In 2019, IFS launched the Challenger Champions initiative to celebrate the people working for our customers who have done something different, making life easier, more exciting, or having more impact for themselves and their colleagues.
Continuing on the success of last year, we plan to shine a light on a new set of Challenger Champions throughout 2020. We will be posting these personal portraits on this blog over the coming months, so watch this space!
Introducing Sheila FitzGibbon, First Challenger Champion of 2020
IFS is blessed with an exceptionally large number of long-term customer relationships, many of them spanning decades. UK-based market leader in offshore engineering Global Marine Group is one of them.
Recently joining the ranks of the IFS Challenger Champions, Sheila FitzGibbon, Senior Project Manager, started out in finance and accounting by happenstance through an internship at a local cleaning company at the age of 16, where she then moved onto London to grow her skills and experience. At 20, by then a part qualified accountant, Sheila joined Global Marine Group, where she has stayed since and became a fully qualified chartered certified accountant in 2006.
Having worked for Global Marine Group for more than 18 years, Sheila has been involved in a large number of different projects across many different business areas. Being an accountant, she worked in the finance team for 17 years before being headhunted into the IT team in January 2019.
“I am the IFS Applications system administrator, so I manage all changes that are needed in the system, for example adding new users, removing leavers, organizing training, delegation of authority, and segregation of duties.”
Sheila also manages IT audits, including compliance, as well as tracking and reconciliation of the company’s IT budgets.
“I have managed many IFS-related projects over the years, including a base currency project and integration of new businesses that Global Marine Group has acquired—a process that involves data migration, business process alignment, and user training.”
“In a nutshell, I inherited IFS Applications as a ‘mere’ finance person back in 2006, and I have grown my competence over the years to where I work with the system as my day job, which I love.”
Break it ‘til you make it—coming to grips with new technology
When Sheila first joined Global Marine Group, the company was running SAP and had just made the decision to implement a new finance solution. While Sheila was not part of the selection of IFS, she quickly became an essential part of the original implementation team.
“We implemented IFS Applications in 2006. Being part of the implementation team, I got the necessary training, attended the workshops, and did the testing. That is really how I came into IFS; I got to know if from the very beginning.”
“I think that the best way to understand a system is to use it and experience it for real—that is how I’ve learned it along the way. I’ve always been keen to know how to do things and how you can break things. Always asking the question ‘What happens if I do this?’ helps you get a deeper understanding of the logic of the solution. And once you understand the fundamental structure, you’re in a great position to find more efficient ways of working.”
In 2012, Global Marine Group upgraded to IFS Applications 7.5, which is the version the company is currently on. Sheila requested to lead the upgrade project but, being a part of the finance team, the project management responsibility fell to an external consultant.
“I’ve always been championing IFS Applications, which has historically been under-utilized across our business. This is something that we are currently addressing, and the business is more than ready to develop its usage and take the next step in future-proofing its IT landscape.”
Given her experience and background in finance, Sheila knows the entire business and the gaps that need plugging.
“I know the end-to-end journey that is required, which is one of the main reasons I was chosen to lead the current upgrade to IFS Applications 10.”
Revolution vs. evolution
For Sheila and Global Marine Group, an upgrade to IFS Applications 10 and the new Aurena user interface represented an excellent opportunity to deliver a truly utilized toolset that could help employees in their daily tasks and make them as efficient and automated as possible.
“All during the implementation process, I’ve been very clear that this isn’t only a technical upgrade—we are doing profound changes for the better. In fact, we should consider it as a completely new implementation and, as a part of this change, I decided early on to implement the IFS Aurena user experience across the entire system.”
“We decided to deploy a completely new interface because the company needed to change. And to make change happen, sometimes you need a complete reboot of everything. If you want to change a mindset, you need to replace everything that is familiar so that people don’t fall back into old habits.”
Another key reason for upgrading was increasing efficiency through mobility, and the ability to give users a browser-based interface that would support them at any time and on any device.
“Global Marine Group is a very mature business, so we have a lot of legacy systems to support our increasingly diversified operations. Our new business plan places IT as a central entity, which means that any software application needs to go through our team. This gives us visibility across the three business units within the Group and empowers us to identify bottlenecks or functional overlaps.”
The attributes of a true challenger
For people like Sheila FitzGibbon, change is never assumed or left to chance. It is driven, step by step, and always informed by a deep understanding of the potential consequences of her decisions. It’s about realizing that any decision you make will impact hundreds of people in their daily work, but still having the confidence to carry them out.
“To be a true champion for change, you need to be unflappable, conscientious, and tenacious. These are the characteristics that I’ve relied on throughout my career. When I’m faced with a challenge, I never go into panic mode. Instead, I deal with the issue in a methodical way, tackling each problem one at a time. Being a mother of two, I have lots of experience defusing high-pressure, volatile situations.”
The benefits of sharing and the power of community
Sheila’s story is a testament to how perseverance and enthusiasm can empower individuals to drive sweeping change for the better. Always predicated on the understanding that the utilization of technology gives people a toolset that enables them to make good and timely decisions and carry out their jobs with ease.
“I think my background is probably quite different compared to other people in similar roles. I’ve always been, and still am, passionate about the company I work for, so my hope is to show that with persistence and enthusiasm, people can become agents of positive, lasting change. Over the course of 18 years, it would have been easy to give up and gone with the flow, but I haven’t because that wouldn’t have been right for the business.”
With the Covid-19 pandemic unfolding and many people under lockdown, the world is relying on companies like Global Marine Group to maintain critical infrastructure like subsea telecommunications and power cables. This is a responsibility that neither Sheila nor her coworkers take lightly.
“Helping our people do their jobs—quite literally keeping the lights on—is very fulfilling and inspires me to go that extra mile, especially during these trying times. I am confident that when the crisis is behind us, we’ll be able to look back on our efforts with a lot of pride.”
Learn more about the Challenger Champion program here.
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