The business case is in place and you have a software solution in mind, congrats! Now it’s time to deliver the project, and it’s at this stage where things can often go horribly wrong, right from the get go.
The best way to avoid the potential pitfalls is by knowing what to look for. Then you can take steps to avoid them. Most are easily remedied – it’s about taking an interest in the project, getting the right people on board, and preparing your team for change. Here are the reasons why finance IT projects go wrong, and how you can remedy them:
Pitfall 1: Leaving it all to IT
Finance managers often think that IT will just get on and deliver their project once they’ve outlined what they need. However, IT don’t have all the skills to implement such a project, as they need the user experience and user functionality to be validated as well as the requirements. It’s important that finance professionals are involved in delivering the project to ensure that this new system will do everything that you need it to do. This will be done during the project with hundreds if not thousands of iterations, small questions and checks, so make sure you give them enough time to dedicate to it.
Finance doesn’t just need to be involved in the IT project – they need to actively manage it. They need to tread on IT’s toes, not act like a passive customer. They need to act as a the ultimate owner and get serious about the project and ensure that their requirements are being met by the IT team, that system or services vendors understand what you really need from the software. This means more up-front work in defining requirements, regular updates throughout the project, and a clear scope and deliverables.
Pitfall 2: Choosing the right PM
The project manager responsible for delivering the project should have a background in finance as well as IT. It’s crucial that the dynamics of the project and its systems are set up right, so strategic and finance goals need to be factored in, as much as delivering the IT capability. Just imagine if we had an Income statement project and the PM priortised AP data over GL data, or Pension processes over Month End processes, the impact would be huge. So it’s no simple IT implementation, a deep understanding of the Finance requirement is needed and it’s better to have a finance manager learn project management skills than the other way around.
Pitfall 3: The governance is wrong
Any project will run into blockers. For example, finance projects often require collaboration from multiple teams around the organisation and sometimes it’s not forthcoming. There might be a major technical hitch and some important decisions need to be made on how to mitigate. If these decisions aren’t made, the project quickly drifts.
These types of issues can’t always be fixed by the project team in isolation. Senior stakeholders need to get involved to ensure that the team are getting the collaboration they need. Senior stakeholders will need to make decisions involving cost and timeline when it comes to mitigating issues.
It’s important that the project has the right sponsorship from senior people who can muster resources and make decisions quickly. The project team need to have a regular session with these stakeholders in a steering group so that quick decisions can be made.
Pitfall 4: Choosing the wrong partner
If your IT project needs to be outsourced, then choosing the wrong partner can be disastrous. A bad partner will simply supply technical resources and expect you to manage them. This puts all the responsibility (and risk) on you.
A good partner will come with an approach and a project manager of their own. The responsibility and risk is shared. Make sure that your partner can articulate your requirements, their approach, and can prove their experience – ask for references and follow them up.
Pitfall 5: Not choosing the right software
Choosing the wrong software is also disastrous, and yet so many companies do. Typically, finance teams don’t spend long enough defining and agreeing their actual requirements. They go out to the market with a vague set of needs and make a decision on incomplete information.
It’s crucial to get IT and Procurement involved in this process. Spend a lot of time detailing the requirements out into an RFI (Request for Information) that you can pass to your list of possible software vendors. Again, ask for references and follow up on them to get a good idea of how your implementation might go.
This blog is co-authored by Christopher Argent of Generation CFO and Tristan Colgate of Fidenda. Join Fidenda at the Anaplan CPX London at Central Hall Westminster, 30 September-1 October. Sign up here.