Get Friendly With the Finance Folks


By Shane Caniglia

You know them as the people who sign your paychecks, approve your expenses and call you every once in a while for tech support. But other than that, when was the last time you interacted with your finance team?

If you don't know the people who work in the finance department, it's time to open the lines of communication. The days of each team working in a silo are over. And if you don't talk to this team on a regular basis, you are missing out on opportunities to help your organization be more successful.

For example, decisions on the purchase of software and data security require a team effort and communication. You may discover ways that the finance team can use new technologies to make domestic and international payment and invoice processes run more efficiently, saving time and money.

With open communications, you'll know more about the finance departments daily activities and how they use technology. This will allow your team to create solutions to help them do their jobs better and solve issues before they become time-consuming problems for everyone.

Now, this all sounds great, but you're probably asking how you open the lines of communication after years of silence. Here are some tips:

1. Think about commonalities.

You may think of the finance department as a completely foreign entity to your tech team, but you have more in common than you think. For example, you both work with confidential numbers, projects and tight deadlines. If this information is not precise, you can end up working long hours to fix one minor glitch. Plus, data security is a top priority for both teams, as serious problems will arise if private data is stolen or released to the public.

In addition, you both deal with activities that are important to the company operations, and you provide information to the public such as Website updates and stock-price data. This means that corporate officers watch your moves carefully as they can significantly affect the bottom line.

Your tech team and the finance department are under pressure to do things accurately and as cost-effectively as possible. Why not work together to find the best tech solutions and make all your lives easier?

Keep these similarities in mind when you approach the finance team. For more information on this process, here are some interesting articles from Human Resources About.com and NetworkingforProfessionals.com.

2. Set a meeting.

Schedule a time to talk to the head of the finance department and explain that you'd like to open the lines of communication to improve processes related to technology issues. Then, work together to schedule a lunch or breakfast meeting with your team and the finance team so people can get to know each other.

Create an event that people will want to attend and let them know that this meeting is different from others they've attended in the past. This may involve holding the meeting at a unique venue, offering great food, providing entertainment and more.

At the meeting, discuss problems, successes and how each department functions to achieve goals, and review current issues that waste resources. Then, have your teams work together to develop ways to solve these problems and improve processes.

Inspire everyone to be creative and offer incentives to the teams that develop the best ideas. Then, set timelines and goals to move forward on specific ideas. For tips on running a successful meeting, check out the information at EffectiveMeeting.com and MindTools.com.

3. Keep the lines of communication open.

After your initial meeting with both teams, be sure to keep the communication between departments going via e-mails, phone calls and regular meetings throughout the year. Monitor the progress of new projects. Regroup as necessary and discuss what is working and what's not. Both departments should be able to talk about processes as they occur and solve issues before they become problems.

As the leader of your tech department, you are key to your company's success, as everyone there uses technology in some way. As tempting as it may be to avoid all the personalities and departments in your company, it's part of your job to communicate with everyone. But it doesn't need to be difficult.

Simply start a conversation and ask how you and your team can help others save time, money and effort. Then, get people talking, working together and being creative. For additional help building your teams, check out online resources such as TeamBuildingTips.com, TechieApps and others.

The initial step in the process is the hardest, and it will take time and commitment. But once you open the communication lines between departments, things will begin to run smoother, and you'll see the results of your efforts over time.

Small issues will be fixed before exploding into major problems, the finance and the tech people will build a relationship as a team, and, who knows, you may even win approval on that big technology purchase a little faster than usual!

Shane Caniglia is the technology director of The Rich Dad Co., a financial education company (customerservice@richdad.com).