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4 Tips for CFOs for Smarter, Strategic Financial Operations

The role of the CFO for a growing business is a day-to-day balancing act. At the macro level, CFOs set a vision for business success, ensure processes run efficiently and provide financial support to other departments. That’s not to mention the never-ending focus on the small details meant to improve the businesses’ financial standing.

“There’s constant friction between making sure the trend is upward, but not getting bogged down by small details. That balance is so crucial. You have to grow your business but keep an eye on the smallest purchases," says Pierre Tremblay, CFO, of commercial steam cleaner manufacturer Dupray

1) Change the Culture: There Are Apps for That

Business-as-usual thinking and inefficient processes slow down the entire back-office operation, grinding a financial department to a halt. A strategic CFO will put these processes under the microscope to identify and eliminate inefficiencies — a crucial step as finance leaders assume more responsibility in decision making. 

Embrace Innovation: Use cloud and mobile solutions, plus modern accounting tools (e.g. QuickBooks and Expensify) to easily manage expenses, control costs and increase visibility into your company’s finances.   

Adopt New Tools: Employees book travel, pay the tab and hail an Uber on their mobile devices. Don’t make them keep track of countless paper receipts, or manually enter expenses at the end of a business trip. Tools like mobile receipt capture  improve convenience and accuracy. Only 38% of T&E processes are fully automated and integrated into a single system.

2) Demystify Data and Reporting

Increasingly, business executives look to finance leaders to interpret and share information about business performance throughout the organization. In fact, measuring and monitoring business performance was the top concern among CFOs worldwide in a recent survey

But if CFOs are to make smart strategy recommendations and set realistic goals, they need smart, accurate, actionable financial data. Here, modern technology is indispensable. If your finance systems don’t communicate, how do you expect to report on financial health, set goals or track the correct metrics to achieve those goals? 

Consolidation is Key: Cloud-based tools allow you to share accounting, expense and other financial data across all of your systems — and access that information anywhere, on any device. 

Automate Reporting: Solid financial reporting is a cornerstone of any smart business strategy. Once your financial systems are integrated, put technology to work to eliminate manual financial reporting headaches. “As enterprises continue to become more digital, finance will become increasingly dependent on automation and analytics to deliver real-time, clear, actionable and forward-looking insights, say Thack Brown global head of line of Business Finance at SAP.  

3) Hire (and Train) the Right Talent   

The role of the CFO is changing rapidly — but that change is not occurring in a vacuum. Finance leaders must ensure their teams are equipped to support finance’s growing strategic, data-driven role. That means working closely with HR to hire employees with the right mix of skills — and to properly train employees in new technologies and processes. “There are many more resumes to weave through and [with that comes] having to do more work in terms of finding the right person with the right fit”, says Angie Chin, former CFO of Yum! Brands.

Crowdsource Knowledge: Finance employees often store practices and procedures in their heads. As the business grows, this approach doesn’t really work. Create a cloud document, whether a Google Doc or an internal wiki, to collect and update tips and tricks — or to centralize the sharing policies and procedures. This will speed up the onboarding process of new hires, and ensure consistency in how they perform their jobs. 

Look for Skills Beyond Finance: Today’s CFO leaders still rely on employees with traditional hard skills (e.g. financial management) and soft skills (e.g. leadership and communication). But CFOs increasingly seek a new crop of hard skills, including data analysis and cyber security. In fact, cloud computing, statistical analysis and mobile development were the top desired skills in 2016

4) Become an Enterprise Strategist

CFOs of growing businesses can easily get caught in the habit of doing things a certain way just because that’s what they’ve always done. But it’s hard to take a high-level look at financial operations when you’re stuck in the weeds. The average finance pro spends almost 50 percent of their time simply processing transactions, leaving little time to pursue the impactful, strategic ideas their bosses expect. More than 70% of finance leaders indicate that supporting broader business decision-making, beyond the finance and accounting department, is their top goal for 2017

Think Beyond the Back Office: Commit to obliterating silo and implement fast, nimble processes that foster collaboration and data integration. “The real way it was in finance, we spent all our time looking backward,” says Oracle CEO Safra Catz. “Now it’s all about looking to the future”.

Build Your Personal Brand: To have the biggest impact, CEOs need to increase their visibility throughout the organization. “As CFOs of large companies play broader and more visible roles, they are inevitably redefining their personal brand with their CEOs, their executive peers and their finance staff,” says Sanford Cockrell III, national managing partner, CFO Program, Deloitte LLP.

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For more about PEX as an expense management solution for business, please download our Expense Management Fact Sheet.

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