Monday, November 22, 2010

The People-Process-Technology Mix

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about People, Process and Technology related to how a CFO should build his team.  I’m beginning to think that People are 80% of the puzzle, Process 15% and Technology 5%.  This is especially true for a finance support technology group.  Most technologists would have you believe the opposite; that technology can work miracles.  A long time ago, I might have believed that myself, but not anymore. 

When I first started thinking about this topic, I thought maybe the pie was split evenly between the three.  Then I started to think through common issues and scenarios that finance executives face in the business world:
  • When there is an issue, where does the CFO turn to: a computer system, a review of the process, or her key people?
  • When you need an answer that is only supported by numbers and analysis, where does that number really come from: a person, a process or a data warehouse?
While it is true that having the right technology can make processing A/P easier and can lower the activity level (and therefore cost) of monthly reconciliations, however, you need the right people to run the implementation project, the right people to design the process to make the technology fit into the organization, and the right people to measure the benefit of the initiative after go-live.  

This thinking moved the People dial from 33% to 50%.  However, it still didn’t feel right.  What about leadership?  Leadership only comes from people.  I don’t think you can train integrity, nor can you train motivation.  I like the phrase “hire for culture, train for skills”.  Leadership is such an important aspect yet it often isn’t given its full recognition.  And leadership doesn’t mean the top of the food chain.  You need leadership at all levels of the business.  

I was now close to believing that people where 80% of the pie.  But what about the remainder?  Again, I considered what makes or breaks an organization.  Considering different types of risk (enterprise, operational, financial, etc.), a well thought-out, organized and communicated process trumps technology 9 times out of 10.  You can make up for inefficient technology with the right people and the right process.  This left me with thinking that Process made up the lion’s share of the remaining 20%.  

If you are new to your leadership role, you need to focus the majority of your time on getting your organization right. 




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