October 15, 2014 - Financial Analytics – Breaking Down the Barriers!

Ok, so your CFO has decided your company needs Financial Analytics and you’ve been assigned to lead it. Of course, it has to be done right away and on an extremely tight budget. We need some ROI, you know!

Financial Analytics breaking down the barriers

Far too often, companies succumb to the allure of vendors promising amazing benefits. They rush head first down the path of implementing a solution without enough forethought. Consider the following predicaments:

“We just spent a million dollars on a BI Financial data warehouse project and people are just exporting data to excel and emailing it all over the organization.”

“Our Financial dashboards are designed to extract and aggregate data on a nightly basis, but the accountants closing the books says they need real time data feeds.”

“Our BI tool has a lot of cool graphics with trends and exceptions, but most people just want a transaction listing with all the data so they can do their own analyses in Excel.”

“I now have access to a lot of good financial information and am starting to see some potential business issues, but I’m really not sure what the process is for exploring the root causes or surfacing issues to upper management.”

Do any of these scenarios sound possible? If so, you probably could benefit from taking a step back.

One of the first things any organization should consider is having a clearly defined, communicated and shared Financial Reporting strategy. If you don’t have clear goals and priorities, you have no chance of achieving them. Some organizations might be focused on controlling expenses, while others care more about revenue growth, or speeding up the Financial Close. Different objectives can dramatically impact the content and design of your data warehouse, as well as the timing of source system extracts. Make sure you have alignment on the priorities before you get started.

While you’re developing your strategy and road map, you will also want to consider your organizational maturity. Is your company more reactive or proactive? For example, are you still just trying to get the books closed on time or are you more focused on collaborative business planning? You’ll find a lot of resistance if you are trying to move up the maturity ladder too quickly. Remember, food, clothing, shelter, and then graphs.

Ok, so once you know what the priority focus is and it seems reasonably possible for your organization, it’s time to begin the battle with the resistance movement you are sure to encounter. First step is to get your senior management involved. Let them set the tone to clear out some the initial organizational resistance. Get them to do some broad communications to the organization on the purpose and value of the project.

Now senior management artillery is helpful, but there will still be plenty of hand-to-hand combat. For this you will need lots of ammunition. But let’s start off with some carrots first:

– Build incentives for cooperation and support into people’s annual performance reviews or bonuses.

– Identify the different roles involved and figure out what appeals to each of them, as well as what concerns
them about the project. Develop an audience specific communication plan and actively market to all
of the roles involved. “This project / system will be good for you because…”

– Have a learning plan. People will need incremental exposure to the new system. Start conceptual and
high level – purpose, benefits, advantage over current state. Move on to more specific hands on training.
Keep it going with lunch and learns, user groups, sharing tips on usage, etc. Try to make it fun wherever
you can.

OK, so you have a pretty friendly change management plan and this should go a long way in transitioning the organization. But not everyone is going to fall in line, right? How are you going to deal with the dissenter, the passive aggressive, the know-it- all? You will not want to ignore these folks. They can be very dangerous to your project and career. Some strategies that might be useful for dealing with them include:

– Appeal to their vanity – “you are so knowledgeable about blah, blah, blah. We really need your help to drive
this project to success…” You get the picture.

– Have the value conversation (assuming they are rational) with key personnel, managers, opinion leaders.
Do you see this as something valuable for the organization? Why not? Why is this not possible? What do
you need to ensure we are successful on this project?” Flush out their true concerns and then address the
underlying issue. It could just be that they are overworked, don’t have enough resources, or are concerned
their role / importance will be diminished.

– Reassure the nervous, unconfident. Be a coach, parent, big brother or sister.

– If all else fails, isolate the hard core troublemaker from the project. Speak to their managers. “They are
affecting the others”. Put them in a place where they can’t harm you as much.

If you do all of these things, it won’t guarantee your success. But if you overlook them, it could guarantee your failure. It can be hard work dealing with all the people issues, but imagine, if everyone in your organization was financially focused and had the financial decision making info they need, when they need it. Remember, it’s not always about the technology. You have to get your team to drink the water too!

 

Fran Daly
Fran is the Sr. Director for the Life Sciences practice at Apps Associates. Fran is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and specializes in identifying business-focused solutions to drive growth, improve efficiency and achieve compliance goals. Currently, Fran is focused on Business Intelligence and Big Data Analytics initiatives. Prior to joining Apps Associates, Fran held senior management positions at Schering Plough Pharmaceuticals and Revlon Cosmetics. Fran is a long-time member and current Board VP of the Society for Information Management (SIM) – New Jersey Chapter.

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