With the proliferation of tools to automate business functions, provide real-time data on business performance and facilitate communications, CFOs today may have more opportunities to transform their organisations through technology. One potential benefit of this transformation for CFOs is that automation may allow them to focus less on the mechanics of number crunching and more on helping shape the business’ strategy.
Data and decision-making
According to new research published by CFO magazine, more than 70 per cent of finance executives say their top priority for 2017 is to support decision making. More than 90 per cent wanted to do more with their data to support top-management.
While many accounting packages provide dashboards as part of their functionality, stand-alone products may provide tailored enterprise solutions for mid-market firms. For instance, Stephen Canning, technologist and CEO of cloud computing business JCurve Solutions says he uses NetSuite ERP for real-time dashboards and reporting.
“The team does not need to wait until the end of the month to track progress and can make changes or respond if certain areas such as sales or debtors need to reviewed,” he says.
Collaboration and communication
Business tools to facilitate collaboration between staff and with partners who work outside the business range from file-sharing tools like Dropbox and Centrestack, to multi-function offerings that incorporate project management tools, team calendars and commenting features such as Atlassian’s Confluence.
When it comes to cross-business communication tools, Canning says his company uses Slack. “In a rapidly growing tech company it’s important to keep in touch even when you are out of the office so things can keep moving. We use Slack, a messaging app for teams, for messaging and have project groups set up too. We also have some fun random groups that are great for introducing new starters to their new work colleagues.”
For collaboration, Canning prefers Trello. “We have high levels of employee engagement and a large part of this is due to breaking down silos and having everyone on the same page. We use Trello to track projects, new product enhancements and - our all-time favourite – our peer-to-peer values nominations boards, which are celebrated during our monthly get-togethers, with an award given for the best contribution to living our values.”
As adoption of social networks increases overall, firms are finding new ways to tap social technology to drive business decisions. According to global executives surveyed by McKinsey & Company, almost half of respondents said their firms were now, “using social technologies to develop competitive intelligence." This includes using social media monitoring techniques to create marketing plans, crowd-source ideas and develop new strategies.
Social media may not be a priority for many numbers-driven CFOs, but evidence is emerging to suggest CFOs are increasingly using social media to connect with colleagues and share news and information about their businesses.
According to Social Insights: CFO Edition research from LeadTail, social media, “helps CFOs keep current with both broader business trends and issues impacting corporate finance.”
The study found that 42 per cent of CFOs surveyed share business, tech and finance content and 34 per cent share news and lifestyle content on social media.
Twitter is the most popular social media tool for CFOs, with 50 per cent of respondents using the app on their iPhone. LinkedIn was the second most popular tool with 16 per cent of CFO respondents.
Says Canning: “LinkedIn is not a new tool but [is] certainly new for a lot of our executive team who are now actively involved in raising the profile of our brand and engaging with customers and prospects.”
Businesses, where appropriate, can give their staff the ability to work from anywhere they are, at any time. This means investing in software that allows them to do their work seamlessly and securely wherever they are.
“We use Office 365 for mobility and productivity. We often have teams out of the office visiting customers or attending events,” says Canning. “Our team loves not coming back to the office snowed under with emails and can hit the ground running on their priorities instead.”
While it can be a challenge for CFOs to review new technology solutions and evaluate if they are right for business, these are just some areas where tech tools can help CFOs drive transformation.
- CFOs can drive implementation of collaboration tools to allow people within and outside a business to work together
- CFOs have the opportunity to embrace social technologies to share information about the company and its sector
- CFOs can ensure teams have the tools needed to work remotely