HOW OFTEN DO YOU HAVE TO DEAL WITH SYSTEMS SERVING UP INCOMPLETE AND/OR INACCURATE NUMBERS? WHY DOES FINANCE HAVE TO BE THE FIXER OF FIRST RESORT?

A gargantuan system was once built to be so flexible it could always deliver anything the customer asked. It took years and billions to build by some reputedly very clever people. It was to give the company a massive competitive edge.

The system, however, became so complicated and costly that the money ran out. No money to deliver anything timely, complete or correct to the accountants for anything as unimportant as the monthly close of accounts.

Finance became the fixer of first resort at a long term ongoing cost. What IT saved became costs in Finance.

The root causes were primarily threefold. First, the business case did not fully conceive what was involved and once it was approved it just had to continue – no benefits capture plans, no phased funds release. Second, there was little effective governance over what the designer/builder was actually delivering.  Third, when push came to shove, some crucial back-of-house functions were sacrificed for front-of-house operational reasons.

So what would be done differently today? First, the business case, if properly scoped, may have said “do not proceed”, or at least, “proceed with caution”. This is a critical Finance function to challenge management to fully load the costs and to discount the projected benefits. If it failed to achieve build or functional milestones, the next tranche of funding should have been with-held. If it failed to deliver benefits as projected, serious questions should have been asked. Secondly, the designer/builder needed to be wrapped in sufficient governance so that the assignment did not become a blank cheque with little effective oversight. Thirdly, there are certain key controls that must be non-negotiable.

Get involved at the outset. Get your best people involved. Stick to your guns. The long term value-add is money in the bank.

  • 2015-01-13 15:43:38
  • Mark Spicer
  • Business Cases, Benefits Capture Plans, Phased Funds Release, Governance