Being back in the depths of consulting work really helps to remind me why I love my career. This week was a busy week with probably 75% of my days filled with client meetings. But it was the last meeting of the week that made my week.
My last meeting yesterday ended with me interviewing two people from the accounting staff of a client. They came into the meeting saying they weren’t sure why they were meeting with me or what I was working on for their organization. I explained that I’m going a business process redesign validation and technology needs assessment for them. They had worked with another consultant who helped them to develop their policies and procedures for their new financial system, and I was now coming in to help them them identify how they could get better control over their operational procedures and insight into their organizational performance indicators (with finance only being one of them).
They said ok and so I asked them my usual opening question: tell me what issues, challenges, problems, or wishlist items you have. It’s an open forum and I’m not an auditor, I’m here to help see if there are technology (or non-technology) solutions that can help make your life easier at work. And i turned the floor over to them…and they just looked at me, like…and then…?
So I gave the sample of an issue that I thought I saw from reviewing their procedures: lots of paper being passed around. And I explained to them how there is an accounts payable solution that would allow them to route images instead of paper for approvals, and then how it would even cut the checks for them so they wouldn’t have to even run around to get signatures or mail the checks either. Well then they had a lot of questions about how it worked and how it would interface back into their general ledger.
And then they said…well, but wait 2-3 years to implement that so that we’ll be retired by then. And I actually believe they were half serious. Now I have to quantify that after talking with them more, their general ledger implementation wasn’t the best…they had gone through one consultant, fired him, and were now working with two additional ones on different areas of their system. So I can see after that why they wouldn’t want to have to go through another implementation.
But that really started our conversation going and we ended up talking about various issues and potential systems and functionality for the next two hours. At the end of the meeting, I had a big diagram covering the entire whiteboard and I sat back and asked them: so last chance, any other problems, issues, challenges, or wish list items you want me to consider for my report.
There response: no, what you have in the diagram is what we need. I had listened and taken a lot of their comments and provided a conceptual map of the different systems they may need and also showed them how the data from different systems would flow together to provide the overall organizational performance reporting and planning that they needed. Then I said, but I do have it noted that you want me to put in my plan to not make any changes that would impact finance until after you guys retire. And the older of the two looked at me and said: well, you maybe can do it earlier, and then maybe I don’t have to retire early. And the other one laughed and said, yea maybe I wouldn’t getting to see some of these systems.
*WOW* In a two hour session, I was able to turn them from not really knowing what to discuss with me, into asking a lot of questions about systems and functionality, and finally into deciding they may not want to retire so early and stick around to see the changes come about. When I can provide people clarity of what needs to be done, and enough hope for the future that they want to stick around for the change–all tied to the strategy of their organization–then I know that I’m having an impact on that organization. And that’s why I love my work!