I recently had the privilege of speaking on a panel at the Fifth Annual IMN Real Estate CFO Forum on the subject of how best to use technology to simplify your business. My fellow panelists—from companies as diverse as ClickPay, Ipreo, MRI, and Relevant Equity Systems—and I discussed when, why, and how to go about selecting the right system for modern real estate investment and property management firms, as well as how to best prepare for implementation.
While we touched on many key points throughout the morning session, one theme kept cropping back up in this discussion aimed at CFOs and other senior accounting and finance professionals: the need for sustained involvement from the top.
What often happens is this: a small team at the executive level makes the decision to move forward with a particular software system. It is precisely their great vision for the company that helped guide them to their chosen platform. They uniquely understand how the company operates and how it should be operating.
And then comes the disconnect.
Don’t punt. Lead.
All too often, after the system is selected, the selection team punts the painstaking job of implementation over to the IT department or business unit and eagerly awaits the news that the system is now up and running and their vision can now be realized.
If only software were this magical.
In the real world, the best case scenarios are when CFOs and other senior leaders remain involved in the initiative throughout its course. Likewise, the worst-case scenarios are when CFOs punt implementation over to staff who haven’t been involved in the selection process, have no clear vision for what the end goal should look like, or even have a comprehensive sense of the day-to- day needs and functions of the firm at large. Consultants and vendors alike agree: this scenario can not only turn software implementation into a protracted nightmare, but it can nibble away at ROI, too.
Lead the Cheer
Software implementation is a marathon, not a sprint, and the excitement that accompanies system selection can often dissipate in the middle of the implementation process. It is precisely at this point of fatigue that the executive’s leadership is needed most. This doesn’t mean that finance leaders need to suddenly morph into tech wizards and figure out how to design the system. That’s our job. As consultants, we need the senior finance and accounting representatives to maintain the vision that the software will help the firm attain. This is the best way to guide our work and to ensure our collective success.
The most effective leaders are those who not only convince staff to buy into the process, who articulate how the technology will make everyone more effective and productive, but who can maintain that company-wide excitement for that vision, even during through the doldrums of implementation.
Remember, CFOs and finance leaders: implementing a new, state-of- the-art software system is your project and your investment, undertaken in order to help you realize your vision. It is not a technical task alone: it is more accurately a mission-critical task. And who better than you to ensure its success?