The implementation of business improvement projects is one that needs to be carefully planned, simply because of the number of different strands that need to be tied together, the team that need to drive the project forward and staff training etc. However, it is also vital that a member of the finance team is included within any business improvement project.

Financial Inputs Drive Improvements

Business improvements are dependent on finance input to a large extent, simply because they can ensure that finance issues are considered at each step of the process, rather than being an add on that is suddenly thought of, just as the improvement is being put into practice.

Sometimes there can be a reluctance to involve finance representatives within the project, simply because there is a perception that business improvements should not be driven by finance, that the improvements needs to satisfy a number of criteria and finance is only one of these. So, the thinking goes, excluding a finance representative means that all other criteria will be given adequate attention.

However, this thinking is erroneous, because the benefits of including finance representatives are great, simply because someone from finance can see the ‘bigger picture’ and should be aware of what impact the business improvement will have on other aspects of the business. This is important because improving the business in one area must not have a detrimental effect on other aspects of the business.

So finance should not dominate any business improvement project, but it should seek to drive it forward and to inform the project team about the impact of the improvement.

Finance and Improvements

Finance representatives can also ensure that the project team stay focussed on the issue of finance, for the duration of the project. It is easy for business improvements projects to start off well and then, with time, finance becomes less and less of a priority and the issues of personnel, outcomes, measuring and assessing performance etc, all become more important.

Having someone from finance on board the team, ensures that the issues of cost, finance, profit etc are all retained on the agenda, rather than being relegated to being viewed as unimportant.

When Things Go Wrong…..

Business improvement projects, like any project, can often go awry. So some of the time when implementing the project can actually be spent fire fighting and trying to sort out problems that have sprung from no-where and need urgent attention in order to ensure that they do not jeopardise the project. Whilst this is understandable, there is a real need for these ‘fires’ to be kept in check and not cloud judgements, so having a financial voice on the team, will keep a sense of what is important and what is being attempted.

Informed Decision Making

It is vital that any decisions made by the project team are fully informed. Any finance representative will have the data available to be able to inform the project team and therefore enable them to make the right decisions.
The project team also have to be aware of what will happen if a certain course of action is taken and what will happen if it is not. Again, the finance person will be able to use technology and software to provide financial data about the consequences of decisions.

Indeed not including a representative from the finance department is almost foolhardy, because the project team will not have adequate data and information to be able to make the correct decisions. So although finance should not be the only consideration within any business improvement project, it needs to be kept on the agenda and a constant consideration.

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