Transitioning from Finance to Operations – Q&A with Prophix COO Ryan Van Hatten

Prophix ImageProphix Mar 27, 2024, 7:00:00 AM

In previous posts, we’ve discussed ongoing growth for Prophix in 2024, including new customers, partners and advisors, the continued development of the Prophix Financial Performance Platform, and the exploration of new markets and geographies. To meet this exciting moment, we recently announced some changes to our senior leadership team, which included the appointment of Aaron Levine as Prophix's new chief financial officer. Having served as CFO since 2016, Ryan Van Hatten takes on a new role as the company’s chief operating officer, a natural transition for an executive who has prioritized finance and operations throughout his nearly two decades at Prophix.

We sat down with Ryan to talk about how he views the dovetail between finance and operations roles, share some observations in his first weeks on the job, and some short and long-term goals.

On the COO role

What do you see as the most critical concerns for a chief operating officer?

RVH: For Prophix, we are starting to think about the next leg of our journey and our next real opportunity to grow. To prepare for that, we know that there are a few things that need to be done operationally - areas that we can address more efficiently and more cost-effectively so that we’re in the best possible position to scale. The majority of these issues aren’t unique to Prophix – they're inherent to companies that have grown at the rate we have over the past several years.

First, we’re looking within the core operations functions: sales operations, marketing operations and CX operations, which is what we call professional services plus customer support. All of those groups have operations, teams, people, operations systems, operation processes and, independently, they all work really well and within the structure of each group, they are achieving their goals.

What tends to happen – and again, this is a persistent problem for many organizations - as soon as one group or project ends and another one is meant to start, there's no consistency. The processes just stop, they aren’t carried through into future iterations, nor is there good system coordination. So, people are doing lots of work and it's all good, but there’s always going to be unstructured, disconnected processes. One of the biggest symptoms of that disconnect is inconsistent data where you’ll see reporting from disparate teams and everyone has their own version of the truth which then leads to meetings and more time debating who has the right number versus talking about ‘what are we actually doing with all of this information’ and ‘how do we change for the better?’

So, one of my goals is to help unify our teams – make sure we’re all moving in the same direction and in an efficient way. Ensure that there aren’t overlapping responsibilities and that we’re all working from one single source of truth and responsibility.

What are some of the more unique operational challenges you’re likely to address in the coming years?

RVH: Again, it tends to be about bringing operating teams together in an efficient manner. For Prophix, we’ve grown from a regional entity into a global enterprise in a relatively short timeframe. We’ve seen that as we’ve grown outside of North America, whether through organic growth or acquisition, there are so many processes that vary by region or customer need or industry.

A large part of my operations role will be to determine what processes should be unified across all of the geographies where we do business and where we need to keep a unique process in place so that all of our teams are supported. 

On Prophix career journey

Transitioning from CFO to COO – do you envision that this will be a trend for executives with similar career paths and goals?

RVH: I think it certainly can be a trend. As a CFO, I have always felt that my journey was somewhat unique in that I came from an operational background. I was never an accountant and didn’t have extensive finance experience coming into the role. But now I’m coming full circle in a way where I not only have my operational experience, but now I have a bunch of years as CFO where I’ve learned the intricacies of the business that much more. I have a much broader lens when I’m considering which actions we might take or strategies to follow. I’ve got both the underlying numbers, which is helpful, and I’ve got an operational understanding of what those numbers mean.

And I do think that the idea of the CFO role moving past being just an accountant and transforming into a top-down operational strategist for the organization – that's very appealing and people do want to go down that path.

What has you most excited for this new role and what’s got you a bit nervous?

RVH: It’s been several years since Prophix has had someone overseeing this role, so it's a blank slate in a lot of ways. As much as there is a lot of process in place here already, this is really our opportunity to start fresh. When I first took the CFO position seven years ago, we weren’t in the best position – there was a lot that we needed to improve upon, but I was still working with a very defined sphere: let’s get the accounting work done, let’s get the reports done, making sure they are accurate and on-time and using a template that can be repeated and gradually improved upon over time. 

Operationally, though – every company has areas that can be improved upon at any time and Prophix is no different. So, to me, I'm coming into something where it's a blank slate, where we know that changes are required for our company to grow and improve. And there’s been plenty of buy-in internally to that notion, so it’s not like I need to sell everyone on organizational change. There is a bit of pressure to do things quickly – which does not mean stupidly. To make good decisions and think things through, but to be action-oriented versus getting into cycles of planning for months and months. 

With its recent changes, the Prophix senior leadership team has never been better positioned to drive strategic growth than it is today. Combining new experience, energy, and perspective with well-earned institutional knowledge and a passion for the Prophix brand, our C-suite is prepared for greatness.

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Ambitious finance leaders engage with Prophix to drive progress and do their best work. Leveraging Prophix One, a Financial Performance Platform, to improve the speed and accuracy of decision-making within a harmonized user experience, global finance teams are empowered to step into the next generation of finance with no reservation. 

 Crush complexity, reduce uncertainty, and illuminate data with access to best-in-class automated insights and planning, budgeting, forecasting, reporting, and consolidation functionalities. Prophix is a private company, backed by Hg Capital, a leading investor in software and services businesses. More than 3,000 active customers across the globe rely on Prophix to achieve organizational success.

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