Performance of international groups: how to avoid the risks of relapse in Excel
By Anne Calmet, Financial Performance Manager, Micropole
The appropriation of new tools by subsidiaries is subject to certain hazards that can threaten their durability. If they are not prevented, the temptation to fall back on old habits, i.e. Excel spreadsheets, can quickly become irresistible...
Before reaching its cruising speed, the international deployment of performance management solutions sometimes experiences implementation problems that can threaten its sustainability. A common mistake made by head offices is to focus all their efforts on initiating the project, to the detriment of monitoring its operation over time. Unfortunately, the implementation of a management solution, even a successful one, can still turn into a train wreck after it has gone live, if it runs into certain common pitfalls:
- Turnover in local teams: controllers as well as IT specialists change positions, subsidiaries, or sometimes leave the company, at a rather high rate. The transfer of skills on the solution used is often too short because it is done in a hurry, the documentation is too imprecise and the remote maintenance in English is not always efficient. The new controllers, not knowing how to use the tool, quickly come back to their Excel spreadsheets.
- The scarcity of local skills in the chosen tool: a change in local legislation, in the group's management rules or in the subsidiary's ERP, may result in the need to upgrade the management control platform. However, in many countries, local skills in the management of performance management tools are rare or non-existent. This makes any maintenance on the tool a headache. The solution becomes obsolete, and controllers compensate by developing warts in Excel...
Anticipate possible blockages
These pitfalls can be avoided if they are anticipated at the project strategy stage. Functional and technical skills on the deployed solutions must be managed centrally, for all subsidiaries, through the implementation of an AMS (Assistance Maintenance Service) type structure. Documentation must be detailed, complete, in English and kept up to date. The transfer of skills must be accompanied, not rushed. This is a sine qua non condition for the subsidiaries to adopt the use of these new tools over the long term. Finally, all of these steps are based on processes that must be duly described, documented and applied.
If all of these conditions are met, the international deployment of performance management solutions will be effective and sustainable, and will reinforce best practices and a cross-functional vision within the group.