Part 1 of the multi-part “Integrative Intelligence” series exploring the skills necessary for the new operating model of finance.
We live in a world of knowledge and data, moving from place to place among distributed contributors and users. We also have intersections – with different people, organizations, and data sources. Work is constantly reassembled, disassembled, and reassembled along the way to its final destination. The packing, shipping, and unpacking of this information is what we call “integrative intelligence.”
Does this sound familiar? This is how the Internet works. The TCP/IP arranges digital objects into data packets and sends them over a series of interconnected networks to a destination where they are reassembled into something usable again. The packets travel across multiple networks, “jumping” at intersection points to other networks until they reach the destination. Once reassembled in the right place, the data can go back to work and do what is requested.
Integrated intelligence is the act of defining work, disseminating it among a collaborative and fluid team, then re-aggregating it to drive decisions. It is a change in the way that work is accomplished in several aspects. The basic assumption of doing work is turned on its head when data and communication are ubiquitous; having the answer is less important than knowing what questions to ask. Doing the work is less important than creating the work to be done. Efficiency is great, and disruption is better.
Integrated intelligence assumes that the team is different – that it is fluid as it is formed around tasks, projects, and processes that may last for a few days or years depending on the request. Therefore, it consists of anyone who can contribute, including co-workers, customers, and suppliers who have integrated data, vendors, consultants, gig workers, freelancers, and even automated bots.
For several reasons, the finance team is best suited to oversee integrative intelligence. As stewards of company capital, finance has a unique mandate to look across the entire enterprise to understand where resources are deployed for the highest effectiveness and efficiency over the long term. As business partners, we challenge assumptions, ask tough questions, and push for data-driven answers. We need to think critically about the information we receive, ask the right questions, and create the right work across the organization to help drive optimal business decisions.
The image below shows how an extended team contributes to the work of finance on a regular basis. Anyone who provides information or input relevant to a decision can be considered a contributor. The interior blue arrows represent resources inside the company. The gray blocks are third-party talent and include “bots,” algorithms that contribute to the team and in the future will be automated and semi-autonomous. The blue circles on the bottom are the “frenemies” described in Porter’s Five Forces, the famed analysis of competition for margin along the value chain. Groups considered to be rivals can be on the same team.
Part 2 of this series will review the major trends and drivers that make integrative intelligence a necessity for our world of work.
Interested in learning more about integrative intelligence? Download AFP’s FP&A Guide, underwritten by Microsoft.