How many finance executives does it take to change a light bulb?
I had some discussions recently regarding a multinational replacing a pretty, but poorly functioning eProcurement system with iPOS for SunSystems and an old joke popped into my head.
How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?
Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change. Boom tish.
It was a bit like that at this company. Although the finance team could clearly see and explain the failings of the current system (and indeed were the ones carrying the workload as a result) the business didn’t seem to have a problem with anything. In their eyes it wasn’t broken so didn’t need fixing.
“The users like it,” they said.
Really. Let’s unpack that, what do the users actually like about it?
“The users like it because it’s pretty.” (When the first reason anyone can think of that they like a business system is because its “pretty” there needs to be some digging done. “Pretty” is not usually a value-chain attribute.)
“And they like it because it’s easy to use.”
Let’s have an educated guess at what “easy to use” might mean in this situation.
Do the users like it because…it doesn’t force them to enter all the data?
Or because…it doesn’t hold them accountable for accuracy?
Do they like it because…it doesn’t properly enforce the policies and procedures?
And maybe…they can manipulate the approval routing?
Perhaps they like because… it offloads the hard work onto someone else?
And of course the finance team are people who take their responsibility for accurate data seriously. They understand why these things are important. Finance is the team who care about that, and so the work gets done. Administration to the detriment of value.
Have a guess why Finance don’t like the system.
Maybe…piecemeal… slovenly… unruly… subversive… lazy? Some of the deadly sins of bad business systems and the traits that lead to the finance team managing volumes rather than exceptions.
People on the ground frequently don’t understand the drivers and motivations for change in a business. They only see a process through their own eyes and the part they play in it, not the end-to-end cycle. So anything that comes along to change things is a waste of time and effort in their eyes. There is nothing wrong so why is it being ‘fixed’? And the secret that no-one dares utter, sometimes transformation driven by the finance department is tarnished by the ‘bean counter’ label, leading to a less than enthusiastic adoption.
It only takes one finance executive to change the business….but the business has to want to change.
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