The traditional IT vs. Finance gap and why it is essential to overcome that for EPM success.
Everyone loves a rivalry, at least when it comes to sports teams. It seems that the bitterer and longer running the rivalry, the better. When it comes to corporate politics, there can be few rivalries as legendary or potent as that between IT and Finance.
No one knows when it all started, but make no mistake, this can be trench warfare that started long before computers were even used in business. I can imagine the conflict raging so long, that there may have been a dialog like this in ancient times, “I simply can’t let you operate the wheel on your own, you don’t have the technical skills. Why don’t you tell me what you need the wheel to do, and I will operate it for you…just so there aren’t any mistakes?” “What? It’s just a stupid wheel; surely I am qualified to figure this out. Let me try it and we’ll see how it goes.”
And so the gap between those with technical skills focused on configuring and operating specialized tools (today we call this group IT) and those who want to use the tool in the course of doing business (we’ll call this group Finance, or more loosely, ‘business users’) was created. Inevitably, IT wants to highlight the risks of operating the tool by underqualified resources, justifying their involvement at a minimum, or control in the extreme. The business users argue that they shouldn’t be burdened by the delays of waiting for IT, or the risk of misunderstanding by having to explain what they want to a neophyte. IT warns that empowering Finance to ‘just do whatever’ will lead to chaos and unsupportable solutions that fail to meet the business users’ needs anyway. They argue that sacrificing a little control for more stability is a small price to pay for a more sustainable solution. Business users often get emotional about the perceived ‘red tape’ and increased costs of IT involvement, and dig in demanding full autonomy…or they threaten to find a way to 'go around' IT.
Sound familiar? Are these the kind of debates raging in your organization? If so, this kind of disconnect may metastasize to block meaningful progress from being made towards achieving your business objectives.
The truth is both parties have valid arguments, and achieving a stable platform from which a successful analytics strategy can be built is impossible without both parties working together. There are many detailed reasons why both groups are needed to be fully engaged in Analytics projects (of which EPM is a subset). A good summary is that IT brings essential skills that establish scalable performance, repeatable processes, and governance that are critical success factors when building Analytics and EPM capabilities that yield strong results. The business users are quite correct in asserting that they need to be empowered to make changes without going being overly burdened by an IT process, and they need autonomy to design reports, change data structures, quickly update data, and more.
There are some deterrents to this though. SaaS EPM vendors claim to make it even easier to go around power hungry (and expensive) IT groups by simply outsourcing this role to your cloud vendor. It sounds great, but the truth is that the tradeoff may be limiting the maturity level this type of solution will support. Less often, the pendulum swings in the extreme opposite direction, and IT organizations suggest they should lead the EPM projects themselves, and reveal what they have built to the users at an ‘unveiling’ when the time is right. That approach has never worked, and simply can’t work.
When embarking on an EPM journey, it is important to be mindful of, and work to close the gap between these two important groups, and not to ignore it. There are important roles to play for each team, and as the sophistication and desired maturity level of a solution increases, the importance of both parties playing their roles enthusiastically also increases.
If you anticipate such conflicts in your Analytics or EPM initiatives, contact Column5 today to help identify suitable roles for each team, and create a value roadmap that depends on both teams bringing their unique talents together for best results!
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