Finance systems partners – You must reinvent the wheel every day
In my very first real job, I was constantly reminded by my boss to “do things the way they have always been done, it’s easier that way” And “don’t reinvent the wheel James”. Admittedly, it was the early 2000s and my boss was nearing a well-earned retirement, but even back then it struck me that this was exactly the opposite of what we should be doing. Instead we should be constantly challenging the status quo, the normal way of doing things to find a new and better way wherever possible.
The technology revolution has accelerated this idea at lighting speed. Technology in all walks of life, including enterprise applications; and our world of finance systems, has changed the game. Now more than ever, you must innovate or your business and your career will grind to a halt very quickly.
So, how should finance systems experts view innovation in order to evolve and keep their careers moving forward?
Change is often met with resistance at first, but the revolution in finance systems is seen by many as a change for the better as it is creating a new and improved way of doing things.
CFO’ s are demanding shorter time to value and so are embracing smaller bite size improvements to their finance processes rather than the long extended big bang, all at once approach. As a result, finance systems teams driving these changes can focus on fewer key improvements at a time and make a real difference quicker.
The custodians of the finance systems estate must also be agile, flexible and constantly on their toes as new tools are being released all the time. What is best in class now may not be in 12 months’ time or an add-on from an entirely new vendor may become available to improve a key process. It is vital to not be married to just one system.
A part of this evolution in process improvement is the way that requirements and change are organised. We are taking more and more candidate briefs that are asking finance systems experts to reverse the requirements gathering process on its head. In the old word, teams would sit in workshops for weeks on end building a book of process improvements and the systems design strategy to match. It’s now in reverse in many cases. You review what the vendor has made available to you and build requirements from there. If it’s of value to your finance teams roll it out, if it’s not keep it switched off. This change in approach requires a sharpening of certain skills, in particular finance partnering, communication and co-operation with finance stakeholders.
How to stay ahead of the game
To paraphrase the legendary golfer Gary Player’s, famous quote, “it’s interesting, the more I practice the better I become”. Even the greatest sports, artistic and musical talent spend hours every day perfecting their game. For professionals in the finance systems eco-system, there are numerous ways to learn every day and the information is at our finger tips to see where the innovations in finance systems are heading.
Finance systems experts cannot rely on sitting back and working in a safe bubble and must show their partnering and learning spirit and get out there into the business to show where improvements can be made. This needs to be done externally as well, by taking advantage of the numerous (and free) peer to peer learning, networking and other industry events that are available.
What is my reply now on innovation and that mantle from my original boss? Not only do you need to reinvent the wheel, you also need to reinvent the whole car, the track and the entire environment in which you are driving. Only then can you keep your finance systems career moving forward.