Finance and 'business improvement' tech

The CFO's job is explaining areas like spend management and analytics to employees -- and calming their fears about it.

CFOworld –

Carrot or stick? That's the big question when it comes to emerging business-improvement technologies, such as analytics and spend management. Business improvement is the moniker I use for a category that transcends traditional "business intelligence." But whatever you call it, I believe it's how you view these areas, and how you present them to your employees, that will make all the difference in your outcome.

Take, for instance, spend management -- offered by companies such as Ariba, BIQ, Coupa Software, and Emptoris. Increasingly, organizations are turning to spend management to get a handle on how money is flowing through and out of the organization. Some executive teams and finance departments are introducing this technology as a way to improve business processes and gain a competitive advantage. Others are announcing it as a way to root out and rid the company of poor performers.

The same holds true of business analytics tools, which are available from Oracle, Host Analytics, IBM Cognos, SAS, Microsoft, QlikView and others. Indeed corporate leadership has taken to the notion of rummaging through data to divine decision-making guidance. However, depending on the prism through which that analytics is spied, it can either be a positive or incredibly negative experience.

Now, this isn't to say that the outcome of spend management and analytics won't mean saying good-bye to an overpriced provider or an employee performing a redundant job. But that shouldn't be the primary impetus for these projects.

Instead, finance departments and other corporate leadership should explain to employees that these tools represent opportunities to streamline current processes away from mundane to strategic and to uncover new revenue-generating ideas. This will take fear out of the picture and hopefully spark your workers' creative juices.

If employees aren't worried about these tools putting them out of a job, they'll use the technology to its full advantage. For instance, they might write or request a report to update them regularly on fleet routes and how fuel-efficient they are. With that information, they could potentially take on more business. They must be empowered to make changes based on what they find and rewarded for effective changes. Otherwise, there will be little incentive to continue on with the tools.

Also, each win should be shared with the organization so that momentum can be built around these technologies. The more impact they are seen to have, the quicker ROI can be realized. No operating in a vacuum when it comes to these efforts.

So back to the question of carrot or stick? "Carrot" is sure to win the day.

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