Managers must have the courage to implement IT projects | Unit4
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Managers must have the courage to implement IT projects

During the pandemic, when consultancy costs are lower, why are so many managers afraid to be pro-active about cost-saving, failing to seize the opportunity that digitalization offers? Asks Finn Følling, Head of Sales at Unit4.

After spending years working at board level in many different industries, I’m still surprised at how companies, and in particular boards and senior managers, work during times of economic instability such as financial crises, falling oil prices, natural disasters, or like now, a pandemic. Historically, things return to normal even if it takes time.

Navigating safely through crises and times of uncertainty is one of the main jobs a CEO has. But they also need to make sure that the company is in the best possible position once life returns to normal. While the board’s function is to monitor, advise, and guide the CEO, to the benefit of the company and its owners.

Over the past decade, most boards have been forced to take on multiple digital projects. In other words, they’ve been obliged to dictate the manager’s approach to projects and perform the cost-benefit analysis for if and when they’re to be implemented.

These boards have also had digitalization as one of several focus areas, so it’s often easier to find these investments in normal times. And there can be multiple digital projects, about anything from cost-saving measures to purely income-generating measures such as customer portals, ERP projects (information management), and financial planning (FP&A). As an old-timer in the industry, I must admit that these projects are mostly done to streamline costs.

However, in my experience, there’s an immediate risk that ERP and FP&A projects find nothing but closed doors in disruptive times. And from my experience as a manager, I think I know why. With their primary focus on costs, these investments probably won’t even be on the agenda, as the CEOs are concerned with being voted down, meaning that ongoing projects will be delayed or postponed indefinitely.

Surely, it’s blatantly cheeky to suggest an expensive digitalization project in the middle of a pandemic? In fact, hang on – didn’t we agree that the CEO’s job was to ensure that the business was in the best possible position once society returns to normal?

Boardrooms need to treat ERP and FP&A projects like any other board work and consider them seriously. We find ourselves in strange times, but great times for implementation projects. These projects bring companies and people together. And it will be seen as an aggressive decision that confirms the company’s solvency and long-term perspective, and most importantly, it will save as much money as in normal times.

Despite everything, the business case for implementation projects remains the same. With good management, these projects can pick up the pace when everything returns to normal, which means being better equipped for the next crossroads or period of depression. And the icing on the cake is, you’ll find that suppliers currently have good access to consultants – so you can negotiate the price and get better terms.

And finally, I’ve seen good examples of companies increasing their focus on digitalization in these times. And they’re the ones who will succeed as market leaders or grow in their industry. Give these projects their time, because now is absolutely the right time.

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