In these uncertain times, effective CFOs understand they need to work even smarter to stay ahead in competitive markets. This translates to embracing modern tech that streamlines communication, automates repeatable processes, integrates disparate data, and supports ongoing efforts to improve business processes.
Optimizing your financial data systems with Power Platform is one key part of the equation. The other part involves how you step up in your CFO role to continually drive organizational success.
What Makes a Good CFO?
Two words: forecasting and financials.
A good CFO is someone who sees the big picture of where the enterprise has been and where it is going. Forecasting plays a pivotal role, particularly in the time of COVID-19, where organizations find themselves pushing the edge of the envelope.
When I say “forecasting,” I’m not talking Nostradamus here. CFOs must have keen insight into anticipating trends while understanding the organization’s history. This way the enterprise doesn’t just “get by” but endures.
Financials are also essential.
CFOs are known to be financial experts. But, organizations do themselves a disservice when they rely on last month’s financial statement alone when charting the course for next month. This puts the enterprise an entire month behind the eight ball. While traditional financial statements play a prominent role, dynamic CFOs should run on what I call “operational financials.”
Operational financials ensures everyone not only has the data but understands the story hidden between the data points. Successful CFOs piece together the overarching narrative of the data.
This ability to tell a story with the data is superior to forwarding financial reports to their team. By bringing the data to life, they make the information actionable so everyone may follow along, guiding decision-making.
Red Flags to Look Out for In Financial Data Systems
Your financial data systems are far from perfect. Rather than pushing forward, a smarter approach is to be on the lookout for red flags that are hindering your potential. That way you know when it’s time to take action.
Any first-year business school student is taught that profitability and cash flow are two very different things. Both are indicators of the organization’s financial health. However, profitability is about the effectiveness of sales while cash flow is a function of money management.
Unfortunately, organizations often focus more on profitability and less on cash flow. Competent CFOs understand that financials are not just a numbers game, but how the numbers change over time.
Complacency is another red flag. There’s always a way to improve your financial data system. CFOs who become complacent in their processes are not making the most of current technologies.
CFOs are busy—their plates are overloaded with responsibilities. It’s difficult to recognize whether or not they’re being complacent with financial data. If your finance team hasn’t been trained on anything in years, you definitely have an issue.
There’s always a degradation in training. If you get a new system up and train your team, chances are your people will use 20-30% of it. Factor in turnover as new team members get hired. New hires are trained by the current team with the 20-30% training methodology that they use. Then the new hires use even less than that, and it just gets worse and worse.
You know the Southern phrase, “Going around your elbow to get to your thumb?” Without training, your team is unable to use their time effectively, which inadvertently costs the organization.
And finally, it’s a giant red flag if the CFO or controller doesn’t have a good relationship with their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) partner. Most ERP systems—such as MS Dynamics, SAP, and Oracle—are sold and trained by a value-added reseller. Buying software off-the-shelf is rarely enough.
The CFO or controller must take advantage of the ERP expert that comes with, as this person has experience using the application. They’re the ones who strategize how to apply the software and optimize current processes.
Sometimes an organization foregoes a small consulting fee and simply adds a new software application. In the long run, this decision can turn into a six-figure mistake—all because they didn’t want to pay for that one hour of training. Strong relationships with the ERP partner, built on trust and communication, is imperative.
Serve Your Financial Data Needs with Power Platform
Data is more than numbers, it’s the lifeblood of the entire company. Microsoft Power Platform is a solution for CFOs who are ready to see beyond typical financial statements and understand how data tells a story.
Creating efficiencies saves time and money. One such efficiency I find valuable is implementing an approval workflow process. This process is at play whenever you want somebody to approve something before something else happens.
Without an approval process, tasks get backlogged and form a bottleneck in the pipeline. Whether it’s a matter of implementing an app, creating an approval process, or automating workflows, efficiencies yield big ROI.
Standardizing work processes is crucial. If you’re baking chocolate pudding, there are a series of steps you must carry out in order. You put the instant pudding in a bowl, you pour in the right amount of milk, you whisk, and then you serve it.
The same goes for business workflows. Many organizations are navigating day-to-day through broken processes. Using a common data service helps decision-makers streamline repeatable processes and save time.
When organizations implement repeatable processes, they provide a seamless process to onboard team members. The process gives people the framework so they can dive into their tasks and do the work with ease. Some of the data solution tools out there are so intuitive that in and of themselves they may eliminate the need for training on certain tasks.
With the sheer amount of data, it’s common to have data silos within an organization—and even within a single department. A finance team may have their fixed assets in Excel and data using SQL database, and they might use another application for their CRM needs, and still more in Azure.
This disparate data needs to be integrated so key players can make important decisions. Furthermore, when CFOs assemble the data visually, better business decisions result. Data visualization is an effective way to comprehend and retain data. In terms of memory recall, data visualization recall is 65% vs. 10% when something is heard.
Automating communication is fundamental. Emails only go so far, particularly in the case of approval processes when various team members and managers are involved. Communication needs to flow.
On average, it costs organizations $39 to write a single check. Someone must key in the invoice. Another person must decide it’s time to get it paid. Yet another person moves it to the “to pay” batch. Still another person prints the check and moves it to the supervisor to sign…you get the point. That $39 bucks is saved with an automated communication channel.
Successful CFOs are training their teams, implementing automated processes and communication channels, and transforming data into powerful narratives that drive decisions. Rise to the occasion during these uncertain times by finding opportunities to optimize financial data systems and drive organizational success.
Collectiv offers a Power BI Finance Workshop to help your enterprise succeed. See the program details and sign up your team.