Even people who believe they are in good health should get an annual physical exam. The same goes for the technology ecosystem keeping your company’s financials alive.
One of the things that is so impressive about the modern version of that ancient ritual — the annual physical exam — is the granular level of detail and broad scope of items covered by the report you get from your doctor afterwards. Also impressive is the speed with which the report is produced, often nowadays by way of a physician’s health web portal. Dozens of items are listed (along with explanation of what the results mean and what is a good and not-so-good result) — everything from your LDL and CO2 levels to blood pressure and immunization status. And those are just the basics, or what’s reported if you are healthy. If you do have a health issue the report goes into even greater detail. In many ways then what the health checkup report has become is a real “living” document that tracks a myriad of relevant benchmarks along whatever path your doctor and your own heath prescribe.
So why not expect the same kind of report from your financial ecosystem “doctor” — i.e., your managed services provider? It is not a stretch to consider a physician’s report as a good model for the type of report your company should be receiving from whomever is managing your financial systems. The parallels are clear. The financial ecosystem is critical to your company’s health. It is highly complex and has a lot of interdependent moving parts. Even if everything appears fine, issues may be hidden under the surface that could cause problems — problems that would be harder to fix if they are unexpected. What kinds of problems? Those could be unwanted data theft or exposure, data corruption, inability to recover data, compliance violations, disruptions to financial operations (like inability to produce quarterly reports or perform consolidations), and complete system failures — to name just a few. The repercussions from those problems could be even more life-threatening to your organization (not to mention career-ending for key individuals). Those repercussions could be reputation loss, substantial financial loss, management misdirection, and much more.
When you’re talking about the health of your enterprise performance management system, you are really talking about the ability to manage the performance of your whole enterprise. And given the scope of today’s EPM systems, which extends well beyond the finance department itself, any EPM health issues can quickly become every department’s health issues.
A Model Health Check
So, what would an annual financial system heath check look like? As with an annual physical exam, you would expect the follow-up report to be detailed and comprehensive. The report would happen quickly. It would explain the meaning of results and what is a good and not-so-good result. It would contain recommendations for improvement. And it would be accessible online. A good example is the annual health check report that Strafford offers its managed services customers. Items are broken down into three main categories — cloud, Windows, and Hyperion — as follows:
Your first impression when you receive one of these reports (just like the one from you doctor) may very well be the sheer number of things that can possibly go wrong. Even if you are generally aware of most of these data points, it can still be a little unnerving to see all of them presented in one single report. The second impression, usually, is a deep sense of relief that comes from seeing that a report this thorough actually also reveals a lot of very good news. We say “usually” because if you are a managed services customer, you would expect your financial ecosystem not to have many problems. And even where problems are found, the fact that they are found sooner rather than later means that they are more easily fixed.
Which brings up one more parallel between a doctor’s patients and an ecosystem’s owners. Just like doctors, we sometimes see clients who hesitate at first to learn what they don’t know — as if what they don’t know can’t hurt them. Of course, it can and eventually it will.