Help! I work in a global retail corporation in the finance area. We have over 100 global subsidiaries for financial transactions, accounting and reporting. The financial subsidiaries outsource much of the work to local experts and operate quite independently. We need to manage the subsidiaries better, so that the larger organization has better visibility to what is happening, when and by whom. We are calling this effort “Managing Financial Transactions, Accounting, and Reporting Practices.” We want the subsidiaries to work consistently and share ideas and data with each other more. We are reviewing technology to have a standard platform and help us take a giant step forward. The project has a great sponsor, but I fear the global groups are not all in sync with some of the ideas we are considering. And there’s more!
Can you help me begin to think about this?
I could spew out a whole bunch of things you need to consider and do, but that would take a white paper much longer than this blog. So let me list one key assumption, and then give three different approaches to consider.
You have a charter written with the Process Owner and Executive Sponsor, which articulates two to three improvement targets, current challenges, a high-level map clarifying the scope, baseline data, and a vision for what Managing Financial Transactions, Accounting, and Reporting Practices” will look like. You have chosen a global team to work on this project with a Project Lead and Team Facilitator.
Approach One: Gather more data in a further Discovery Phase
Since this project has such a wide scope with multiple subsidiaries begin by getting a fuller understanding for yourself and the Process Owner. List the different processes that all these financial subsidiaries do, and then determine which are the important ones to work on first. Gather quantitative data to see which processes are performing well or not, which ones most of the subsidiaries have in common, and where improvements would offer the greatest value from a financial, resources, and standard information value. Draw a visual picture of this with key data information notated on a Mind Map.
This beginning discovery phase would help you evaluate the scope and improvement targets in the original charter. I suspect you might want to limit the scope more to start.
Approach Two: Engage the Global Team Members Further
After the Process Owners discusses the process improvement effort with the global teams members and gets their commitment, have a virtual kick off meeting with the whole team to review the charter, explain the work commitment and time schedule, and begin to get their response.
Instead of charging ahead, take a pause in this meeting to engage all the team members and hear what they have to say and what is important to them. You might use a large mind map to see what team members see as ideas to move toward to the vision and improvement targets and what challenges could get in the way. This visual charting is a way of hearing those global voices who may offer very different perspectives. It will be important to determine the resource capability and interest of the members as well. (Do they have time to do this work? Are they interested in this project or are they nay-sayers?)
The global team members could follow this mind mapping and discussion with Approach One above and do that work together, to offer their priorities. This might lead to some revisions to scope or prioritization back to the Process Owner.
Approach Three: Use Technology
It sounds as though you are considering introducing technology. This is a risky proposition, because I don’t believe technology should be introduced until the improvement targets, vision and scope are clear. If the company already has a BPM suite that would be a good fit, it might be useful to have a demo of that. But technology that is helpful for the core retail business might not be helpful for this global finance need. If you know other companies using technology with similar financial challenges, talk to them as a reference to see how or if technology really helped and what it took them to get there.
Find out if the team members think technology with help them or not. Is this a priority for them? If not, what would be? What specific requirements are important in the technology for individual global groups and how many of these are consistent with the organizational needs?
Don’t just buy technology and expect the team to accept it. If you have already purchased technology and it must be used, then the focus of the project needs to shift away from a process improvement effort to how can the company could implement this technology in different locations and for different financial subprocesses.
The point is to do some more learning from the team and from objective data. What is important to the global team members and their individual global locations? What will work for each of them and for the organization as a whole? What does the data say?
This sounds like a big project with multiple players and it might be smart to scale it back and get some tangible successes to start. Or to draft a phased approach which would scope the overall project in sections. Once several phases are done you will be moving toward “Managing Financial Transactions, Accounting, and Reporting Practices” on a global basis.