There was a time when I was happy with enterprise budgeting processes and their underlying technology support. That time was thirty years ago, before I ever worked for an enterprise. [And that’s probably why I have so much time for Sig and Thingamy. Disclosure: I have no stock in Thingamy. Or any other company for that matter, save the ones I have worked for or am working for.]
So many places have nothing that approximates to project accounting yet they try and account for projects. So many places have nothing that approximates to multi-year planning, yet they try and account for multiple years and across year boundaries. So many places operate in multiple timezones and jurisdictions with multiple accounting standards and conventions, even if they claim to be using the same one. So many places have a habit of nesting cost centre charges, creating this monstrous concept called allocation cycles. So many places have people arguing till the cows come home about the allocation process, allocation keys, the amount allocated….. while all the time being completely unable to isolate the costs being allocated.
Sometimes I think that many people avoid getting into any form of management in order to avoid becoming spreadsheet jockeys; spreadsheet jockeys riding blindfolded through treacle while mounted on imaginary horses. I can’t blame them.
I’m no accountant, I want to keep things simple. Tell me how much money I can spend, as if it’s a credit limit on a card. Let me spend it on the people, things and processes I need, in order that I can keep the promises I make. At the end of each month, send me a statement of expenditure for that “card”. If I run more than one cost centre, then give me more than one “card”. If I run a P/L, then let me receive money into that “card” account as well. If I have the right to an overdraft, then let me know how much, and by when I need to pay it off. What’s frontloaded, what’s not. What the early termination penalties are.
And don’t let me charge one card account with another. No smoke. No mirrors. No nesting of allocations.
And all cash. No mumbo jumbo. No enterprise kiting.
That’s what I’ve always wanted. That’s what I’ve never had.
So, when I saw justgiving as an application on Facebook, it made me think. Shouldn’t that be how budgets work in an enterprise? Let the P/L holder “justgive” money to the “causes” he or she wants to support. Constrained by their available balance. Let the “causeholder” run the cause, equivalent to a project at a time. When multiple P/Ls want to support a particular enterprise “cause”, they can.
Sure we have to solve for other problems, like how to deal with overheads. In fact we need to go further, we need to understand far more about how we fund shared infrastructure, shared within an enterprise and shared beyond the enterprise as well.
But we need to start somewhere, and one place that needs attention is the way projects get funded and accounted for.