Stop trying to read minds: what finance directors want to hear in internal project business cases
Finance shared services
In my research for sharedserviceslink.com’s annual Accounts Payable Tech and e-Invoicing Summit 2012, one challenge that has come up time and again for shared services directors is: how can you secure buy-in to your project from senior management?
At the coal face of the company’s shared services journey, shared services directors, managers and process leads have visibility of what their departments need to become a streamlined, efficient, and value-adding arm of the business. Finance directors, however, have a macro view of the company, and are held responsible for company-wide expenditure. Before they unclench the purse strings for your particular project, you need to prove your worth to the company.
I recently spoke to the European Finance Director of a multinational business, and asked what his views were on what a business case needs to include. Below I’ve outlined his top 5 tips to others embarking on similar projects:
Explain what the measureable benefits of the project will be. It might sound obvious, but be sure to go into detail on what the potential benefits are and exactly how they will be achieved through your particular project.
Link the aims of the project into the wider business objectives. If they are not aligned, you will be swimming against the tide. Your project should be helping to achieve the company’s broader targets, such as cost reduction or future-proofing.
Outline how it will affect or involve other departments within the organisation. Crucially, will IT be able to support the implementation of any new software? Strengthen your argument with voices from both the IT and finance departments, for example.
Give an estimate as to the payback period. If you are asking the company to make a significant financial investment, being able to achieve the optimal ROI will be a key factor in whether the project is given the all clear. To bolster your case, provide targets backed up with financial analysis.
Have a back-up plan for if things go wrong. It is a fact that large scale projects rarely run according to schedule. Even if you have the most realistic timetable in place, make sure you back it up with a contingency plan for delaying events both in and out of your control. For example, try and include indemnities from your solution provider into the contract for any unexpected losses.