Change is inevitable. Change is powerful. Change is hard.
All of these things can be true at the same time—and often are. That’s true in life and it’s just as true when it comes to changes to the solutions you use to power your ongoing financial processes—including your financial close.
Your month-end close process is an integral part of your finance team’s ongoing workload, after all. And as such, your team is probably used to approaching it in a certain way. So while introducing new technology may improve things in the long run, don’t be surprised if the shift comes with resistance from your team—at least initially.
Without team involvement, though, any changes you make will go nowhere—which makes their buy-in critical to any new financial close technology investment.
Your team is busy already. It’s no wonder, then, that some might see learning how to use new financial close software as just another item on their to-do list.
“It’s tough to absorb the change when you’re running a million miles an hour and doing your day-to-day job of closing the books,” John Power, COO of Fluence Technologies, explained in Vena’s recent Financial Close Livestream, now available on demand to members of Plan To Grow. “If you’re doing a project like this, it’s probably taking a lot longer than you’d like [to complete your month-end close] and you’re working lots of hours. Now you’ve got this project layered on top.”
Power was one of several finance experts who participated in The Modern Financial Close Panel, led by Vena Chief Solutions Officer Rishi Grover. During the event (now available on demand), panelists explored how to introduce new financial close software in a way that gets your whole team on board.
Choosing the right financial close software is a good place to start, Power suggested. An easy-to-use solution that doesn’t add too much pressure to the team will be more likely to be accepted than one that comes with a steep learning curve.
“One of the things that’s important is having a solution and an approach that doesn’t tax the organization too heavily and presents a solution that’s easily adopted and used and leveraged by the finance organization without them having to learn new technologies and how to program and things like that,” he said.
But of course, we all know that effectively introducing new technology into the workplace, especially one as integral as your financial close software, can be tricky no matter what. Which is where your change management process comes in. Three change management best practices can help.
3 Best Practices To Get Team Buy-in
So how do you go about adding new technology that will keep your team invested and adopting new software seamlessly? These three change management best practices can help you get the team buy-in you’re looking for:
1. Ask Your Team for Their Opinions
If you’re bringing in new technology to power your financial close process, asking your month-end close team their opinions is a good place to start. Getting involvement right from the beginning will help you get them invested early—but more than that, it will help you identify any pushback that exists from the onset.
Is your team simply so stressed with their current workload that the idea of taking the time to learn how to use new software is anxiety inducing? Are they happy with the technology you have and don’t want to change? Or is it the specific solution you’re considering that they have an issue with? Knowing the answers to questions like these can help you address their concerns from the start.
“Most and foremost would be the end user buy-in,” Modern Financial Close panelist Martin Nöel, SVP and CFO of Premier Tech, explained. “Involve them very early in the process, identify their pains so they can speak for themselves on the gains they would see. If they [see] gains in their activities, they will jump into it and support the senior management's undertakings of implementing such a tool.”
2. Plan Out Your Approach
Dumping a new technology onto your team’s laps without any kind of change management plan in place isn’t usually the best way to introduce something that’s bound to affect their entire workflow—even if that change is positive in the end. And especially if your team is already stressed out with their monthly financial close workload.
Creating a plan for your approach, on the other hand—one that’s empathetic to everything your employees currently have on their plate and doesn’t over-tax them—can help ease the way. That plan may include training and the release of learning materials, as well as time for feedback from new users.
Panelist Christine Harms, Controller for the Arizona Cardinals, used her team’s adoption of Vena as an example. “I, from the very beginning, included our team members on the finance team throughout the entire process: reviewing Vena, going through Vena, making the determination of what we wanted to see going forward,” she said. “And at that point, once we chose Vena, we decided that we would have a core team that included all of our senior accountants, staff accountants, the ones that were going to use Vena for the most part to finish the close each month, in building and developing the workbooks that were going to be used.”
3. Get CFO and Senior Leadership Involvement
Big changes benefit from strong leadership involvement—and since any changes to your financial close process are going to be disruptive by nature, it’s a good time to bring out the big guns.
“Buy-in from the top is extremely important,” said panelist Brian Carlson, VP, Financial Planning for Otter Tail Corporation. “To have their support and to be involved in the process and to be that cheerleader on the sidelines.”
Getting your CFO and/or other senior leadership to champion your cause early on can help build momentum for the new technology you’re trying to put in place. And communicating that commitment and demonstrating leadership’s involvement to the whole team will get others excited about it too, Power added.
“Making that visible so that people can see it and understand and buy in [is one of the most important things],” he said during the panel. “I think that creates the push that’s required to make these types of things successful.”
What Comes Next
By employing change management best practices like these to get your team on board and invested, you put yourself in a better position to successfully implement the technology you need to better fuel your financial close—and get the right people actually using it.
But, Carlson warned, as with any change management process, don’t be surprised if it’s not all smooth sailing—even with a well-thought-out plan in place. “A lot of times things have to get uglier before they get better,” Carlson said in the Modern Financial Close Panel. “It’s a challenge and just keeping that communication open through the whole process is so very important.”
One last piece of advice: Don’t be afraid of change yourself, even if your team is. They’ll need someone to champion it from start to finish, celebrating the benefits of the new technology and what it can mean going forward. Just like the panelists in our Modern Financial Close Panel, you can be that person—leading your organization into a more efficient, technology-driven month-end close.