In July I spent 4 days at Microsoft's annual global conference. This year MGB (Microsoft Global Business) as it used to be called was re-branded and is now called (MGX) - the X representing an eXchange of ideas. These conferences tend to be a mix of good product and solution content and field invigoration sessions from our leadership team - Steve Ballmer and Kevin Turner included.

If you've never seen SteveB present it is simply a mind-blowing experience; he has the most extraordinary energy and passion for our technology than anyone I've ever experienced inside or outside of Microsoft). He get's some mixed press from time-to-time but no-one could every question his belief in our technology. Here's a special prodcast with SteveB talking about Microsoft's vision for the people ready business that was shot at MGX by the guys at The IW Center 

Anyway, So I'm sitting in the departure lounge at Gatwick airport contemplating how to spend the next 8 hours before I arrive in sunny Orlando. I'm the kind of guy that's not really very good at relaxing so an 8 hour flight for me is rarely spent watching a film but instead doing some reading and what a colleague of mine Mike Pegg would describe as doing some slow thinking. Mike's got some great insight on making time for strategising and thinking more holistically about what you do and capturing it.

So as part of my slow-thinking mantra I came across an article in the McKinsey Quarterly that in a nutshell talked about the vast amount of wastage generated from within a finance department. If you consider the reams of finance reports that go unread and the unused forecasts, not to mention duplicate computations of similar data, the endless consolidation of existing reports, and mundane activities such as manually entering data or tailoring the layout of reports the impact is significant.

So introducing some key lean manufacturing principles to the finance function could not only eliminate waste but also ensure they're measuring the right stuff. And so half-way across the Atlantic I kind of had an epiphany. We can make the greatest software in the world but are we actually contributing to creating leaner operations or are we just adding to the waste. In truth it's probably a combination of both BUT our partners as domain experts have the ability to do two inter-dependent activities. Firstly work with our customers to ensure we're helping them measure things that improve and amplify the way the finance function operates and secondly introduce a programme that allows for continuous improvement and KPI measurement that addresses time savings and most importantly $$$. If you ask any CFO about continuous process improvement it's only positive when you can begin to measure this in pounds, shillings and pence.

I think this is a great opportunity for our partners especially those with specific horizontal knowledge of the finance function. I'm not going to look to knit together the Microsoft product suite that I think can address this problem as you guys are all big enough and intelligent enough to work this out for yourselves. Given that the CFO and the wider finance function is central to the health, viability and success of all organisations you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be opportunities to drive similar initiatives with Sales & Marketing, HR, Operations and Legal - but its the guys within the finance function that will open the door.

Here's a link to the full article. In the UK we're just finalising some messaging and positioning documents around PerformancePoint within the finance function which I'll be sure to share with you as it becomes available.