Stacy Brown, Senior Manager at UHY Consulting, joined me on the Being Planful podcast to talk about empathy, FP&A, and technology. UHY is an implementation specialist focused on creating sustainable and transformational change for their clients. The company is also a Planful partner.
In this episode, Stacy and I explore how her training in Finance gives her an edge in helping companies not just dissect their challenges, but also find the right solutions. Stacy’s approach starts by balancing a client’s macro business goals with individual FP&A pain points. It then ultimately uses technology to give FP&A more time to focus on what’s really important, even if that’s as human as being done with work in time for dinner.
Here are a few highlights of this episode.
“Best” Isn’t Always Best for You
Stacy has led over 100 technology implementations, specifically focusing on finance, ERP, and related systems. What makes her skilled at solving problems for Finance is that she’s an accountant by education. Using that knowledge in her role at UHY, Stacy works with FP&A to grasp their challenges so she can help them find the best technologies to make them go away.
“Consulting is about listening to understand and empathize with the client and their frustrations, and then find a solution for it,” said Stacy. “I’m trying to understand because every organization is different. Understanding what their end goal is and getting them there is the whole idea.”
The way Stacy explains it makes it obvious, but also makes you question the value of a “best practice.” Where clients frequently ask, ‘What have you seen?’, her answer always includes why that specific scenario will or will not work in the client’s case. It’s how Stacy guides clients to the best decision, no matter what other companies might have done.
But Some Things are Universal
Being involved in so many implementations has surfaced some common success factors, if not best practices. What Stacy has seen as a consistent sign of success or failure is the speed in which the technology is deployed and gets into the hands of FP&A.
“I tell every client this: I see more success the faster a client can get into the tool and start working with it,” said Stacy. “That’s those who really dive in, learn all they can about the tool, and let the tool work for them instead of them working against it.”
To help accelerate that process even more, Stacy advocates for bringing FP&A teams into the process earlier. Those who are going to be hands-on with the solution, more so than the CFO, are the ones whose work-life balance will be positively impacted. If they can see and understand the efficiencies to be had well before deployment, it makes for a smoother and faster adoption. It’s putting the value into human terms, and having empathy, that helps Stacy sell the value to the frontline FP&A teams.
“I was doing an implementation of Planful, and FP&A was working through lunch, jumping between their board decks and their ERP system,” recalled Stacy. “Now they don’t have to do that. They have confidence in their numbers. If you leave Excel and you use the technology, you’re no longer stressing about, ‘Is my number wrong?’”
Turning Understanding into Goals
Stacy works empathy into her conversations with executives, too. Business leaders sometimes push their organization towards a broader business transformation goal without necessarily understanding the steps individuals have to take to get there. But that wholesale approach can actually slow down the deployment and adoption of a new technology.
“That’s not how you get user adoption,” explained Stacy. “If you break it down into smaller pieces, and get team members comfortable with smaller pieces, that makes the tool more successful as a whole. It allows the executives to then promote the tool and how great it is across the organization.”
Leaders should then be more engaging with their teams, according to Stacy, to help ensure transformational success. They may find more opportunities for change, where their limits of flexibility can or cannot be pushed, and what the true priorities should be. That understanding must extend up and down the organization, and only by listening with empathy can leaders best position transformational projects for sustainable success.
Subscribe to Being Planful
To hear more about empathy, considering the human element in technology implementations, and the latest trends Stacy is seeing in FP&A transformations, listen to episode #9 of Being Planful.
This podcast series explores the benefits of adopting a “Planful” mindset by inviting your FP&A peers, analysts, industry experts, and more, to share their experiences and insights. Podcasting also lets us stay socially-distant while giving you a more flexible way to learn about Continuous Planning, whether it’s watching it on your phone, listening during your morning run, or tuning-in whenever it’s convenient.
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