Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Inside Story of Financial Systems Innovators

In my career I’ve worked with and for many companies and I’ve met many different people, and one thing that I can say about them in general is that there are some who are true innovators in their professions. They view things with fresh ideas, they see solutions where others see only problems, they look at things that exist and instead of just accepting them as they are now, they come up with a better way of doing them. These are the unsung heroes of corporations everywhere. They are the people who are creating the future today, although in many cases nobody even notices what they do – except maybe that a web page loads a little faster, or a report has a little more useful data than it did before.

When it comes to finance systems – a subject near and dear to my professional heart – I see innovations like these all the time. Although a lot of money gets spent on the big, overarching, reengineering projects or enterprise application implementations, in many cases the return on such investments is marginal (or at least takes years to realize). It’s the simple, incremental changes that are often the most effective. Sometimes just a small shift in perception turns an existing concept on its head, and opens up a whole new vista of possibilities. Existing systems can be leveraged and improved in whole new ways perhaps by making just one significant (and often inexpensive) change. Such changes can be introduced to even large, staid organizations by just one visionary individual who sees what is possible and is willing to make it happen.

One example I can recall was a Director of Finance for a major retailer, who as part of his company’s reorganization of their financial systems architecture for Y2K introduced a small, insignificant product called Essbase into the mix. Despite some objections from his IT folks that it was not an approved standard product, and despite some technical challenges in integrating it with some of his legacy systems, he managed to make it the standard for financial reporting throughout the company. The value to his organization was immense, and the incremental cost a drop in the bucket of the overall system, and more than offset by the cost savings in consulting alone. By introducing this one, small innovation, he was able to radically alter his company’s financial systems for the better, and incidentally, became a rising star in both his company and his industry.

This blog is dedicated to those financial systems innovators – the finance system managers, enterprise architects, budget managers and others – who make those incremental changes possible, and to the innovations that they create. We will focus on telling the customer’s and end user’s story, and always anchor our posts with real-world examples. We will include both finance/business and IT/technical perspectives, as we want to help articulate both concrete value and practical implementations. Each month we‘ll select a different topic, and post different thoughts and ideas around it. If there’s a topic you’re passionate about, let us know and we’ll try to include it in future months. Also, if you’re interested in contributing (and we strongly encourage customer contributions), please contact us and let us know what you‘d like to post about. The list of upcoming topics will be constantly updated, so remember to check back often to see what’s coming up. Thanks for reading.

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