Whenever we talk about software, no matter if it is developed for on-premise deployment or for the cloud, we marketeers usually invoke a lot of technical analogies: Control rooms, cockpits, traffic hubs, infrastructures, diagrams on screens, data on mobile phones, etc. The perception seems to be that it’s all about technology, its all about data, it’s all very clean and sterile. I really don’t like that very much.
Last evening I was thinking about the global economy and the new role of the “strategic” CFO that is going beyond the classic back-office job of accounting, budgeting, planning, controlling, reporting, governance and compliance into the much more strategic role of enabling sustainable and profitable growth for the whole enterprise. And I was thinking: “Why can’t we – for once – use a different analogy for explaining how a modern Finance Engine needs to work?” The analogy that came to mind was the picture of a tree.
“A tree?”, you might ask. Let me try to explain my thinking here.
(a) A tree has a strong foundation in its root system. The root system is deeply embedded in the environment and provides stability and nutrition to the entire organism. A modern Finance Engine also needs to be deeply rooted in the enterprise environment, being able to extract information from all business areas to provide a single source of truth.
(b) A tree is supported by a strong but flexible trunk that grows every year in a structured way. This is comparable to the foundational capabilities of a modern Finance Engine that provides all the reliability, security, governance and basic accounting capabilities needed for an enterprise CFO to not only run their business, but to stay compliant and provide data to everyone in the enterprise, in a format that is easy to consume (Tree Nutrition, ironically, is called sap).
(c) A tree is also characterized by its system of branches, supporting leaves or needles and/or fruit. In a modern Financial Engine this analogy relates to the ability of the tree to reach out to all areas of the business, even the smallest leaf to enable bi-directional communication and production.
(d) Last but not least, a tree is usually embedded in a rich and vibrant ecosystem, for example a forest, partaking in a system of sustainable and dynamic interchange, synergy and often symbiosis. This could be related to the capability of a modern Financial Engine to be easily connected to other systems, be it in a business-to-consumer or in a business-to-business context.
You are probably already thinking about the 59 ways this analogy does not make sense.
“This silly analogy misses this, and it distorts or misrepresents that .. “.
Go ahead, critique, find fault, correct away to your hearts delight… ! I am fine with that! I think analogies are most useful when they stimulate a new way of thinking about something. For me it helps me think about launching our newest addition the cloud family, SAP Financials OnDemand. By thinking of the solution being like a tree, it makes me remember a number of key things we need to absolutely respect:
- If we want to put a new tree (new financials engine) into an enterprise, we need to respect that there is already a tree in place with an existing, deeply embedded root system, branches, and symbiotic relations with its internal and external ecosystem.
- When you put in a new tree, you typically start with a small tree that’s carefully nurtured and protected and allowed to grow alongside the existing tree until its ready stand alone and to bear fruit.
- You have to put a tree into the appropriate environment. Putting a palm tree into northern Alaska does not make a lot of sense. Nor does it make sense to place a new Financials Engine into an industry that requires specific, deep industry adaptations out of the box that the young “tree” might not have grown.
The list could go on, but I will stop the analogy right there. After all, this is just my personal blog about the random thoughts of an enterprise marketeer, looking for feedback and inspiration from the global hive mind.
In my mind, the analogy will live on, however. Don’t be surprised if we put pictures of magnificent trees or forests at the front of our customer presentations. I personally think it is important to think about Financial Engines not in terms of technology, but in termsof an organic system that has to flex and grow, that exist in a sustainable fashion inside an ecosystem, and that is, simply stated, a beautiful thing to look at and enjoy.
Walldorf, October 9, 2012