truly operated globally.
In fact, as of today, there are more than 200 locations in 52 countries. Accenture is a global company because they started and continued to operate with a global perspective. My belief is still the same to this day.
One of the many reasons why I enjoy working for Accenture is that I am almost 100% able to confidently answer a client’s request using Accenture’s network and resources even if my personal knowledge and connections may not be sufficient.
In situations where I receive a request from clients but lack the expertise in that particular field, I rarely get worried because I would be immediately introduced to an expert from Accenture’s network and from there, I would be able to receive proper advice from them.
Is knowledge-sharing part of the company’s business operation? Or is it done through personal connections?
Both are correct. Within the company, there is a system called “Knowledge Exchange”, where all Accenture workers have access to all of Accenture’s business proposals and projects.
Of course, confidential information is never shared in this system but we would usually gather information from there and ask the person in charge of a proposal or project to do further research if and when necessary. This is how we share knowledge with each other.
Another thing that is important as a global company is utilizing the same system and standardizing operational and business terminologies, which Accenture has clearly implemented worldwide.
Personally, I participated in global projects and stayed abroad about 2/3 of my career with Accenture. Despite my heavy travels and working with different branches, I did not have any communication problem with others in the workplace.
In a global company, English is not the only challenge because varying business terminologies can also be an issue if not standardized from the very beginning.
At Accenture, we avoid miscommunication because everyone uses the same terms, shared tools, and methods. It is definitely one of the company’s strengths.
Companies often advertise that the Japanese market is independent and free from global regulations, but does your company think “One Global Company” is applicable to Japan?
Since many companies try to expand globally, it is unreasonable to work solely with Japanese people.
It would be very difficult to meet the clients’ expectations if we limit our output to information given by the Japanese team alone.
When it comes to providing the latest trends and the best tools etc., I think it is important that we assign the best Human Resource as well to provide high quality services to the clients.
In a sense, we at Accenture Japan, are Japanese representatives of Accenture. We create services by cooperating with other representatives worldwide.
That is another one of Accenture’s strengths. As client expectations rise, our global expansion also speeds up.
In your career, how did you shift from the CTM Department to Finances in the PRD Department?
When I was in the CTM department, I did not do anything related to finance because I was mainly in charge of Supply Chain.
The work related to Supply Chain was very interesting and I was able to build the necessary skills to be a field consultant.
I started to do finance-related work when I served as a Project Manager for a former client and enhanced their business operations.
I have worked with CFOs in the past and I believe the role of the CFO has changed over the past 10 years. Former CFOs managed the Finance and Accounting Department and focused on budgeting and cost reduction.
Currently, CFOs that I am currently supporting have a different role as they now try to enhance their companies’ value by partnering with their CEOs.
What are the changes in the roles and qualifications of a CFO?
Over the past 15 years, Accenture has interviewed many CFOs all over the world, including Japan. From this interview, I see that the roles of CFOs are changing.
First, there are changes in the optimization method of business processes. There has been ongoing efforts to optimize accounting operations.
However, with the emergence of new technology like RPA and OCR, it is now possible to increasingly incorporate automation into the business and reduce labor costs.
Second, we are able to predict better. 10 years ago, it was difficult to forecast inventory, cash flows, and sales projections with high accuracy because there were not enough resources at that time.
However, as a result of technological advancements, it is now possible to plan the necessary analytics and algorithms while also considering sales projections. The CFO plays an important role in these areas of business optimization.
Third, but certainly the most important, I feel that there are more cases where the CFO plays a role in leading digital transformation within the business.
Of course, this role will depend on the company. Since the role would require individuals to be knowledgeable in technology, the CIO (Chief Information Officer) or CDO (Chief Digital Officer) may take on the role in some cases. But it should be considered top priority to have the ability to accurately judge whether or not digitalization would be an effective means for the company’s growth.
Companies need to know what level of value this digital transformation will bring in the future.
Therefore, CFOs should be responsible for this role because they can judge this from a financial point of view.
At Accenture, we believe innovation is created when various technical elements, like new technology and existing technology, are combined. Individual elements, such as AI, would not be useful on its own.
Our business model is creating something of value by combining individual elements. With this business model we connect, combine, and then create. I believe this is something the CFO should take part in as well.
I often tell my team members that they should strive to become an advisor to the CFO.
While it is important for the Finance and Accounting Department to manage essential F&A operations, enhancing the company’s value through new technology should not be neglected.
This is why it is our mission to help CFOs incorporate new technology trends to resolve difficult business challenges.
Lastly, to work for Accenture, what kind of mindset should you possess?
To name a few, one is being curious and therefore, appreciating new things. It is necessary for our consultants to constantly gather new information and trends, and inform our clients about brand new services and its potential use.
Of course, the way this information is used will be different for every consultant, but a person that loves new things and is interested in the changing world would be very suitable in this working environment.
Second, I think individuals that like to challenge themselves would be a good fit for the company. There are many kinds of jobs at Accenture, but at the technology consulting group that I am managing, it is important to think about creating new services with new technology.
I believe that a person that loves a challenge is someone who is also willing to bring change and fulfill the client’s needs – that is definitely good for our company.
Lastly, of course, people that want to grow in a global environment will flourish in Accenture.
We provide services all over the world and each country has its own unique trends. For example, the U.S. could be advancing in one area while Japan could be advancing more in another area.
Creating a global team will encourage the members and the team can grow together.
Also, there are opportunities to talk to global talents even if the office is not located overseas, making it feel like you are working at a truly global environment.
At Accenture, we believe we can offer the best value while thinking about our client’s future.
Not only do we support existing solutions, we predict what will happen in the business world by creating roadmaps, pointing out the efficient steps for faster growth, and advising what needs to be changed.
I believe that we add value when we advise and help bring change.
Thank you very much.
Acccenture Japan Ltd.