Most innovations in management thinking spring from new ways of solving the issues and challenges generated in daily business life. Sure, academics can package up the ideas and publish papers on them. But if you look deep enough, you generally find that it was one or more maverick managers who were so frustrated at existing practices that they threw everything up in the air and looked for a better way. Certainly that’s how activity-based costing first started, when accountants working in manufacturing plants in North America threw in the towel on standard costing. It’s also how the Beyond Budgeting came into being when executives at Svenska Handelsbanken questioned the rationale for paying bonuses based on beating a fixed budget rather than outperforming the competition.
Typically, the originators of these nirvana moments remain unsung heroes as they have little or no interest in popularizing their ideas. Indeed, why should they if they are a source of competitive advantage? But there is another group of folk who specialize in solving business problems that do have a vested interest in self-promotion—consultants. Much of their promotion in white papers and blogs is aimed at convincing us that they know what best-practice is and how to implement it. This makes them a valuable resource of insights. Just don’t expect too much in the way of detailed practical advice though, as they do need to protect their intellectual property so they can continue to make a living.
If you’re looking for a regular source of business insights from the consulting community, start with my list of five blogs by consultants working in finance and performance management that I keep coming back to:
- Bedford Consulting Director’s Blog always has good content on planning and business intelligence. With all three directors writing posts there is always a fresh topic every week–something many larger organizations frequently fall down on.
- One-man bands also struggle when it comes to keeping content fresh. But being ‘semi-retired’ means Gary Cokins seems to be able to find time between his consulting engagements to write on his specialist subject of cost management and other accounting related topics. Long may you continue, Gary.
- At the other extreme, most of the global consulting organizations have a plethora of blogs segmented by topic and by geography. But judging by the amount of content on each topic, I’d hazard a guess that practice partners don’t all share the same enthusiasm for blogging. I routinely dip into all of them, but I’ll pick PWC as an example of what is available with its excellent coverage of finance with blogs dedicated to IFRS, Corporate Reporting, and Tax and Treasury.
- At the other extreme, Accenture appears to have pulled the rug on blogging altogether. However, they do an excellent job at presenting their research and insights.
- Finally, although you may think it is too targeted at the C-level to be of general interest, I can recommend McKinsey & Company Insights for Corporate Finance. The content is first class as you would expect from such a well-respected organization. But it is also incredibly practical, covering topics such as cash planning, CAPEX, and budgeting that are of interest to anyone working in finance. Take a look.
While the more formal insights used by Accenture and McKinsey still give a good understanding of the best practice they help their clients implement, I do miss the immediacy and informality that comes with blogging and hope it doesn’t become the letter writing of the digital age.
Finally, I apologize to anyone not on the list. In limiting myself to five, I have tried to vary my selection to include organizations of every size. But there are plenty of others out there that are well worth bookmarking. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments.