How to deliver Finance Transformation projects successfully?

If you have ever been through a major system or transformation project, it can at times be stressful, challenging and yet highly rewarding experience. There is no doubt that anything involving a significant change from the stable way of going this today, makes being anxious and brings out a lot of emotion in some individuals. However, the experience of implementing a new system, process or change in roles doesn’t have to be like a crazy person with their hair on fire.

In my dealings with various companies throughout Australia and has completed several large-scale finance transformation projects I’ve learned a thing or two. Some of these lessons may be obvious to some and new to others. But what I’ve learned are the ingredients to get Finance Transformation and System projects working more effectively.

Here are my top 6 areas that I believe can make a huge difference:

1. Project plan too high level or even non-existent — this may seem obvious, but I can’t tell you how many projects that don’t have a well-written project plan in place or haven’t even bothered to document anything in writing. I’ve seen some projects that rely on the schedule of works with their vendor as a project plan. But the reality is that it really pays 100x over to spend the time and document the plan thoroughly. Whilst it may not eliminate scope creep, it does establish clear objectives, clear project team roles, defined scope, and indicative timeline. I’d recommend the following areas to be clearly documented:

a. Project Overview

b. Project Objectives

c. Project Deliverables

d. What does success mean?

e. Project approach

f. Scope — both in and out of scope

g. Team and stakeholder roles

h. Architecture

i. Timeline

j. Tradeoffs

2. Timeline too short or not even defined — it pays off to have a timeline in mind, especially when it’s a major system change such as a new ERP system. There is never a good time to go through any sort of system or transformational change initiative. In finance teams, there are always month ends, half or full yearly reporting plus people taking leave and even changing roles. Compressing the timeline too short due to budgetary reasons, on one hand, puts pressure on the team to have momentum and a sense of urgency. This can put so much pressure on already overworked people and can lead to high stress, long hours and resentful employees. However, the timeline does need to be properly assessed whether this is actually achievable depending on the complexity of your business and the availability of people. By not having any timeline defined is a recipe for disaster, as the project will have no ‘fire’ to keep people focused on a key milestone date.

3. No project champions or super users — whilst you can hire excellent external talent to come in and deliver an amazing new finance system or process change. The outcomes need to be driven by the client and it pays off massively to free up individuals who will be the ‘super users’ or drivers of the project. This doesn’t mean they are necessarily the project manager overseeing the whole project. But you cannot rely on external resources alone to deliver a successful change project. So, using a combination of outside experts and internal champions will make things a lot more successful.

4. Not having a strong Sponsor & supportive management — this is one of the key areas that will make or break a successful Finance Transformation project. You 100% need a sponsor who will have the project teams back when it comes to the support required to get people on-board, gain executive buy-in and help eliminate any major roadblocks. Plus having a sponsor who can provide an adequate budget is, of course, a necessity. The other area is the 2nd level down from the sponsor, who is the management which drives the end-users to support the project and its success. So between these two groups having the balance of a strong sponsor and supportive management to give the project team the time and support are absolutely the difference between a successful implementation and a disaster.

5. Not enough End User engagement — naturally all users of a new system will be fearful and scared. They will remain in this state until User Acceptance is established. This is achieved by adequately engaging the users throughout the progress of implementation by consulting with them and keeping them informed. The whole User Acceptance Testing should be designed by end-users, not the development or project teams. The reason to do this is so that the end-users can document all of their concerns down on a page and perform tests so that these concerns are overcome. Only once users ‘accept’ the system can do what they need will the ‘User Acceptance’ progress be complete, and you are ready. There will usually be some individuals who aren’t 100% confidence, and this is completely normal prior to Go Live. However, I’ve found that including them in this process massively reduces user resistance.

Let’s face it a ‘Transformation’ or ‘System’ project involves change!

6. No change management plan — this is always the most overlooked area of any project implementation. Let’s face it a ‘Transformation’ or ‘System’ project involves change! So how can you go into this without having a change management plan in place to manage the resistance that you are going to face? It isn’t a matter, or you may face resistance, it’s a matter of you are going to face resistance. How will you manage this? Here are some suggestions:

a. Holding regular and clear updates on progress

b. Giving participants a clear view of what you require from them and when

c. Listening and empathizing with end-users concerns and worries and replaying this back to the users

d. Gaining the support of management

e. Having clear protocols on how to handle new requirements, bugs and issues identified during implementation

I hope your next Finance Transformation Project is a complete success with these tips. Please reach out or comment below what other things have helped get you through any of your Finance Transformation projects. If you would ever like to get in touch please contact me, Justin Lake CEO of Think Numbers.

Published By Justin Lake

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

I’m the founder of Thinknumbers.com.au an independent consulting business helping organisations transform their finance teams through system, process and people