Innovation and Finance – Making the Connection

A number of white papers on the topics of service and operational innovation have caught my attention, and I wrote an overview of one recently here. While many of the ideas regarding innovation are similar, the number of perspectives and expanded applications to operational innovation is impressive. As a proposed subspecies of organizational innovation, operational innovation has particular application for accounting and finance. And as such, it seems natural that information technology functions (up to a certain sized organization) commonly fall within the scope of the chief financial officer within the organizational structure. Why does this matter? Because what begins with a mindset toward innovation often requires the necessary bandwidth made available through technology.

In other words, technology in and of itself is NOT the answer. I cannot count the number of times I have seen an expensive system that was purchased in the absence of an organizational mindset that embraces and encourages innovation, and the inevitable happens: it lies dormant or is abandoned altogether. This is a particular shame because not only are resources wasted in the process, but it reinforces the mindset of those who are looking for an example of failure in order to resist change, as if change were being implemented for the sake of itself, rather than a desperately needed implementation that will move an organization forward. So the process begins with a mindset that permeates an organization, encouraging a culture of continuous learning. Although this is a simple and straightforward concept, it is far more complicated to create within an organization (of any type) than to plan.

But once this mindset is in place, or even moving in that direction through leadership or a core group of people, the possibilities for process innovation as it relates to service delivery are tremendous. In an article in Strategic Finance titled, Innovation is for CFOs, Too, the authors Davila, Epstein and Shelton suggest an integral connection to financial operations, organizational innovation and technology,

The accounting and finance functions are an important place to start. Although accounting has changed incrementally over time, we’re grounded in a model that was developed 500 years ago, and we still use that same basic model. That’s okay. The development of information technologies has changed the way we process transactions—and the speed—but the basic model hasn’t changed. Yet approaches to financing organizations and managing cash have changed dramatically over the years. Maybe most important, the role of the CFO has been totally expanded in the last decade or two. Although regulations in accounting and finance constrain some innovation in the corporate finance function, there’s still so much that can be done.

Further discussion of the “much [more] that can be done” will be in a subsequent post discussing this article, which can be downloaded from IMA here.

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