Did you ever attend a seminar or a webinar about finance transformation? Chances are the headline led you to believe that you were to hear about real examples of how companies transformed their finance function into a value-added business-oriented function. The reality is, however, that most such seminars are about software vendors trying to sell you all the benefits of their system. Sure, they probably include a case about how a company successfully implemented their system and how happy they are about it but the bottom-line is that this is about how the system can do wonders for your finance function. A quick glance at CFO.com shows that most of their upcoming webinars all have content related to new systems or how you can use the cloud to transform your finance function.
While there is absolutely nothing wrong with these webinars as they provide valuable insights into how you can apply new technology in finance and other areas as well as keep up with the monster known as Big Data, we think they are all missing an important point. Transformation is first and foremost about people and leadership and not about systems. There was a great blog on HBR.org titled: Better Management Could Spur a New Era of Economic Growth talking about how management/leadership would be a better catalyst for growth compared to technology. If your employees are not ready for transformation then you can throw all the systems you want at them, but they will all fail.
To do a successful transformation, you need to have leaders that support the transformation efforts, know how to communicate the benefits of the transformation and are skilled change agents. It is also highly relevant to consider if you are prepared to make the tough decision of letting people go who cannot successfully make it through the transition themselves. If you are comfortable with all that then getting new systems will be an enabler in your transformation, but they can never be the driving factor.
Think about asking yourself some of the following questions before you start transforming your finance organization:
- Will the leadership team support the transformation efforts?
- Does the leadership team know how to communicate and manage change?
- Are the benefits of the transformation clear and obvious to everyone?
- Can everyone on the finance team keep up with the transformation?
In short: start with the people and then move on to the system – not the other way around.