Looking over the river Maas, a cargo ship sails past Van Oord's headquarter every now and then. It is drizzling, the sky is dark grey and the Brienenoord bridge, to where the office looks out, is shrouded in fog. We are interviewing Albert-Jan Kroezen, Director Finance & Control at Van Oord. He will talk on the 25th March about their Finance transformation at our event on the SS Rotterdam – a cruise ship from the sixties that is embarked just down the river Maas.
A family- and dredging company
In the welcome lobby there are pictures of projects by Van Oord, whose clients may also have visited this office. Perhaps the sheikhs from Dubai visited to commission the construction of the Palm Islands. A stone in the hall shows that the Dutch king and queen were here to lay the first stone of the office. This family company plays a major role in the infinite struggle of the Netherlands against water. They have protected the country from flooding in countless occasions and now export that knowledge around the world.
Albert-Jan has had a long career in project companies, where originally it would be mainly 'techies' that call the shots. According to Albert-Jan, "these are people that have to get the work done and have to tackle all kinds of unforeseeable conditions during the projects". Therefore, Finance & Control typically had more of a background presence in these kinds of companies.
Van Oord's ambitions
In 2016, van Oord started a major 'Finance transformation' initiative. According to Albert-Jan, this is partly to get past a backlog of maintenance. "We come from here..." Albert-Jan holds his hand slightly above the table. He starts lifting his hand to the height of his face "And now we're trying to get here at once".
The finance transformation initiative has three goals. Firstly, the project should enable the department to deliver better quality output, and more quickly. A second important result is that the project should enable the people in the organization to grow further. Thirdly, Van Oord has an agile Finance organization that enables them to survive the next 5 to 10 years.
So how exactly is Van Oord doing that? "The project consists essentially of three parts. First, they are transforming the existing central accounting into a customer-oriented and well-oiled transaction machine. Second is reporting and controlling. In the past, we were mainly focused on putting out quarterly closures, now we are growing into a management information department in the broadest sense, with OneStream as an important component of that," explains Albert-Jan. "Here we have actually touched everything that has to do with the quality and control of our profession: from internal control, risk management to the external audit."
The human factor
Thirdly, Albert-Jan adds the human factor. This, he says, is the biggest challenge in such a transition. Only last summer, he gave a lecture at Erasmus University about this topic, in the context of the impact of digitalisation on people and ethics. So it’s an important factor in Van Oord's Finance transformation: "Everywhere we have looked: what does this mean for humans, what type of person do we need, are they well trained and trained? What does this mean for the personal development matters? The human factor came back everywhere" he said.
When asked about the most unexpected ‘bump’ in the transformation process to-date, Albert-Jan replied that "the interdependence between departments and (their) systems within Van Oord is extremely intense". He did not underestimate this, but it turned out even more intense than you can imagine.