September 1

Vacancy Management and Hierarchies Part 4: Cost Center Ownership

I once talked to a finance manager and asked her why her group couldn’t produce an accurate list of cost center owners. Her response was simple, “I would love to have an updated list, but no one ever tells me when there’s a change, so I have no way of maintaining a list.”

As with data and access ownership, cost center ownership is typically a minor component of someone’s job, so when they leave it’s not the first thing that comes to anyone’s mind.

Worse, although there could be more cost center owners than data/access owners (especially in large organizations), there are significantly fewer cost center users – many people in a company have systems access, but only a few people knowingly hit a cost center by buying things. So whereas a data/access owner vacancy is likely to be noticed fairly quickly, it could be months or more before a cost center owner vacancy is noticed – making it that much harder to figure out who the replacement should be.

This segment is about managing vacancies in the cost center ownership arena, to ensure that these vacancies are proactively managed, rather than reactively. We’ll again work through this hierarchy using the five steps I outlined in the Approach section of this month’s Introduction segment.

Step 1: Determine the needed granularity

As with our previous hierarchies, granularity speaks to ongoing management. A one-to-one mapping of cost center to role could result in thousands of roles at a large company, which is not sustainable in the long-term. So as with data/access owners, a middle ground needs to be struck. It’s less likely that a single role of “cost center owner” will suffice – some sub-division will likely be needed – perhaps on a functional or geographic level.

The finance team definitely needs to be involved in these discussions – they are the right ones to advise on the appropriate level of granularity.

I use the term “finance team” generically – it may be that there’s a different finance team for each functional or geographic unit.

Step 2: Collect available data

The finance team is also the group that will be able to provide any existing cost center ownership data.

Step 3: Obtain missing data

In some ways, determining missing cost center owners may be more challenging than obtaining the line management hierarchy. In the latter case, the difficulty comes from the sheer number of people involved. With cost center owners, the difficulty is figuring out where to look. How do you equate a number with a person?

You first have to understand what that number means before you can even begin determining the person.

Just as it should be HR’s responsibility to fill out the line management hierarchy, it should be the finance team’s responsibility to fill out the cost center hierarchy.

However, unlike HR, the finance team will be much less familiar with the employee population, so they will need a lot more help getting from number to person. In fact, the HR team may be needed to help bridge the gap, although if the line management hierarchy is already complete, it’ll be a lot easier.

Step 4: Design the workflow

The cost center ownership workflow design principles are the same as those for the data/access ownership workflow:

  • Determine if the person authorized to fill a vacancy is a line manager or a finance manager
  • If the authorized person is a finance manager, determine the course of action for upward vacancies
  • Specify the default action if an approval is pending and a vacancy hasn’t been filled.

Step 5: Notification

The group most likely to require notification on cost center ownership is finance, although as mentioned previously there could be many finance groups across a large company. HR may also have a need for this information.

As with the other hierarchies, email notification is a cheap and simple solution for notification, but you get what you pay for – there’s no guarantee that the updates will be made. A better solution is again a closed-loop task at the end of the workflow, although finance people are typically so far removed from IT and identity management that receiving and completing tasks from an identity management system may not be well-received.

Updating the finance system automatically may be possible if an integration is already planned between the finance system and identity management. Otherwise, automation could be costly. If HR needs to be updated, that should be possible since HR and identity management must be integrated anyway. If HR and the finance system are integrated, it may be possible to auto-update the finance system indirectly via the HR system.

In the next segment, we’ll summarize the month’s activities and wrap up.


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