CFO Pain Points: Three Ways Technology Can Influence Better Outcomes
CFOs learned to appreciate technology when they stopped simply counting how much it cost—including overruns and delays—and factored in how it could change their way of working for the better.
During the downturn, after all, CFOs looked to add as much automation as they could to financial processes that were still stubbornly manual, based on spreadsheets and other traditional tools. In many cases, their financially strapped companies couldn’t afford to roll out a massive ERP-size implementation. And, besides, such multi-year efforts often created new complexity before they began addressing such goals as improving efficiency and, paradoxically, promoting simplicity. By identifying specific business goals, CFOs could sift among the many process-improving technologies, choosing only those that would serve their purpose.
That purpose, as it turned out, wasn’t just about maximizing productivity and efficiency for their own sake, or even cutting costs. By leveraging the right technologies, CFOs could free themselves from time-guzzling transactional activities, giving them the opportunity to spread their strategic insights throughout the business, essentially rolling a new, technology-driven mindset out to the entire organization. Now, as they face the challenge of incorporating several new technologies—social, mobile, cloud—finance executives have become evangelists for the new tools, and not just because they can use them to reduce costs. What’s changed their minds? Here are three of the capabilities that turned CFOs into supporters of technology:
Better Forward-Looking Decisions. Once focused solely on historical data, the finance function is now in a position to provide forward-looking information. With more—and more accurate—data, analytical tools can extract valuable insights. Those results can be incorporated into company decisions, helping guide the business toward where it should invest and innovate, ultimately enhancing profits.
More Collaboration.As technology has become increasingly user-friendly, modeled on apps, Facebook, and other familiar interfaces, employees from different parts of the business can contribute, working together to protect and enhance the company’s value proposition. Using a standard set of tools and processes to analyze data, as well as a common finance language, employees and executives can work together. By using analytics and business intelligence tools, finance can serve as a business partner to other functions, using data to pinpoint looming threats and opportunities.
Improved ROI. While technology may be changing on several fronts at once, companies need to think through what outcomes they want to achieve, as well as determining the metrics they will use to measure results. By carefully examining their weaknesses—and how they affect various functions and lines of business—companies can do a more efficient job of identifying the technological interventions that will have the greatest impact. The key to avoiding the kinds of costs that prevented CFOs from supporting technology in the past is to evaluate and harness the best technology to address the most pressing and consequential issues. Companies that resist investing in robust technology will end up with systems that are not only expensive to maintain but also inadequate for succeeding in the competitive environment.