I’m a Finance and Accounting guy by background, but many times over my career I’ve found myself in situations where I was in the minority among a group of individuals from some other functional area (attorneys, marketers, engineers . . . take your pick). Perhaps you’ve been in these situations as well. Sometimes you find yourself wishing that you knew the “secret handshake” that would overcome barriers to trust and jumpstart more effective understanding and collaboration between disparate approaches to an issue.
Much has been written on the issue of where the ownership of a system implementation should reside. The IT group? The Finance team? Disbursed functional areas? Any of these may be correct depending on the fact pattern. But a common key to success is the ability to build a bridge between the technical aspects of the system and the functional business considerations. If an IT group is charged with deploying a Finance or Operational platform, it must have a team in place that can develop a fundamental bond with the user community, one that instills confidence and trust. Users have to feel that the development and deployment team is not only technically proficient, but also has a deep-seated understanding of their issues, challenges and view of the world. They have to feel that you have all the knowledge necessary to watch out for their best interests.
And this dynamic cuts both ways. If a functional expert is pulled out of the business to lead a systems initiative, he may have an easier time relating to the user community. But he has an equal responsibility to develop a strong relationship with the technical team and champion their positions when appropriate. Functional demands that are unreasonable and give no credence to technical constraints are counterproductive.
The individual that can earn the respect of disparate groups – through effective listening, empathy and a genuine desire to understand – becomes a beacon for the collaborative spirit that is so necessary to drive technological change and adoption. Take the time to learn the secret handshakes and become the common link. Become the person that engenders trust. Welcome the opportunity to lead.