If you have an opportunity to improve financial processes with new software, yet find it daunting to build the necessary internal awareness and identify the right solution for your ERP environment, you aren’t alone. The effort involved to find and implement software leads many organizations to stay in the comfort zone of the status quo rather than implement a technology that avoids process bottlenecks for finance teams looking to become more lean and agile.
Fortunately, if you use a systematic process that considers a range of variables for assessing and implementing new software, you can isolate a solution that achieves your goals for improving key financial processes, like reporting, budgeting, and planning. In Part I of this article series, we’ll look at the process of identifying the right software, involving the right stakeholders, and how to sell the project internally.
1. Identify Your Current Business Problems
Properly defining the business problem—or problems—that you need to solve with new financial technology, from both a local and enterprise perspective, helps whittle down which tools can effectively address them. Identifying the business problems also helps determine the key performance indicator (KPI) and return on investment (ROI) components that will be defendable once the software budget request goes to those who approve it.
After the business problems are identified, it’s important to start communicating them to stakeholders throughout the enterprise, from key decision makers to those whose job functions might be impacted by the new software. Many will question why they need to learn new software or adopt a different process, so be prepared to fully explain what’s at stake.
2. Draft an Organizational Change Management Plan
A comprehensive organizational change management (OCM) plan can be critical to the success of your software project. It should include a detailed communications plan that helps acclimate the affected parties throughout the selection process so they have a chance to provide input. Also, communicating your plan may reveal that someone else is trying to solve the same or similar business problems and ensure you don’t duplicate effort or unnecessarily compete for budget.
3. Identify Relevant Stakeholders in Your Organization
At the outset, it’s important to identify the stakeholders related to your business problem, including key decision makers in the buying chain. You are now in a team-building mode and need to identify the necessary functional and technical subject matter experts, as well as a project “champion” or sponsor to lead the way.
Although you probably won’t need to involve upper-level decision makers like CIOs or CFOs in the early stages, it’s a good idea to identify the buying chain while compiling the stakeholder list. You should determine who signs off on the project, who its advocates are, and who makes the final decision. It’s also important to fully understand the purchasing process and its gatekeepers along the way, as well as what an acceptable ROI is in your organization.
4. Determine the “Ideal State” Your Project Should Achieve
Now that you’ve narrowed down your business problem and stakeholders, it’s important to identify the most pertinent pain points you want to address with new software. Here, you should rely on your project sponsor and other key advocates, as their familiarity with the problem can help them identify and measure the tangible and intangible costs of those pain points in your current state process. These advocates can research and estimate the benefits of your ideal “future state process utopia” so you can project ROI.
5. Explore How to Market Your Project’s Business Benefits
Ultimately, your project sponsor and other advocates have to sell your project to key decision makers. They should effectively communicate its specific benefits, like hours saved, low licensing costs, and employee satisfaction. They should also be able to show a defendable benefit in terms of what the software costs to purchase and maintain, and what it can actually save your business each month.
Risk is another important aspect to consider as your advocates sell the new software. If you rely on older software that isn’t well supported or even manual, error-prone workaround processes, decision makers should be aware of the inherent risks. These might include downtime if the software “breaks” or the cost of inaccurate data in sensitive financial processes and reports.
If the sponsor and advocates effectively sell the need for new software by identifying and communicating the business problems, along with addressing the concerns of key decision makers and stakeholders, they can achieve sign-off for the project. At this point, it’s time to determine the best vendor for your business problems. In Part II of this series, we’ll look at how to select the specific software that best addresses your business needs.