Over the past few years, one of the common themes we have experienced in the execution of our strategy across treasury, is that we can often spend significant time and effort trying to bridge the gap between our requirements and knowledge, and that of our IT functions.
Part of the problem is that the products we use in treasury are naturally very specific to our own needs, such as the TMS, dealing portals and rate feeds. As such, these are not widely known about, or indeed even understood outside a very small circle of experts. If your IT department looks to manage and support an application like a TMS in the same generic way that might work for a globally-deployed application, you will naturally run into difficulties.
Over the years, here at AstraZeneca we have worked hard alongside our long-term external technology partner, Covarius, to ensure that our IT teams fully understand what it is that treasury actually does. We wanted to make it 100% clear that our small treasury team has a responsibility to manage all of AstraZeneca’s financial assets – many of which are highly liquid – on a real-time basis.
We were very keen to stress that any system issues or outages would potentially incur significant financial or reputational risk very quickly. After all, nothing focusses the mind of your IT department more than these two risks, so we were adamant that our treasury applications were included in the small suite of applications that are deemed to be ‘Board Level Critical’.
But here at AstraZeneca, our treasury operations continue to invest in our internal relationships, and our proactive approach includes treasury team members visiting our support teams and shared service centres across the globe. This ensures that the importance of treasury and our systems and applications to the financial wellbeing of the company, are clearly understood.
Above all else, communication is key; as is involving IT in the design of our constantly-evolving technology roadmap in order to get support and ‘buy-in’ for our requirements. However, at the same time we have to ensure that our treasury strategy is included in and aligned to the wider longer-term group IT strategies, as that will be a critical factor in the ongoing success of our use of technology.
Having focussed historically on both educating and partnering with our IT department, we now feel we are in a far better place going forwards with regards to the maintenance of our systems, and the ability to continue on our technology journey into the future.
I believe that our relationships with IT, and their understanding of our business will become even more important over the next few years as we start to see newer technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and blockchain coming into the mainstream. As ever, we’ll be looking to the support of IT to ensure we can continue to be early adopters of these technologies as and when they become available.
Close partnership between treasury and IT is key to success.