In a multi-generational, multi-cultural office, secret Santa gets awkward pretty quickly. And as for those guys with the drunken, “I love you man!” at the office holiday party, the less said the better. But still, it’s the holidays. So it’s important to foster a spirit of generosity as well as a resolve to do better in the coming year.

So to facilitate the crossing of the Finance department/IT department divide (a regular topic of ours as business intelligence consultants), here are suggestions for what Finance folks should get their developers this year. (And watch for our follow up post on what developers should get Finance.)

1. Software Training for Yourself

Why is software training for yourself the BEST gift you can get your IT department? Because other than the few, the proud and the (slightly) deranged at the help desk, no one wants to answer the same question over and over again. They’d really much prefer to work on developing new functionalities and hopefully getting through that backlog of work you keep whining about.

Where to start? Look at the software you use the most. If going for ERP training or attending a conference (to actually learn something) is too much to ask, how about signing up for an online Excel course? To paraphrase an old NY area commercial, an educated user is IT’s best partner.

2. Training for Them

Too often, training is one of the first things cut when budgets get tight or priorities shift. After all, the developers seem to be getting along with their current methods, so why should they learn anything new?

First, great developers like learning about technology. And if you want to keep great developers on your team, then keeping them interested is often MORE important than paying them the highest salary. Keeping them up to date on technology shows you care.

Second, it will pay off for you. Trust me. I spend a lot of my time reading blogs, books and attending conferences to keep up to date. And there’s still a lot I don’t know. But I DO know how often I find folks using technology in ways that weren’t current even 10 years ago. As business intelligence consultants, we’re heroes for showing folks how to do things in ways that were “out of the box” a long time ago. So keep your folks up to date and let them be the heroes.

3. A Straight Face

You want to encourage IT to understand the business. You really do. So, when IT folks try to use accounting terminology they don’t understand or say something silly about accounting rules, keep a straight face. Gently set them straight. (And in return, they can keep a straight face when you start throwing around IT terminology.)

4. Acceptance They Won’t Remember EVERYTHING About What You Do

An application developer’s job is NOT to remember everything you do in your daily job. Indeed, if he or she is intimately involved in every step of your process, something is wrong. Indeed, the better that application developers are at building and/or implementing solid applications, the less they’ll remember about what they did for you one, two or three years ago. Because it works so well.

Therefore, you can’t just say: “You need to fix the month end process” or “The Walmart interface isn’t working” or (even worse) “The d**n report is a disaster. Again.”

Instead, start by making sure your developers know what you’re talking about. As in, which report? Which interface? How is it wrong? Where do you see errors? Because while YOU run the report every day, they haven’t seen it in years.

5. Time to Fix Old Stuff That (Kind of) Works But Isn’t Pretty

Quick and dirty projects are neither. And even projects that start well can get slammed at the last moment. And while those applications work, your technical folks know they’re accidents waiting to happen. If one or two key people leave, those applications will fall apart.

So, when planning for next year, give your technical folks the time to fix the old stuff. It may save you from receiving a lump of coal in your stocking later in the year.

6. Cool Sci-Fi Paraphernalia

Sorry, but clichés are generally true. Technical guys and gals love sci-fi. But if you decide to go this route, find out if your folks are into Star Trek, Star Wars or Dr. Who. Choosing wrong is like telling an AS400 guy that Windows is a better solution.

Happy holidays.


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