Economic Change is Constant. One only has to look at the latest installment in the European sovereign debt crisis to understand that even well-established macroeconomic models are susceptible to transformative change. Who would have dared to think just months ago that the Euro, the second largest reserve currency in the world, might itself be on the verge of disassembly? Recall all that testing and prep work for the launch of the Euro on New Year’s Day in 1999? SAP old-timers will. To prepare our organizations for both macro and micro environmental challenges, ‘Process Disruption’ may well be necessary to prime our teams and processes to effectively meet ever-present economic change.
Change Leadership Applies to Financial Processes: What this means is that we must be ever ready to ensure our financial processes are adaptable, scalable, flexible and consistent across business divisions and geographic boundaries. The need for steadfast compliance does not ever waver irrespective of where we might be in the economic cycle. True leadership looks to identify opportunities for process optimization, rather than carrying on as everyone else does. As acclaimed American author Irene Peter so quaintly points out, “Anyone who thinks there’s safety in numbers hasn’t looked at the stock market pages.” We can’t assume someone else on our team or in our organization will take the lead—everyone has a role to play in championing change.
Challenges and Opportunities Necessitating Change: The second half of 2012 will bring continued pressure on our organizational cost structures. We must work to eliminate fractured processes and ensure the business models we have adopted, such as outsourcing, are paying anticipated dividends. Automation in near-cash processes, such as Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable, will serve to improve visibility and maximize returns with a positive impact on cash flow. Treasury teams will be looking for opportunities to improve all dimensions of the cash turn. The finance organization must also be cognizant of the explosive nature of data growth in our SAP systems. Undeterred, this volume of data will slow system performance, impact auditability and incur significant IT dollars to support. Opportunities here include restructuring the data organization to maximize access while minimizing cost, perhaps using in-memory, nearline or cloud storage options. While some of these issues may at first blush appear to belong to IT, they are absolutely Finance issues; solutions here can help reduce or constrain cost growth.
What is Transformative Change? Transformative change within the Finance Organization is more likely to take hold when there is a willingness to change and be nimble, including organizations where there is less risk aversion, fewer bureaucratic hurdles and when the project can offer a direct line of sight to ROI. Transformative change is not simply change for the sake of change; it is critical when we need to address manual processes which are centered on paper flow and lack scalability. If this is the case in your process, ask yourself if “Same Old, Same Old” will continue to get things done when financial storm clouds begin to form.
Kick-starting a Program of Transformative Change: Transformative change is about ‘Process Disruption’ and Reinvention. At times incremental change is the right prescription for an organization—especially an organization in a state of flux. I have worked on projects that were overshadowed by strategic acquisitions and mergers, and for which baby-steps in process improvement were the dictate of the political environment. However, a process revolution has the ability to deliver so much more to those finance teams willing to take a chance when modest change faces hurdles to success, such as loss of momentum over time. Roadmaps and timelines are essential tools here, and can provide direction. Thereafter, execution is key. You can support your Finance team with a solid understanding of the depth and breadth of change that is necessary for success. Radical new thinking has to start somewhere…let it start with you.