Poor systems, often caused by legacy systems bolted onto each other through acquisition, means that information you'd like to have on your fingertips doesn't exist. Poor processes, often due to the same thing, have a similar impact. It leads to confusion, uncertainty, resentment and disappointment. It causes distraction. Data quality is becoming increasingly important as big data, data and analytics, AI and RPA become part of our everyday vernacular. This means when data quality is poor, it hurts even more. An IBM study estimated that the yearly cost of poor data quality was US $3.1 trillion, and that 1 in 3 business leaders didn't trust the information they used to make decisions. What does that do to the credibility of finance in its ambition to operate and be seen as valued business partner? It doesn't matter. This is not the business' problem. The business has commercial challenges to solve, and finance has the opportunity to help them solve it. Do this - on a consistent basis - and the credibility will come. Getting your conversations right is critical. Authenticity is virtuous, but only if it serves the other party. Downloading your problems onto others is not only a waste of time, but it doesn't serve. How to have conversations when limited by poor systems and processes Understand context. Especially theirs. What lets you down is when you let your own context hijack the conversation.
• Their context: What does your stakeholder want to achieve?
• Your context: What are the challenges associated with that information and what do you need to overcome them?
The key to this is knowing the answers to these questions in as much detail as you can. This dictates the path forward. Their context: How to get the information you need? Get CUTE. Capture their criteria, use, timing and expectations and this will drive the right conversation and ensure that when you deliver, you deliver the right thing.
Criteria: Understand the criteria of the information request in as much detail as possible. The time period or date, the data fields, the format, etc.
Use: What are they going to do with this information? As an experienced problem solver, if you can identify a better way to achieve the same thing, you'll bypass a lot of pain and tension.
Timing: When do they need the information? This can change everything and without a deadline, expectations are sure to be mismanaged.
Expectation: What are they expecting, or hoping, the information to tell them? Again, perhaps there's an alternate way you can approach it if needed.
Now what? Once you have the right contexts, you need to have 3 conversations (at least):
1. To the person who has the information you need.
2. To the person/people you need to remove the roadblocks and overcome the challenges identified; and
3. To the person you're getting this information for. Keep them informed, especially when you make adjustments to deal with system and process limitations. They won't necessarily care (as long as they get the information they want by their deadline), but they will object to being kept out of the loop.
The key is to keep the conversation with your stakeholder both light and with substance. They don't need to know all of the conversations you're having, strings your pulling, reconciliations you're running, in order to get their data. They need to know they're getting what they want and that it will be right. It's a balance and it's not easy. Just like the metaphoric duck effortlessly gliding across the lake, but who's feet are paddling like crazy underneath the surface. Conversation precedes clarity which improves the ability partner. Especially when systems and processes get in the way. What conversations do you need to have to get clear??