As an interim manager, I endorse the conclusions of Brian Plowman's article on the effort that finance departments waste working around systematic flaws ("Cost management", May).
Senior managers seem reluctant to invest in building and maintaining reporting processes using a bespoke or proprietary management information system. There's a general view among them that the likes of Oracle and SAP are so big and complex as to be overwhelming when it comes to defining the chart of accounts necessary to set up informative reporting-pack templates that can stand the test of time.
Their default solution is to rely on MS Excel, since it's familiar and simple. But to see qualified accountants perform the labour-intensive cutting and pasting of data that this approach requires is disturbing when automated solutions are available. I wonder whether employers get away with this, despite the well-known integrity risks of spreadsheets, because there is an anecdotal surplus of accountants in the current economic climate who are prepared do such work for less money.
Perhaps a more subtle reason arises from Plowman's remark that staff could probably suggest more workable solutions when asked. I tend to agree with him, but over the past three years I have noticed a growing defensiveness among people on the front line when I have asked them to do so. Naturally, some of this might be...