How finance teams can argue for a technology upgrade

Start by documenting the challenges your team faces on a day-to-day basis.

Too expensive, when will you find time to do it and how do our clients benefit anyway? These are typical rejections to requests from finance teams wanting to upgrade their technology, delegates to the World Congress of Accountants (WCOA) heard on November 5.

How do finance teams make an argument for an automation project? How do they gain consensus from within their organisation?

First, create awareness of the challenges, says Thomson Reuters director of sales and customer success, David Allen.

“Document the challenges your team faces on a day-to-day basis,” he told delegates in Sydney at the World Congress of Accountants (WCOA).

A compelling business case needs to drive the point that new technology will be “a must have” rather than a “nice to have”, says Allen.

Arguments can be made around minimising time spent on compliance, leaving time to focus on strategy or that the technology can be scaled to keep up with an increasing pace of change.

It will deliver more accurate data and therefore improve analytic capability and enable peer group benchmarking.

Bad systems have an impact on morale, output of data and how the business presents in the market, Allen adds.

“If you have bad systems you need good people to be able to work around those systems and those good people will not last if those systems continue to be bad,” he says.

Allen says in marshalling their arguments, the finance team should:
  • Outline the need and opportunities from the project
  • Define the cost
  • Define the solution and how to measure success
  • Describe the implementation plan and risks
  • Outline what is required and how it could be funded
  • Describe the support needed to ensure success.
The planning process needs to identify all the stakeholders and their drivers. The IT department wants to be involved from the start because it needs to plan for projects.
Legal teams need to be informed because they will be dealing with the deliverables in contracts.

Allen says procurement departments are increasingly involved in all deals, ensuring due diligence has been done. Missing steps such as working with one only vendor “can really set you back” when procurement wants three quotes.

He suggests writing an RFI, or request for information, to send out to potential vendors, detailing your requirements, particularly what is essential. Using an RFI means the vendors must give a fairly standardised response to the questions and enables you to refine what is important to you early.

Identify advocates within your organisation, who will typically be outside your team but ready to work with you closely and argue your case at management meetings. "Bring in your legal team early. They will make sure vendor promises are captured in your contract," Allen says.

When you are eventually pitching to the CFO or managing director and the discussion is going well, he says someone will ask, “What’s in it for our customer?”

“It is really important at that point that your answer is backed by an advocate within the business.”

Read next: See CPA Australia's full WCOA coverage here

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October 2021
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