What your kids think you do
If you’re in finance, chances are you spend a fair amount of your evening working, when you should be relaxing and engaging in family time – or at least that’s the view you want your boss to have! Your role and finance perceptions tend to vary greatly, depending on who’s asking.
On a finance professionals social board, I recently saw the question “Is it better to be a small fish in a big pond, or a big fish in a small pond?” I think this dovetails nicely into the perspective around how much time you should be spending on manual versus thoughtful work in your role?
Most people would rather spend more time on analytical work then simply getting through the month end and reconciliations. With so much to do, it can be hard to foresee getting to the high value work – especially if you aren’t sure how to work more efficiently.
Working with aggregates
In bigger organizations, there are usually several complex systems, and many employees spend an extraordinary amount of time clarifying, distilling and refining information. This is often still handled as aggregate information, because getting down to the details isn’t that useful or particularly material. However the irony is that poor attention to detail leads to poor aggregation. Your colleagues probably think you’re being very persnickety about some things, but the reality is that you know, “the devil is in the detail.”
In small organizations, there are fewer roles, and controllers can wind up wearing many hats. Financial directors or CFOs might get their hands dirty with day-to-day operational tasks that are automated or standardized processes in larger organizations. But small decisions can have a big impact, so it’s just as important to focus on the small and seemingly insignificant tasks as the big and critical. There are many tasks that should be automated and dealt with through standardized approaches rather than manual intervention.
Are your finance perceptions my reality?
Finance perceptions and reality vary depending on where you stand in relation to financial processes. Employees submitting expenses generally hate expenses and the expense process. They believe the process is some sort of Machiavellian attempt to turn them into accounting data processors and if they have a high level of expense claim rejections, they view the finance function as nothing more than a plot to make them feel bad about themselves or failures at completing the process. It’s all too convoluted, too complex and requires too much detail. Just pay me my out of pocket expenses already??!!
Suppliers probably view the billing collections process as something more akin to mining rare minerals on foreign planets, and your own accounts payable folks likely think paying those suppliers is a form of high seas piracy. After all, why would you pay a supplier in 30 days when you could pay them in say 90 days? Your own receivables team probably has the same view that your suppliers do, but from the leadership perspective, you guys just need to get a move on and rake in that money!
In the asset accounting team, there is a sense that dealing with the capital investment ledger and asset register is like being in a Brothers Grimm story like Rumpelstiltskin – try being the miller’s daughter with piles of straw that need to be spun into gold. There is too much to do, too little time to do it, and no personal benefit to gain.
The difference between what your parents think you do, and what you think you do
If your parents looked at your job, how would they view what you do? Better yet, what do your children think you do?
When I worked in finance, I was pretty sure my parents considered my role to be similar to a captain of industry, stoking the fires in a great boiler-room. I think my kids viewed my profession as some sort of super hero (ok I delude myself), after-all, how else could they explain my extended periods of absence from the dinner table, or missing school sports matches and concerts?
If you were asked, you might say your role is buried in malformed processes, herding a bunch of uncooperative people who behave like single-minded cattle – trying to get them to align with what you have inherited or devised as best practices for finance operations isn’t easy.
The good news is that processes evolve, and different perspectives can help you find the solution to solve your process issues. This is one of the reasons that we get so excited about the Winshuttle User Group conference. Every year a conference is held, there is an opportunity to find out how different people and organizations handle similar problems. Visit wug.winshuttle.com today and find out how you can truly be the Finance Operations Ninja that your children believe you to be!
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