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  • Justin Lake

Losing Half the Battle without Business Requirements

As CFO’s we are always trying to streamline and automate business processes that are not adding significant value to the organisation and consuming our staff’s time. Multiple attempts have been made to shave off wasted time, however if often feels like an uphill battle how this one will be solved.

There are often several factors going on why a certain process can’t be fixed:

· Data source problems

· Process was built by someone else.

· Process is too complex.

· Not enough knowledge how to change the process.

· Not clear on the problem.

· Not enough time

· Blinded by being caught up in the process.

This last one is usually a big one for many Finance Departments in that they are so engrained in the process that the solution is not obvious to them. Only once you take a step back and look at the process holistically can you see what is required to make an improvement.

The other problem is that many organisations do not spend enough time mapping out the current business processes ‘as-is’ and understanding all the flows to understand what a ‘to-be’ solution could look like. Even if the CFO wants to fix this broken process there are some basic things you would need for anyone to help solve it.

Here are some of the things I would recommend:

· What is the problem we are trying to solve? – this is an important perspective to take into consideration, as it may not be worth spending the time or investing the money to fix this problem is there is not a return to the organisation. If the process is consuming staff’s time and you prefer them to spend time on other more important priorities, then this could be worthwhile. However, if the output of this process barely impacts anyone important in the organisation maybe it isn’t really a worthwhile problem that needs solving.

· Clear Business Objectives – having a clear description of what you want to achieve down on paper, specifically related to this business process, would be a good starting point. If there are internal resources or you need to get external help, being clear on what you want to achieve from the process will ensure every stakeholder is clear.

· User Stories - User stories are short, simple descriptions of a feature told from the perspective of the person who desires the new capability, usually a user or customer of the system. This is important for CFO’s and Finance Teams because user stories talk about what are your business requirements in a more functional manner than being too techy. It’s also important to have a number of users stories from various stakeholders who interact with the business process not just finance users.

· Process Swimlane design – these are essentially a high-level data flow of the various stakeholders impacted by a particular process and what inputs, decisions, or outputs they are making to a particular business process. Starting with this at a high level is a great starting point for anyone to try and understand the challenges with a particular process. You can look for ways to see where there are bottlenecks, where changes are required or to start with a blank sheet of paper and design from scratch.

Source: Anaplan, 2021

So next time you get frustrated, take a step back and try going through the steps above and see if this helps you to be a lot clearer what the problem is and potentially what could be modified to improve on the current business processes. It’s not necessary to feel so overwhelmed when you require progress, just do things in a methodical manner and you will be running efficiently in no time.

Justin Lake is the CEO of Think Numbers, a Finance and Transformation consulting business to help organisations on the path to excellence through Finance Transformation. Feel free to get in touch.

For more information please reach out to us for a no obligation discussion.

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