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4 Time-Saving Tips for Strategic CFOs

January 20, 2020 |

The CFO’s job is much more multifaceted than it used to be. 

Today’s CFOs aren’t just overseeing the bottom line and day-to-day financial processes. They’re also acting as strategic advisors for the overall business, leading cross-functional teams, driving cross-company transformation and contributing to revenue growth. And that means there’s more demand for their time than ever.

According to the bi-annual McKinsey Global Survey of the CFO’s role, the number of business functions reporting up to CFOs has risen from four to upwards of six. Their responsibilities now include everything from corporate strategy to regulatory compliance to mergers and acquisitions (M&A) transactions to risk management. Plus, they’re overseeing digital activities like business process automation, cloud computing, data visualization and advanced analytics. 

The time has never been better for CFOs to recharge and re-evaluate how they can approach their evolving roles. A good place to start is by assessing how they can free up some much-needed time by streamlining traditional finance processes. 

This blog will look at four time-saving initiatives that CFOs should apply to help them better manage their expanding organizational remit.

1. No more duplicate spreadsheets—consolidate data into a single source of truth

When it comes to the CFO’s ever-expanding role, data sourced from digital technologies is giving them an even more strategic seat at the corporate table—they are the only member of the C-suite to have a direct line to their fellow executives. However, working with data owned by different people across multiple departments is a fundamental challenge for their finance departments.

The presence of rogue duplicate spreadsheets—as well as the inability to trace data inputs and edits back to their original  sources—can create data chaos and a lack of version control. To deliver accurate reports and drive impactful corporate decision-making, CFOs should look to consolidate data in a centralized platform so it’s trackable, and so their teams don’t have to spend valuable time hunting down and consolidating data across disparate sources. 

Collecting data across multiple sources is not only tedious, but it also leaves finance teams with little time to analyze the numbers and apply valuable insights. On top of that, the difficulties associated with extracting data from legacy enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms often result in long wait-times for reports, which quickly become outdated. And when data is old and tools are hard to use, business teams grow reluctant to participate in budgets and planning.

But with ready access to the right data in the right place, CFOs can quickly uncover valuable insights and effectively surface the stories that the data is showing them to the rest of the C-suite. And by leveraging a single, accurate, and timely version of the truth, both finance and non-finance teams (like marketing and sales) can make strategic, well-informed business decisions. 

2. Work smarter with FP&A software

According to Gartner’s Top Priorities for Finance Leaders in 2020 report, CFOs plan on driving growth in 2020 through business transformation and by finding efficiencies—like improving the speed and accuracy of operational processes. In particular, they’ll look to optimize financial analytics, re-think organizational strategy and structure, and re-evaluate the technology platforms they’re using. To that end, implementing FP&A technology is one way they can look to streamline key finance processes like data consolidation while galvanizing the way the  finance function works. 

Instead of manually collecting, validating and manipulating financial data in Excel, FP&A software allows finance teams to integrate, aggregate, and automate data consolidation across all source systems. It saves them valuable time for financial analysis by eliminating the need to work back-and-forth between various applications and spreadsheet templates.

“When routine tasks can be automated and new data insights generated from connected processes, finance teams can be unleashed to focus on what matters most: identifying where the next growth markets are and how to capitalize on them,” explained Oracle CFO Safra Catz in a recent Forbes article.

By using FP&A software to integrate spreadsheets, information sources and processes, finance executives can also enable their teams to work more effectively with departments across the organization, sharing the most up-to-date data and reliable narratives so they can drive better decision-making and help guide their organizations through economic uncertainty.

3. Find FP&A technology that moves the corporate needle

Finding the right FP&A tool isn’t easy—there is a wide variety of choices out there. But for CFOs who want a solution that will help improve performance across their teams as well as other departments, there are three key features to look for when evaluating FP&A software.  

Automation will be crucial when it comes to shaping how CFOs will manage and drive value while keeping up with company growthFor CFOs and their teams, automating tedious manual tasks like gathering, filtering, manipulating, and distributing data with spreadsheets represents a real opportunity to spend more time on strategic initiatives like analyzing data, forecasting trends, supporting corporate decisions, planning future projects and driving cross-organizational efficiency.

And when it comes to data analysis, data visualization and reporting capabilities will be an especially important feature for CFOs to have in an FP&A solution. Access to more sophisticated dashboards can help them derive insights for better planning, budgeting and forecasting while driving better decision-making across the organization with more detailed, data-driven storytelling. And in order to ensure transparency, they should look for a platform that makes these finance dashboards accessible to the entire company.

Finally, a cloud-based solution will offer CFOs multiple benefits for their finance teams as well as the organization as a whole. Not only would a cloud-based solution offer dynamic flexibility and instantaneous access to the latest FP&A features, it would also allow different departments to connect existing templates and models to a database, creating an effective bridge between finance and operations through real-time data collection.      

If you want to see a more in-depth analysis of trends and vendors in the FP&A marketplace, read the 2019 BPM Vendor Landscape Matrix and find out why Vena continues to lead the pack. 

4. Make the most out of Excel spreadsheets for finance

Gartner’s report also revealed that 76% of CFOs reported lackluster ROI from FP&A technology platforms, citing long implementations, slow user adoption, and over-reliance on IT support. This is where working within a familiar environment like Excel can make a real difference for finance teams and other business functions. 

According to BPM Partners, 82% of companies use offline spreadsheets to supplement their core FP&A systems. But, by leveraging Excel’s interface in a secure, cloud-based environment, teams can save time because they won’t have to learn new software, and they’ll be more inclined to continue using a tool that they already know and love. Plus, presenting data in a user-friendly format enables teams to be more self-sufficient.

So, something CFOs should be evaluating in 2020 are solutions that allow their finance teams to work within the familiar Excel environment without having to slog through a sea of disparate spreadsheets. Plus, the capabilities of Excel-based FP&A platforms are now sophisticated enough to offer quick and easy visibility into cross-organizational performance with advanced automation, integration, and visualization for budgeting, forecasting, reporting, consolidation and analytics. 

If you want to learn more about the kind of difference-maker Excel can be, read our free eBook “Excel for the Win.” It includes some great tips on how you can turn Excel into a powerful tool for finance, as well as insights from finance leaders on how their teams are using it to improve performance. 

Embracing the role of strategic CFO

CFOs were time-strapped in 2019. According to Gartner, only 22% of CFOs were personally effective last year. The study concluded that the reason was largely because most CFOs were overinvested in finance tasks. This will only become more challenging in 2020 and beyond as their roles continue to expand outside of their traditional remit.

But by sticking to the four resolutions discussed in this blog, CFOs can streamline key finance processes across their organizations, ultimately saving themselves some much-needed time so they can focus on meeting the demands of their expanding roles and adding strategic value.

Request a demo today to find how you can use Vena’s cloud-based platform to automate tedious processes and cut cycle times by 75% so you can spend more time focusing on driving better planning and decision-making across your entire organization. 

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