It’s NHL hockey playoff season. I love this time of year: the days are longer and brighter, the geese are back in town, the weather is warming up and, more importantly, the smell of playoff hockey intensity is back.
Well, in Canada this year it’s not as normal since no Canadian team is in the playoffs for the first time since 1970! But that’s okay, I still love playoff hockey. It’s intense. The “give-a-darn meter” soars off the charts. Playing through the pain is expected. Everyone gets on the same page and shares a common goal: winning the top prize in hockey—the Stanley Cup. The outcome really matters, and every small decision can have a potentially huge impact. Wouldn’t it be great if all the games were so intense and interesting?
Being a finance guy and a hockey fan, this makes me think of the annual budgeting process in large organizations. IT, finance and management get together for intense planning sessions and reviews of the business, while ensuring alignment and an understanding of business objectives. The plan is put together, and blessed. What bugs me is simply this: people go off to their respective rooms and don’t come together to collaborate until next year.
It pains me when I hear a customer say this is a great idea, but our plan does not include this project; therefore, it’s a non starter. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if instead of the inertia caused by the idea not being in the plan so we can’t do it, there existed a better way for IT and Finance to collaborate on a business case process, and find a way to get good projects that have a solid, self-funded business case approved?
I take great pride in working with my management team on a regular basis, not just during budget season. We think that’s essential because opportunities present themselves throughout the month—let alone the quarter or year—and regardless of how well we plan, we can’t predict everything. A company with highly engaged people who have a great process for dealing with opportunities will outperform a monolithic organization where too many people have the power of veto, and where saying “that wasn’t in the plan” becomes an easy excuse to say no. I’d like more of us in IT Finance to challenge that notion.
To be clear, I’m not advocating an end to planning. Just the opposite. I encourage a healthy inclusive planning process that will figure out how to deal with opportunities efficiently, and how to do so in a responsive collaborative manner so that we pursue the best business outcomes for the company.
To seize business opportunities, we need to spend time identifying the appropriate triggers in advance. In hockey, it’s okay for a defenseman to try to score if he sees an opening, and has someone backing him up. Why don’t more businesses do the same? Then we’d see an opportunity to drive revenue growth, we’d have the risks mitigated, and we’d have a business case showing a rapid payback period that makes the investment self-funded.
As a hockey fan, I want to see teams play to win, rather than play not to lose. As a shareholder, I’d want the same.
I believe the IT and Finance professionals who perform with this philosophy will be the ones who stand out as valued business partners, rather than G&A overhead in the back corner.
Okay, back to the playoffs. #ITFinance
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