I worked for a large US corporate for my first real sales job. One of the key things I learnt was to understand the strategic vision of the organisation you are meeting with and to understand how the project you’re discussing will impact the CEO and Board’s vision.

Since then, I’ve valued meeting people who can articulate this. Whether they’re Chief Financial Officers or others involved in finance processes, they clearly understand that their role is to fund the aspirations that the CEO and Board have for their Enterprise. The great ones dedicate time to teach key stakeholders across the business how to be better financial managers.

However, I’ve been surprised at the number of people who don’t understand the strategic vision of their organisation, the CEO or the Board.  These are people who are often excellent at the governance processes but don’t have systematic process for finding inefficiencies.

In my role with OYB, I’ve met with 40+ organisations this year, all with varying degrees of investments in planning. Often they use Excel for their budgeting and reporting and have a handful of funded BI projects with no interactions with their office or finance team.  

In most cases, these same organisations have a CEO-driven strategy that clearly provides the vision that they want decisions to be made quicker, with data as their basis. They want self-service BI that adds value to the business and allows all business units to contribute time and resource to analysis.  A centralised team doing analysis for the entire company can fall into a ‘Jack of all trades master of none’ scenario, diminishing the value of the analytics provided. Compare this to a scenario where analysis is done by those working in a business unit, who understand their data and can more effectively use it to drive process improvement.

Be the champion! 

What does this mean for a business that’s implementing new finance technology? 

Firstly, IT has a massive role to play in any data project. Their role includes provisioning data, ensuring it is accurate and making sure it’s secure.  However, they should not be sponsors of a finance driven project. This is not about kicking IT, as they have an important role to play. The CFO should not be the sole decider, either. 

The person or people who use the solutions every day are the ones who are the best decision makers and project leaders. They will choose a solution that works for them and solves the business objectives. They will make sure the solution is easy and enjoyable to work with, as pain and inefficiency causes processes and data projects to break. A great champion will ensure the solution aligns to the business strategy, for them, the CFO, the CEO and the Board.

There is a simple analogy that I love: An architect designs a building, and creates a plan and vision. They don’t worry about the tools the electrician uses to achieve the outcome. An application in finance is the accountants tool!

Author: John Christodoulou