Maximizing the potential of existing tools and current employees depends on detailed plans and open communication.
Technology budgets for treasury teams have always been tight, and high inflation and low corporate earnings are making it even harder to get new funding. At a recent meeting of Women in NeuGroup, members shared tips on maximizing resources for tech solutions. Two messages came through clearly: treasury teams should make sure they’re using every functionality in existing systems, and a system is only as effective as the staff’s ability to use it.
- Peer group leader Julie Zawacki-Lucci, who led the session sponsored by TIS, summarized the point that a number of members agreed upon: “Treasury teams have to look at different initiatives through a global lens, and then toggle down to the details of managing talent and effective communication to affect change.”
Process mapping for efficient use of existing tools. When one global director of treasury stepped into the role, she quickly sat down with the treasury’s IT engineering team and mapped out the flows of funds. “We looked at where money flows from treasury and into banks, and from banks into treasury,” she said.
- “I looked at what we were doing, and said, ‘Oh no, we have to automate confirmations and payments, and we have to have straight-through processing,” she said. “I asked around, I gathered everyone’s pain points at a high level, and saw that our treasury management system was highly underutilized.”
- Without needing to get approval to purchase a new solution, she was able to streamline processes simply by fully employing tools the team already had.
- This process, the member said, can also help to eliminate redundant technologies so resources can be diverted to more useful efforts. “You never want to have a solution in search of a problem,” she said.
Deploying all tools. Another member shared a similar story—her team was using only Excel in its cash forecasting process, but saw that the FP&A team used Hyperion, a planning, forecasting and analytics solution from Oracle that she described as “Excel on steroids.”
- Because Hyperion is similar to Excel, it was an easy tool to learn and didn’t cost a dollar, as treasury only needed to work with the FP&A team to gain access to the tool.
- It wasn’t smooth sailing for long, though, as FP&A switched to a different tool three years later, forcing treasury to learn an entirely new system. The transition was a laborious two-year process; treasury eventually hit the eject button and went back to Excel.
Marketing change. The fact that staff were not able to come up the learning curve for the new FP&A tool fast enough speaks to another of the session’s lessons: the need for effective change management to help employees learn new skills faster. “Change management is just about effective communication, and understanding how you’re affecting the person on the other side of whatever it is that’s being changed,” one member said.
- The first step in a change management process, she said, is to listen to employees’ needs before implementing any new tool. “It’s just common sense that technology teams should not be telling the users what they need—it should be a partnership,” she said. “It’s always a ‘we,’ never an ‘I.’”
- A creative approach one member took when transitioning to a new TMS was to start a bimonthly newsletter for the team. “It was just two pages; the first page gave everyone an idea of what we were working on and what they should focus on,” she said. “And the second had this section called the Education Corner, so I could reiterate things like what is netting, cash pooling and bank account management, and how to do them in the TMS. It really helped with acceptance and utilization.”
Technology advocates. Successful adoption isn’t possible without a team that has the right skills, another member said. She added that effective technology skill sets require “independent study among employees, or prior experience in the tools.”
- One technique she’s employed is to find “super users” at the company, employees who have bought into the solutions, know how to use them effectively and use them frequently.
- These individuals don’t only help justify the tech solutions’ budget, but can also be deployed to “upskill” coworkers who may not yet understand how to get the best from them.
- “I was very successful with upskilling treasury employees with no technology background,” she said. “We had people volunteer to learn these tools, and some of them even became super users themselves.”