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Explaining the Phases of "Building" Finance Transformation

By James Gorman

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You’ve probably heard us refer to the phases of Finance Strategic Transformation:  Phase One: Planning, Phase 2: Readiness, and Phase 3: Implementation.  

As we move forward with Phase 2, you (and many others) may not be sure what “readiness” means . . . what does this phase of the project involve, and how is the work that we’ll do in this phase different than what we did in Phase One: Planning?  What will we do in Phase 3: Implementation? 

You can, of course, read about each phase on our website, or check out a few helpful posts from the community:  FST Project TimelinePhase 2 TimelinePhase 1 Timeline.  I’m also happy to explain the phases to you or your team (just give me a holler at financetransformation@virginia.edu!).  But to make things easier for everyone, I thought I’d share an analogy that I’ve been using when I talk to people about FST.  I love a good analogy, because they can help to explain otherwise abstract concepts.

 

So, here we go – here’s my FST Phases Analogy:

Imagine you’re living in a house, one that you don’t really love.  It serves a purpose: it gives you shelter, is a place to store your stuff, it’s OK in terms of comfort . . . but just OK.  It’s not what you really want.  You settled for this house – someone else built it, it’s not laid out or decorated the way you would really like, it’s kind of “dated”, and it isn’t a perfect fit for your lifestyle. It’s just not that great, so you’re in the market for a new house.  Not just any house, either: you want a house that suits your lifestyle and meets most, if not all of your needs.  A house that will enable you to be the best YOU possible.  You’re in the market for your dream house.  But that means you’ve got to do some homework.

First, you’ll want to think about all the ways your current house ISN’T what you want:  note all the things that are broken, the things you’d like to see updated, all the ways it doesn’t meet your needs or suit your taste.  This helps you develop a very broad concept about your next house. 

Then, as you think about the future, you have to start thinking in high level terms about your next house, so that you can start to envision what you’re looking for.  At this time, you decide some basic non-negotiable details, such as how many stories the house will have, how many bedrooms, bathrooms, whether it has a basement, a garage or a carport, etc.  Once you have that nailed down, you can start thinking about the best floor plan that suits your needs and begin the detailed work. 

As you develop this more detailed idea about your next house, you can start thinking about where you want it, how much it might cost, and how long it might take to build it.  This is the phase where you think about the house in even more detail:  Granite countertops or laminate?  Hardwood floors, tile, or carpeting?  Drapes or blinds? How much of the basement is finished vs. storage?  Are you going to install a smart home system? Are you getting a shed for the backyard?  How about a pool?  

Once you’ve made these decisions, you can start to make it happen:  you purchase a lot, you build, you paint, you install the finishing touches. 

And then you move in.  Ahhh, this is the life – this house is great, and so much better than that old place you used to have.

But the work doesn’t stop there – even after you move into your dream house, you find things that need tweaking:  maybe the landscaping isn’t perfect, or a room you thought you’d use as an office gets repurposed as a nursery (surprise!). There’s furniture to situate, cabinets to fill, and closets to arrange.   And of course, there are always boxes to unpack.  There’s always work to do, especially as time goes on and your family grows, even with a new, awesome house!

In Finance Transformation terms, Phase One: Planning is this first phase in our “current house”, when we started thinking about our current processes and technology, their limitations and shortcomings, and what could work better for us.  We developed a general picture of what the future might look like and how long it might take to create that future state.

Phase 2: Readiness is the phase of our analogy when we nail down where we need to focus our time and effort to understand, in more detail, what we want out of a house (or, in our case, new financial processes and technology).  We’re taking a closer look at what it would take for us to transform and rid ourselves of the parts of our situation causing us discomfort. In this phase, our current phase, we’re still staying pretty high level – we won’t get into the fine details until the next phase.

When we move to Phase 3: Implementation, we’ll start making detailed choices.  In our house analogy, it was things like countertops and flooring, but in FST, it will be deliverables like the new Budgeting & Planning solution, a new Chart of Accounts, and the ongoing support model for Finance.

And just like in our house analogy, our transformative journey won’t cease when we move into the house or go live with the technology. 

Transformation, like home ownership, is a never-ending story – there will always be something we need to tweak, something we grow out of or into, or a forgotten task that we turn up later on.  One of the key design principles with FST is that we’re moving into a platform that continues to transform and improve to meet our needs as our environment changes around us.

I hope this analogy has helped demystify the phases somewhat.  As I said, I’m always happy to answer questions, as are Melody Bianchetto and the rest of our team. 

As we move through Transformation, I hope you’ll think of it as something we’re building together; something that should suit our needs, fulfill a collective vision, and provide us a great home base from which to do great work. 

I look forward to working beside you as we plan, build, and refine Finance at UVA!