Financial Transformation: What’s The Question You Are Trying to Answer?

Financial transformation can be such a lengthy and all-encompassing project that you can easily lose site of the reasons for the starting out on the journey.

In part two of this discussion Managing Editor Olivia Berkman speaks with FEI member Daniel Crumb, CFO of the Kansas City Chiefs, during last year’s meeting understand how financial executives should prioritize transformation project and keep focused in the ultimate goal.
Digital transformation is a major theme of this year’s Technology for Finance Leaders Conference in Boston.

A transcript of discussion appears below the video.
Olivia Berkman: Why was the transformation project prioritized over other projects?
Dan Crumb: This was a project that touched all of the departments in the organization, so we felt that it was very important. As far as prioritizing, we knew that this was something the organization as a whole would benefit the most from, so that's why we really focused our effort on that system and developing and designing that system so that the entire organization could see the benefits.
In our SharePoint system, we basically scoped out the project, put all the timelines in, and then worked to those timelines and made sure that we were on time with where we were supposed to be. We start our business planning process around December of each year. We started the project in June, and we knew we had to December to really get this project completed, and we stayed on track and we had tools to make sure that we were hitting our milestones.
Really, we were looking at project server and we were looking at how we would put in the dates where we thought we were supposed to be at certain periods of time, and then made sure that we were looking and that we were tracking to those dates.
Every business line, every department was involved and was a direct beneficiary of the project. We went to each department. We explained what we were trying to do. We developed a working user group where we could talk to the various department heads, get their input, see what was really not working well in the previous system, and what would they like to see, what would make their life easier, and what would make this business planning process easier for them so that they could really spend their time managing their departments as opposed to developing and building a business plan every year. It was really a collaborative effort where we received their input and they were integral into the development and the finished product.
Berkman: What were the resource challenges of your transformation project and coordinating it with IT?
Crumb: It was easy in the sense that we had such widespread support for it from the operating departments, and it was our internal resources that we used to develop it, so from that perspective it was a bit easier that we had the resources already, but really the key for us was the fact that we had all of the operating departments behind it and that it was something that would be a direct benefit for the entire organization
We really worked very closely with IT throughout this project, and a number of the other departments worked closely with IT throughout the project. IT really in our organization is a strategic business partner with each of the departments.
Much like finance, IT and finance are really two departments that have direct contact with each department, with every department in the organization, and so we really view ourselves as the central nervous system so to speak, the backbone of the organization because all of the information that flows through the organization has Its fingerprint on it. It's really important that the organization and IT have a very good strategic alignment, that their business interests are aligned, and that they have a great collaborative working relationship, and we feel the fact and the amount of time they spend together and that our IT department spends in each of the operating departments makes these types of projects a lot easier.
Berkman: What are the best practices you would suggest for financial executives considering a transformation project?
Crumb: I think what you have to look at is the first thing and what we started with is: What is the question that we're trying to answer? What is the problem we're trying to solve? Prioritizing what is that problem, what is that question you're trying to answer, seeing where the most benefit can be obtained. Is it a project that benefits the entire organization?
It may be a project that benefits one department, but it’ got a tremendous benefit for that department that ultimately benefits the organization. I would suggest, I would advise to look at: Where can you be the most benefit? Where can you be the most help? What project can really take you to that place where you're benefiting the organization the most?
Get the buy-in of the departments that are effected that are going to be either involved in the project or going to be recipients, beneficiaries of the project, and develop a working group and develop, get a cross-functional collaboration. Have different individuals from those departments involved and in that working group so that you can get the best advice, the best input, the best ... Really, being able to get the most information that's going to be the most use for you.