Today, the internet is an endless source of useful information. Finding what matters becomes easier every day:
- Google, Bing and other search services are constantly improving their algorithms. The usability gets better and better: when you enter the first two letters of a query, the engine seems already to know what you are searching for.
- Professional social networks such as Linkedin or Xing have very interesting groups around financial topics, where impressive ideas are exchanged.
- New smart websites such as Trap.IT and smartphone apps like Zite find news articles and blogs that are highly relevant. Just enter a topic of interest: new information and points of view will be discovered within seconds.
What these three web services have in common is that they represent external knowledge. Everyone can access this knowledge and in many cases contribute to it. But a treasurer would never openly share internals or comment on what some of these insights mean for their organisation. So it is safe to say that, unless it is not confidential, inside-out knowledge transfer is not happening for good reasons.
In contrast outside-in knowledge transfer should be key for every successful treasury organisation and therefore promoted. But what ingredients are needed to get the most out of it?
First, membership of external communities, websites such as gtnews and usage of discovery tools are still the right starting point. Second, a treasurer should combine external mission-critical information with their personal knowledge and organisation’s data. Third, they should share their thoughts and data with others. In most cases today, email is used for this kind of knowledge exchange.
The first ingredient (external tools) can rely on the latest technology of the web. However, the second ingredient (gathering and filtering of external information and combining it with internal data) and the third ingredient (communication around the data) are mostly embedded in cumbersome software and processes. This is because collecting the relevant data from various systems that are spread across multiple locations is time-consuming, or sometimes not possible. That makes it hard to identify all relevant aspects of a treasury context and to derive the proper conclusions/activities. Furthermore, by using email as the main communication tool, organisations do not leverage what works so well in today’s social media:
- Broadcasting of information to quickly spread knowledge within larger groups (such as Twitter).
- Open and confidential discussions of multiple participants in a simple interface (such as Facebook).
The bottom line is that today’s treasurers might be connected externally through advanced social networking and data discovery tools. But internally, information gathering and communication is still on the level of the late 1990s.
To overcome this situation, organisations need to introduce new tools that connect to any IT system, extract and display the relevant internal plus external data, ideally in one dashboard environment. To meet the different skill set and knowledge base of employees, a high degree of customisation possibilities is needed to better understand the relevant business context on an individual level. In addition, a simple-to-use interface that allows adding secure, smart and social communication directly to mission critical data points leads to better and faster decisions.
With such as system (dashboard and social communication), a treasurer becomes a truly external and internal connected employee. As the number of possible work hours per week are fixed, such as system assists in coping better with the ever increasing amount of information. A treasurer becomes more effective and hence contributes to the bottom line of their organisation.
How Lufthansa is Improving Information Flow, While Connecting Staff Around Business Issues
Lufthansa, one of the largest airlines in the world, works with Entarena, an Enterprise 2.0 vendor specialising in treasury and other corporate finance solutions. The airline uses many software solutions in the treasury department: from enterprise resource planning (ERP) to reporting tools, from liquidity planning solutions to trading software, from treasury workstations to fuel management systems. One problem the company had for many years was the ability to monitor and control banking fees and commissions that it pays its banking partners. This used to be a manual, and therefore cumbersome process to find out what was the total cost of doing business with each of its banking partners.
Before each meeting with a bank, treasury staff would spend several days per bank researching and collecting relevant information from multiple IT systems in preparation for its bank review meetings and negotiations around price, terms and conditions. With dozens of banking partners worldwide, this was a laborious and cost-intensive process.
In order to speed up this process and to have more relevant and actual data when entering meetings or in telephone discussions with a bank, Lufthansa has installed the Entarena service. It allows treasury employees to customise dashboards around each bank to manage information from different systems on demand. These dashboards provide notifications about important events and allow filtering and following of mission-critical data points. Treasury employees can combine internal data from ERP, trading, treasury and banking systems, as well as external data such as market news pertaining to their banks.
Additionally, while in the dashboards they can communicate with co-workers directly in context of the data, either privately or shared with the team. While the dashboards allow employees to better leverage the data from existing IT systems, the communication features spread knowledge within the treasury department more effectively. The lightweight approach of the new technology aids development and deployment in existing treasury landscapes with a limited budget.
This solution is intended to speed up collection of the information by analysts, as well as providing more accurate and timely information to the treasurer, the management or their designee when negotiating with the bank’s new conditions on credit lines and fees. Furthermore, through mobile solutions treasury employees are able to access this data when they are away from the office. Lufthansa is now able to discuss banking relationships with its partners using more accurate data and achieves better results in its review meetings. At the same time, treasury employees have more time for qualitative work.
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