Business Intelligence – Avoiding a False Start

If you are investing time and energy investigating potential solutions to make your current budgeting, forecasting and reporting process more effective then beware.

It is amazing how often finance professionals find that when they go to present their business case for approval not all the executive decision makers are fully on board. All that time and effort they put in to evaluating the options has been in vain. Then the finance team will have little choice but to continue using the same old labour intensive systems that are no longer fit for purpose, as well as expensive to develop and maintain.

So how do you ensure that you do have a mandate to pursue this business improvement initiative for your company?

The diagram below can be useful both for your own thinking and an excellent tool to use when you are engaging executive stakeholders in early discussions. Take a moment to review each ring working your way from the center to the outside. Note how each layer builds on the last.

Often the ultimate decision makers are sitting in the outside Corporate ring of the diagram well removed from the Core financial engine room of the company represented at the center. So it is hard for them to fully appreciate the labour and long hours put in by the Finance team to present to the business a robust ‘single view of the truth’ in a timely manner. Let alone forecast future scenarios with the speed and degree of accuracy needed to be competitive in today’s dynamic markets.

How are you going to highlight the benefits to the business of an automated Performance Management and Business Intelligence platform? See some suggested strategies below.

 


Strategy One

Talk their language and start with the things that are going to matter to the executive decision makers the most. Look to the dark outer ring of the diagram.

  • If for instance your company is working towards an IPO then a proper system is going to be needed to meet the necessary standard of governance required to ensure the risk of inaccurate reporting and associated penalties are minimised.
  • Or similarly if the business is going to increase its borrowing in order to fund the expansion of facilitates. Then lenders are going to want to be satisfied that the system used provides good data lineage and audit-ability of the reported figures. The business is also going to want to ensure that they can detect early if changing market conditions or certain decisions made today might affect their ability to meet banking covenants in the future.

Strategy Two

Look at the strategic ring. These are the functions your team need to deliver to the decision makers. If there are gaps here then this is where the Executive are likely to share your concern for improved finance function.

  • Do you have a small number of key KPI’s and Metrics defined that key decision makers can consume through visual interactive mobile dashboards? To attract and retain top Executives to the business leadership this  could be considered essential these days.
  • Long term rolling forecasts are also now considered best practice and essential for effective decision making.

So these are all good  topics for you to bring into your conversation as your start to socialise the initiative you have in mind with the internal stakeholders and seek a mandate from them to pursue your enquiries.


Key Questions and Answers

At the very least before you spend time engaging with potential suppliers you should understand:

  • How is this initiative prioritised compared to the other projects that are in progress or on the company’s road map?
  • Who is going to sign the paperwork and will they do so if you can demonstrate that the solution you have chosen meets the requirements?
  • What are the key questions they are going to need answered in a business case document or proposal?
  • Is there a threshold under which the purchase decision requires a lower level of approval?
  • Is there budget for an initiative like this in the current financial year or in the next?