Nathan is a Managing Consultant at inlumi and has been part of the team in the Netherlands since 2016. We interviewed Nathan to learn what drove him to become a consultant and what he enjoys most about his role. Understanding people is a key part of Nathan's work as a consultant, with the aim of enabling organisations – and the people that work there – to perform at their best.
What experience did you have before joining inlumi?
I already knew I wanted to work in IT when I was a teenager. This dates me, but it was the time when the internet was just becoming available and I quickly realised the technology would not be going away. I started to get into systems and computers by learning how to fix my dad’s computer and chose an education path from there.
I studied Business and IT and did a placement at Eli Lilly Pharmaceutical Company. After I graduated in 2005, I spent a year traveling and then landed a job at Hyperion Consultancy. I had never heard of Hyperion, which Oracle subsequently bought in 2007, and specifically the underlying database Essbase. That's basically what I’ve been working with now for the last 15 years with a focus on Planning solutions.
I began my career at Qubix, a UK Consultancy in Hyperion, where my main focus was support alongside some project work. After four years, I moved to AMOSCA, another UK consultancy. I got married and I didn't want to travel as much, so I started working for the Guardian newspaper in 2013, where I spent almost four years as their Senior Hyperion Analyst. It was a learning experience for me to see the system used on a monthly basis for month end and for forecasting. Before the Guardian, I would work on a project and then leave after go-live. This time I could actually shape the system for the business and develop it, working closely with finance and our stakeholders to improve it.
When I applied for my current role in 2016, I had already worked with inlumi (then called Infratects) on projects in the UK many times. I was comfortable with the people, who I could tell were professional, enjoyed what they were doing, and had a lot of knowledge. It was a leap of faith to move to the Netherlands but one I do not regret.
So you went from consulting, to working in-house, and then doing consulting again.
I've seen both sides of the fence.
I've supported the processes and seen different approaches first-hand, and was able to add the value there. So now, as a consultant at inlumi, I really understand pressures of finance and can better anticipate people’s needs. I think it's made me a much better consultant.
What do you enjoy the most about being a consultant?
I really enjoy the lack of routine and thinking on my feet. Every day is different. It also brings a lot of diversity, exposing me to different businesses, people, and cultures. You wouldn’t get the same experience if you worked at one organisation in-house.
I also like being challenged every day; building things that haven't been there before, and experiencing the project from beginning to end.
Consultancy blends technology and people. It’s about adding value to businesses and seeing benefits that help businesses steer their companies better. I like to work with people to really understand their issues, and bring the knowledge of other projects and experiences to the table to help them.
Consultancy doesn’t just benefit the organisation, but the people working there - they enjoy their jobs more, they stop doing mundane tasks, and they can use solutions that really benefit their careers.
We talk a lot about how performance management can minimize manual work and let people spend more time on analysis. Would you say that that's the case?
It’s true. There is no value add when someone in a senior position with ten years’ of accounting experience spends their time exporting data, manually formatting it and then reconciling that data, and having to do it all over again if the data changes in one system. If you have five people in the team doing that, two to three hours a week – in the end that’s hours and hours of man hours spent on non-value adding work. It does get quite scary when you add it up.
I don’t think people realise just how demoralising is to do something so repetitive when there is technology that can do it for them.
I genuinely believe that the solutions do companies good and do people good. It's not just something that is nice to have. Performance management systems let you see the performance of the business, and the quicker you can get that data, the better the decisions you make.
You need to put in the effort to implement new systems, but the payoff is massive. The investment in an EPM solution pays itself back in months – in more productivity, a happier workforce and people adding more value. Our job is to convince people to have confidence in these solutions.
How do you give people that confidence?
People have a preference for what they know, and they like to feel in control. Our clients put critical systems and the data of their businesses in our hands, and that requires a lot of trust. If there’s no trust, you're going nowhere. And if the right stakeholders aren’t involved in the journey and don’t have enough say, they will simply go back to the way they were working before.
Building trust and credibility is so much more than just a technical approach. It is a holistic approach, involving stakeholders, addressing people's concerns, and looking at the culture.
One approach that is becoming is quite common is parallel runs, where you run the budget in the old system and the new system. If they reconcile, then the client can rest assured that that the new one works. You have to do the work twice for a period of time, but it gives everyone comfort and that's the most important thing.
There's also an approach called Proof of Concept. As a consultant, I know that the technology works, but it needs to be proven. So, sometimes we ask for a sample of data in order to model a very small part of the process, and then the client can see the output directly.
It's important to have the right people at the table. A consultant should take people with them on the journey – not just key-decision makers, but also users. It is vital to get the buy-in and show them that the solution will work. Then the rest of the project will be a success.
What sets inlumi apart for you?
inlumi is professional, but there is also a lot of flexibility here and no one puts me in a box. I can pursue opportunities and do what I like to do, and you don’t need formal channels to learn new things and get help from others.
I think it’s very important that we're there to help each other and not be in competition with one another internally. It’s what’s best for us and best for our customers as well.
Do you also see that collaboration across countries?
With Covid, it was proven that you don’t have to be on site all the time for a successful outcome. I’ve personally worked on some projects that are multi-entity, with colleagues based in different countries. It improves knowledge, but I also find it personally enriching to work with different cultures.
We don’t just rely on our project team, but we have a pool of consultants all over Europe who can offer their knowledge where it’s needed. I'm happy to contact anybody in any country for assistance, and I know that they’ll be willing to help. It’s a strength that we have at inlumi to be able to lean on the expertise of 140 consultants.