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The Purpose-Driven CFO and Much More!

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Let's stop messing about with project budgeting!

By Andy Burrows

Budgeting creates problems for projects in business.

Projects are often something of an anomaly for Finance when it comes to expenditure control and resource allocation. At least that’s the way that it’s felt.

The problem, however, is really budgetary control.

When I was doing management reporting for functional expenditure areas, that’s what I used to feel with projects.

And the problem was that we were trying to manage project expenditure in the same way as every other kind of expenditure.

We’d create cost centres for projects as if they were business departments. That would mean the nomination of a cost centre manager, and the inclusion of the project costs within the ‘actual vs budget’ variance analysis each month for each function.

When it came to forecasts, we’d collate the data in the same way as every other cost centre. And we’d challenge their forecasts, and their spending against budget in the same way as...

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How Finance Can Support Strategic Business Innovation

By Andy Burrows

Two innovation problems for Finance

When we think about the attitude of Finance towards innovation, there are two key questions:

  1. What should our attitude be towards business innovation? And,
  2. What should our attitude be towards internal innovation within Finance?

I’ll deal with the second question in another article.

But, before I kick off let me be honest about my thinking about innovation and Finance.

I approach innovation, whether in business or Finance, with a mixture of scepticism and mind-boggled wonder.

I am still staggered when I think of the rate of change over my working life. The internet, mobile communication, digital music and photography, to name but a few. Life has been transformed in less than 30 years.

And in order to achieve that, brave entrepreneurs – the likes of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg – had to take risks with their new inventions. They reaped the rewards, and continue to do so.

And there have been hard lessons...

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7 Things Finance Can Do to Make Business Projects Successful

business change projects Mar 28, 2019

By Andy Burrows

I’ve worked in many businesses, and only two of them had what I would have judged to be a proper grip on change projects. In the other ones, senior Finance people would sometimes talk disparagingly about certain projects, and almost ‘tut’ with disapproval in seeing projects underdelivering and overrunning on time and costs.

I never had much time for that kind of ‘standing-on-the-side-lines’ mentality. It’s always struck me that there’s so much we can do in Finance to help projects succeed, rather than standing watching them crash and burn, wringing our hands, as if it’s some sort of spectator-sport.

So, here are seven observations – things that I think Finance can easily improve that will give change projects in our businesses more of a fighting chance.

1.    Appreciate the Importance of Projects

First of all, I don’t always get the impression that Finance business partners really appreciate...

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Don’t make this one mistake in your Finance Transformation

By Andy Burrows

Finance Transformation programmes will often include something like the following line in their business case: “Capacity created by automation and process efficiency will be reinvested in value-adding activity.”

Sounds great, doesn’t it? What could possibly be wrong with that?

Well, as an aspiration, it’s got a lot going for it. The trouble is, no one really believes it and it hardly ever happens. In fact, the opposite often happens. The capacity created is turned into cost savings, which leave even less time for “value-adding” activity than before.

So, if you really want a value-adding Finance function, don’t let your Finance Transformation programme become all about cost savings. And be clearer on how Finance adds value.

Automation is a good thing

First, lest you misunderstand me, let me say that automation and process efficiency are good things.

When I look back on the revolution caused by computerisation 20-30 years ago,...

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The Purpose-Driven CFO Part 5: Don’t Waste Money Doing Projects

By Andy Burrow

[First published 21st March 2017]

[This article is also on LinkedIn - why not "Follow+" Andy and give the article a "like"?]

How can a purpose-driven approach help Finance managers and CFOs to prevent their businesses from wasting money on projects?

Over the course of this series, I’ve been looking at business Finance activities from what I’ve called a “purpose-driven” perspective. I have set out to investigate whether examining, and being explicit about, the reasons why we do things, actually changes or influences the way we do them. If you haven't seen it already, take a look at the introductory article that explains the thinking behind the approach: The Purpose-Driven CFO Part 1: Introduction. That, fittingly, tells you why I’m asking the ‘why’ questions!

I’ll give you the links to the other articles in the series at the end.

What is a Project For?

A project is, “an individual or collaborative...

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There's No Such Thing as an IT Project!

By Andy Burrows

[First published 11th March 2017]

“There’s no such thing as an IT project. All projects in business are business projects.” That was a tweet I put out a while back. And it drew a response from a young programmer.

“By the same logic, there’s no such thing as a construction project either. Erecting a new office building is pure business,” he tweeted back. And the exchange continued.

So, I thought it might be good to explain what I mean when I say that there’s no such thing as an IT project.

Why Pick on IT?

Firstly, why pick on IT?

Well, in business circles over the last 50 years it has become common to think of IT and software development when talking about projects. If you say the word ‘project’ in a business setting, people will think you are talking about IT. The reasons for that are probably related to the fact that methodologies developed for running projects, such as PRINCE2, initially applied to projects...

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