Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Rollin’ the DICEE – Another Take on the Treasury Vision

Guy Kawasaki is one of those tech gurus that grew out of the early heyday of Apple and the whole Silicon Valley scene. He has written two books that I have read – “Reality Check” and “Enchantment” – and many more that I haven’t.
In both of those books, as well as his blog, he has discussed the acronym DICEE and how he uses that to evaluate great causes.
By exploring the question “how can Finance and Treasury be DICEE?” we can gain some insights into how best to direct our efforts and activities.
According to Mr. K - “A great product is deep. It doesn’t run out of features and functionality after a few weeks of use. Its creators have anticipated what you’ll need once you come up to speed. As your demands get more sophisticated, you discover that you don’t need a different product.
Notice the future orientation contained in this characteristic – “anticipation”, “demands get more sophisticated”, and “moving up the power curve”. We need to be ahead of the organization’s game in order to provide a “deep” experience of Finance.
How do we do this?
Maintain strong relationships with the operating units - through information exchange (both formal and informal), conversations, and relationship development we will be in a better position to ascertain where these entities are headed, allowing us to ponder their needs once they get there.
Maintain strong relationships with our business partners - our banking partners, vendors, and other suppliers have a window into what others are doing and what might be important for us to consider.
Keep developing and expanding the skill set – we need to continuously improve our skills, abilities and experiences. Sure, we might not need the deep, “Big Data” analytic capability today, but if we have those skills we are in a position to lead towards a different kind of tomorrow.
From the blog, Mr. K states that “A great product is a luxury. It makes you feel special when you buy it. It’s not the least common denominator, cheapest solution in sight. It’s not necessarily flashy in a Ferrari kind of way, but deep down inside you know you’ve rewarded yourself when you buy a great product.
Develop criteria – when we went through the process of developing the Treasury Vision, one relevant question was “how would we know if we obtained our objective?” Since being a Trusted Advisor presupposes a relationship with those whom we advise, a pertinent criteria would be our business partner’s reaction.
What does this look like? One example would be if a salesperson from our company is at a salesperson conference talking with other salespeople at other companies, and the topic of their respective Finance and Treasury groups comes up, our goal is to have our salesperson leave that conversation thinking “I am so happy I have the Finance and Treasury group that I have”.
It is not an easily quantifiable metric I know, but it is the outcome that we want.
Provide Unique Tools - another means of accomplishing this type of impact is to provide those in the firm with tools that are easy to use, tailored exclusively to the business, and are unique to the firm and the industry.
For example, anyone can put out a spreadsheet on the organization’s intranet that calculates Net Present Value. A lot of these are not very user-friendly – apart from some cells shaded to indicate input areas, they are not protected against inadvertent errors in the other places, the terminology is confusing, the equations in the cells are very complex, the format and layout are not well understood when they are viewed in printed form.
This is a great opportunity for the marriage of tech skills and finance skills we have discussed previously. If we sit down with the group, see what they do for a day, walk in their moccasins, go through step by step what the drivers are that they pay attention to when filling out those spreadsheets, we are in a position to customize an application especially for them, either in Excel, or a separate program in C++, Java, Visual Basic, iOS, etc., that works seamlessly with their other applications and is understandable by them.
A complete cause provides a great experience that includes service, support, and a string of enhancements.” It is a “total user experience”.
Excelling in the completeness category needs to go beyond the basics if we are to succeed. Sure we need to answer phones and respond to emails in a timely manner, but there needs to be more.
In the context of the organization, one potential metric of our success in the completeness category is “mind-share”, a branding concept. Do others in the organization think of us immediately when a problem or situation comes up where we have developed an expertise? Are we the “go-to” group? Is our perspective sought out on items that are only remotely linked to us?
Educate the Customer – discussing with the different organizational entities the importance of various concepts we specialize in – Net Present Value, Cost of Capital, Strategic Leverage, etc. – enlists them as partners in the process. There is understanding of the rhyme and reason for things, and enables all to build off of a solid and commonly shared platform.
Be Supremely Flexible – this objective is challenging as it demands consistent creativity and innovation on our part in order to “roll with” others within the organization, delivering quality knowledge and insight in ways that fit easily within their already existent frameworks.   
An empowering cause enables you to do old things better and to do new things you couldn’t do at all. It makes you smarter, stronger, and more skilled. It increases your confidence and your ability to control your life.
Empowerment is a tricky organizational objective. Often corporate politics is about getting the bigger budgets, the higher allocation of employees, the corner offices in the prestigious locations. This is usually accomplished in part by being indispensible and vital.
If we empower our organizational customers, they end up with a greater degree of independence and are the source of their own success. They do not need us as much. They then begin to get the corner offices and the larger budgets.
Focus on what is important – keeping a focus on our critical mission, which is to be a trusted advisor and well-regarded teammate with valuable perspective, insight, and knowledge, we will more often than not err on the side of empowering our customers rather than getting caught up in the shallow political games.
Keep Turning the Kaleidoscope – part of the definition of empowering is to help customers “do new things” they couldn’t do before. This requires us to look at situations in new ways, in order to arrive at new or re-thought about ways of performing activities and achieving objectives.
Spend Time in the Trenches – just like a toddler delights us with a way of looking at things that we have “forgotten”, when we are able to participate with our customers in their activities the extra “set of eyeballs” can often bring a new perspective or way of thinking about things that is productive.
Mr. K says: “An elegant cause means someone cared about the user interface and experience. An elegant cause works with people. An inelegant cause fights people.
The interface terms belies his technological background, but in two words most who have dealt with a CFO organization can grasp the work-with or fight-with dynamic:
“Budget Process”
This is often used as an excuse for testiness or snarkiness – “I’m sorry about that last email, we are in the middle of the budget process you know” to which the response of “Ah, perfectly understandable” is then expected.
Indications that “someone cared” are found throughout the first four categories – going beyond the basics, anticipating future needs, customizing to the needs of the customer are all parts of the “user interface”.
Have a relationship manager with key constituencies – one means to maintain this elegance is to have someone “on point” with our critical customers to ensure that elegance is being constantly maintained, and identifying points where our business model is no longer DICEE.
One example is from the time I was responsible for development and maintenance of the 5-year plan for a business unit. We had preparation meetings, seeking to understand what the users of the information wanted to see, what aspects of the operation were critical value drivers, which activities made the big differences. We developed and tested in iterations. The outcome of this was a set of user templates that were in most cases 5 lines. The rest of the forecasting process we were able to accomplish on our own.
Key Takeaways
Using a framework such as DICEE when considering our operations and activities within the organization, Finance and Treasury can develop, initiate, and continue practices which will add value to its “customers” in many non-traditional and innovative ways.
·      Do you have a situation where you participated in a Finance and Treasury operation that was Deep, Indulgent, Complete, Empowering and Elegant from its customers perspective?
·      Do you have an experience where the opposite occurred? How might this be changed for better effect the next time around?
Add to the discussion with your thoughts, comments, questions and feedback! Please share Treasury Café with others. Thank you!

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