What is your CFO’s relationship with your IT team? If the overall corporate incentives are aligned, the engineers and the CFO will often have the same goals: complete projects that either make money or reduce costs. However, quite often, the CFO has more of an adversarial relationship with the IT team, seeing IT as a cost center that misses deadlines and fails to deliver on promises.
A trusted partnership instead of one that is antagonistic can add significant value to an organization. Besides creating more harmony, achieving this allows you to accomplish a fundamental thing: make the CFO a trusted partner in IT and Engineering’s Agile Project Management processes.
A Midwest Sports Equipment Company
To understand why this is so advantageous, let’s imagine a sports equipment manufacturer somewhere in the Midwest–let’s call it Run-n-Play. Run-n-Play needs to move off of legacy platforms and invest in several critical software upgrades. However, Janice, the head of IT, can’t get buy-in from Jim, the CFO. Significant work becomes stalled, and individual project teams cannot initiate work promised in the company’s annual plan. On top of that, several business owners begin expressing concerns that they won’t hit their goals without these upgrades.
As Janice works to win approval for these upgrades, Jim raises question after question, derailing the approval process. At every turn, Jim blocks funding with questions about estimated costs and promised benefits, expected timelines, assumed scope, and software projects’ relative importance versus other investments.
Are Jim’s concerns reasonable? Sure – Janice and her team even share some of them. Additionally, Janice and Jim share the same sense of urgency regarding supporting the annual plan. But after several unproductive meetings, Janice suspects that Jim has never worked in IT, lacks any background in project management, and has no understanding of agile project management methodologies or their benefits to a well-run organization.
With this realization, Janice decides to take a different approach to tackle Jim’s resistance–she invites Jim and his team into the project selection and management process at a deeper level to foster a true partnership.
First, she asks him to help determine the guiding principles for how business owners prioritize each investment and define the key project milestones. Then Jim’s team is given the opportunity to review and adjust status reporting to highlight financial impacts – a key concern for the Financial team. They’re also encouraged to make adjustments based on risks and opportunities. Finally, Janice goes so far as to add project finance leaders to individual agile project teams.
Her efforts make Jim and his team more involved in project scope, prioritization, selection, and projections. With this increased involvement, key user stories are quantified in alignment with metrics that matter to the enterprise – and Jim – for each significant project, with the added benefit of allowing struggling projects to be identified more quickly.
Inclusion and Collaboration Builds Stronger Organizations
Thanks to this newly formed relationship, the entire finance team has a greater understanding of project steps, costs and timelines, benefits, and risks. In turn, these results help to grow a more trusting relationship between IT and Finance, resulting in an increased willingness to manage project risk collaboratively and accept project investments.
After several months of this new partnership, Run-n-Play can successfully move forward with a series of substantial projects, ultimately driving the company toward completing crucial system objectives. The following months and years bring several quantitative and qualitative benefits, including better project estimates, increased controls, and a higher level of collaboration and engagement across teams that deliver increased execution speed.
Agile project management is designed at its core to be a collaborative process where teams can quickly assess problems and deliver solutions. However, the process only works when built on trust, commitment, dependability, and clear communication. From an outsider’s point of view, Agile can sometimes appear messy and costly. Using a more inclusive approach to Agile Project Management can involve stakeholders outside the development pipeline to engender trust and build engagement, benefiting the entire organization. Bringing Finance to the table as a trusted partner instead of an adversarial gatekeeper can have long-lasting positive effects on the organization.