by Rick Brenner
Much of the software quality knowledge within software companies applies not only to their software products, but to their financial models and reporting tools. Transferring that knowledge from the Software Quality organization to the Finance organization requires translation of terminology and an understanding of cultural differences, but once these are achieved, software companies can harvest additional value from their Software Quality organizations.
As software development organizations escalate the maturity of their processes, they can encounter constraints imposed by the level of maturity of other parts of the organizations in which they're embedded. One set of constraints comes from the activities of financial managers. Particularly in software companies, financial course changes and corrections in financial management processes can have direct project and product quality effects. Escalating the level of Financial Process Maturity ought to be relatively easy for software companies, but they rarely exploit their special advantages.
Software companies are specially advantaged with respect to financial process improvement. Financial professionals use spreadsheet applications to manage financial reporting and budgeting to construct documents and models that are used to allocate resources and to make enterprise decisions. Although it's not widely recognized, these documents and models themselves are software. As such, their authors face many of the problems that software developers face. Financial professionals in software companies have a distinct advantage, because they can draw on in-house expertise to improve the quality of the software-intensive components of the financial management process.
Much of the software quality knowledge within these companies applies not only to their software products, but to their financial models and reporting tools. Transferring that knowledge from the Software Quality organization to the Financial organization requires translation of terminology and an understanding of cultural differences, but once these are achieved, software companies can harvest additional value from their Software Quality organizations. This line of thinking leads us to these questions:
The quality of products of software companies is in part a result of the organization's Financial Process Maturity. Raising the Financial Process maturity level can reduce the level of wasted resources, increasing the volume of useful available resources. Resource streams within an organization with a more mature financial process are more reliable, which enables product and quality groups to plan more effectively.
Even the most fundamental quality-enhancing measures are often underused in financial management processes. Some of the especially applicable key practices of the Software Capability Maturity Model of the Software Engineering Institute are project planning, project tracking, configuration management, training, peer reviews, and quality assurance. Processes already in use in software development can be adapted to apply to the software-intensive processes of financial management. Here are two examples.
Peer Reviews. Financial managers rarely conduct peer reviews of financial models. Quality professionals can help to develop checklists and procedures suitable for reviewing spreadsheet-based work products.
Configuration Management. It's common for financial managers not to number the versions of spreadsheet tools and models they create. Source control systems are unheard of. It's perhaps then not surprising that large organizations sometimes find that, upon trying to roll up the budget inputs of a number of departments, some of the work has been done on spreadsheet forms that were supposedly withdrawn and superseded. Software quality professionals can help financial managers develop processes that ensure that such problems appear much more rarely.
The principal obstacle to sharing these capabilities is a shared lack of appreciation of commonality between much of the financial management process and the software development process. Beyond this, there are jarringly different cultural patterns, and lack of a shared language for talking about the software development issues financial managers face.
We can begin with education. Software quality professionals can learn about the special requirements of financial processes, particularly in the spreadsheet environment. This effort will have immediate payback, even within the software development organization, where spreadsheets are also used. Financial professionals can learn about how much of what they do can actually benefit from a software-centered quality approach. We can make a good beginning by developing assets for use by quality professionals when they use spreadsheets, and then making them available generally within the organization. These ideas provide another way for quality professionals to provide added value to their companies.
Do you know of ways your quality professionals can assist financial
managers in your company? Are you baffled about how to go about it? Would you like to know
more about reviewing or inspecting spreadsheets in your
organization? Could you benefit from some expertise in developing checklists specifically for your needs?
Through consulting, speaking, workshops, or coaching, I can help you learn to share your
knowledge of software quality management with financial managers. Top
Contact me to discuss your specific situation, by email at rbrenner@ChacoCanyon.com or by telephone at (617) 491-6289, or toll-free at (866) 378-5470 in the continental US.