Sunday, December 18, 2011

How Long is 1,000 Man Years?

In a recent post on Treasury technology options, I made clear a belief that Finance and Treasury should strive as much as possible to control its technology destiny.

The reason for this is that often when an IT change is desirable, the following reaction occurs amongst the IT folks when the possibility is broached with them:
·       The eyes grow wide and bulge-out slightly
·       Both hands are raised and begin flailing wildly back and forth in the air
·       A variety of half-coherent ramblings are made, but always including the phrase “that will take 1,000 man-years to complete”
·       Coherence returns along with the admonition that this request was not made three years ago, when the current year’s work was being planned
If we are to achieve the best we can, we need to somehow manage this fact of organizational life.

Focus on What You Can Control
My point with this is not to idly complain, because as we all know that does not do a lot of good. What will do a lot of good is if we take responsibility for fulfilling our organization’s needs in the best way we can so that we can achieve our objectives.

By doing this we focus on operating in the realm of things we can control rather than in the realm of things we cannot. Covey wrote about this in his “7 Habits of Highly Successful People” book.

Get Skilled

One very simple thing we can do is to accumulate a reservoir of technology talent, knowledge, and ability within our group. This is advantageous for several reasons.
First, with an understanding of how the technology works, the coding demands of different software elements, the system architecture and its design rationale, and an understanding of our needs, we are able to ask pointed, intelligent questions that help break down the “1,000-man years” perception into a series of component parts.
Projects become a lot less overwhelming when they are “chunked”. Having the ability to discourse intelligently and purposefully about the systems can often bring about a more mild reaction, and inspire “can do” thinking to replace the “can’t do” knee jerk reaction.
Second, technology is being incorporated into the fabric of everyday life in more and more ways.
Five years ago I knew nothing about routers, but now have a home network set-up like half of the others neighborhood. We can control our furnaces from smart phones. We get our grocery coupons on-line.
Get Operational
Technology knowledge helps us to be able to do more things for ourselves.

We can program routines using Treasury Workstation functionality. We can program Excel using Visual Basic for Applications in order to make information input simple while providing a seamless translation for upload into the workstation.
From our technical knowledge we are able to create systems and environments that interact with each other seamlessly, much as a great basketball team passes the ball around to move down the court for the open shot.
In addition to being in control of our daily life, there is one additional advantage. It earns the respect of the IT folks. They understand the work we have done, the investment of time and energy we have put in, and due to that we have earned the right to make some requests and expect them to be honored.
Get Graded
In the Steve Jobs biography by Isaacson, there is a passage that states something to the effect that A players seek the company of A players, while B players seek the company of C players.
By virtue of the work we have done by ourselves, on our own, to the best of our ability, pushing our knowledge to its limits and seeking to learn more, we prove we are A players. Due to this, we are more likely to attract the A players of IT.
The A players of IT are not the ones who go through the “1,000 man-year” dance. They are the ones who say – “Yeah, there’s a way we can do that!” Working with these folks is a joy and pleasure.
Key Takeaways
Our usage of technology will grow each and every year, as we have previously discussed in WikiFinance, WikiTreasury. In order to stay ahead of the trends, and work at our best with the rest of the organization, we need to:
·       Continually learn new technologies, understand how they work and how to make them to interact
·       Develop a level of technological sufficiency to perform tasks for ourselves (increasing the zone of control)
·       Communicate intelligently with our IT specialists, creating a level playing field of mutual respect
·       Create a compelling and challenging environment that attracts the A players

·       What current technology learning opportunities are available in your current organization?
·       What is the likely route of next generation technology that you need to “get up to speed” on?
·       What is the status of your relationship with the IT folks? Is it respectful?
·       What parts of the process can you perform in order to reduce the “1,000 man-years” reaction?

Add to the discussion with your thoughts, comments, questions and feedback! Please share Treasury Café with others. Thank you!

No comments:

Post a Comment