Last week, Vena’s annual virtual conference was back for a third year. Not only was it our biggest event yet, it also featured more keynotes, more workshops, more instructor-led training and more panel discussions than ever before—all of which were designed to help power your personal, professional and business growth.
Here are just some of the many highlights from Vena Excelerate =SUM(it) 2022.
Missed a session? Click here to watch all of last week’s amazing content on demand.
Vena CEO Hunter Madeley kicked off day one of Excelerate =SUM(it) 2022 with an inspiring keynote that set the tone for an action-packed week. With more than 50 speakers and sessions, 10 keynotes, 20 instructor-led training sessions, interactive workshops and product demonstrations—plus the opportunity to earn over 25 CPE/CPD credits—Hunter elaborated on Vena’s mission to elevate the Office of Finance and enable organizations to drive operational excellence through both technology and methodology.
He then brought up one of this year’s core conference themes—community. “Community is powerful. It’s essential. It drives innovation, supports rapid learning and extends the value of one to many well beyond our individual networks,” he explained. “There’s strength in numbers, and that’s why we’re here. Our purpose is to excelerate your growth through the power of community.”
On the subject of community, Hunter unveiled some exciting new initiatives designed to “level up” your strategic finance skills and help achieve Vena’s mission to build the industry’s most engaged community:
- Our all-new PlanToGrow.com, featuring live and on-demand content including livestreams, monthly meetups and more.
- Vena Plan To Grow Forum™, where you can dive deeper into the topics that matter most to you while conversing and exchanging ideas with your peers.
- The brand new Vena Academy, featuring instructor-led training and CPE/CPD courses on demand.
- Vena Templates, where users can share and leverage best-practice templates for a variety of use cases.
Highlights From Excelerate =SUM(it) 2022
1. Keynote: The Science of Ethical Influence
How do the principles of ethical influence apply to work? Dr. Robert Cialdini, world-renowned psychologist and author, explained that having the ability to influence your team and others helps you outpace your competitors who can’t do this.
Using stories from research cases, Dr. Cialdini presented evidence of increased ROI gained by brands such as Bose and McDonald's and other businesses. He talked about the “Moment of Power” after someone thanks you, the three qualities of giving that increase the likelihood of reciprocation (and why you should give first) and the worst platform on which to negotiate.
2. Keynote: The Complete Planning Advantage
In his keynote, Vena Co-Founder and Chief Solutions Architect Rishi Grover explored the Strategic Office of Finance and the transformation of finance as a critical business partner through the power of people, process and technology.
Rishi shared some of the most common questions he hears from today’s finance leaders who are confronted with constant change and complexity, and touched on the evolution of the finance-business partnership. "By repositioning finance as a strategic business partner, the department will be empowered to guide more informed, agile and proactive decision making with a focus on value creation and growth," he explained.
3. Workshop: Introduction to Financial Modeling
Paul Barnhurst, also known as “The FP&A Guy” in the finance community, delivered an Introduction to Financial Modeling workshop which he alternatively named, “What I Wish I’d Been Taught.” Paul defined a financial model and presented eight common types of financial modeling. Earlier in his career, he designed and built financial models that weren’t good practice, describing them as “barely held together.” Paul highlighted the importance of simple formulas and not overwhelming your users with excessive assumptions in your financial model.
4. Keynote: The Power of Vena and Microsoft
In this keynote by Vena CTO Hugh Cumming and Microsoft Chief Financial Planning & Orchestration Officer Wendy Braithwaite, the pair discussed how businesses are benefiting from the latest product advancements in Microsoft Excel, Microsoft 365, Power Automate and Power BI, and how these capabilities are empowering finance teams to solve complex real-world problems.
On the Vena side, Hugh explained how the Vena platform helps orchestrate complex financial workflows, creates relationships between data across the organization and turns static financial planning processes into dynamic, agile business management processes.
In order to navigate today’s climate of increased volatility and uncertainty, Wendy discussed how her team at Microsoft is currently racing to harness ever-growing amounts of data and derive forward-looking insights. As a result of their efforts, the team has been able to advance the business conversation from describing what has happened (descriptive analytics) to what will happen (predictive analytics).
5. Session: The Kansas City Chiefs Excelerator Showcase
The Kansas City Chiefs finance team was using data from disparate systems for budgeting, forecasting and reporting. They couldn’t upload their Excel spreadsheets themselves. Their users called their Accounting department to whom they then emailed their information. The accountants would then upload the data to their ERP on behalf of the finance team before converting the reports to PDF. The tipping point to find a new solution? Version control problems and inefficiencies when producing budgets and reports for the monthly reviews to the executive team.
When these poor user reviews reached the Kansas City Chiefs’ Chief Financial Officer Dan Crumb, he asked Director of Strategy and Analytics Michael Ragsdale to evaluate vendors. In this session, Michael explains how he came to choose Vena for its security, collaborative capabilities and familiar Excel-native interface.
Since implementing Vena, the Chiefs have been winning on—and off—the field. They’ve significantly improved how their users consume information by growing their use of Power BI to produce different ways of consuming information. “We want to be leaders in the sports industry, but also in business in general,” Michael said.
6. Workshop: Data Visualization in Excel
Back by popular demand, Purna Duggirala (a.k.a. Chandoo), took the virtual stage for his second year in a row. Chandoo led an interactive workshop on building dynamic budgets in Excel that incorporate the latest best practices in data visualization.
7. Keynote: The Art of Gathering
There’s a purpose for gathering, but as Facilitator and Author Priya Parker explained in her keynote as she was joined by Vena Chief Marketing & Ecosystem Officer Allison Munro for a lively discussion, there’s also an "art" to gathering—and it has everything to do with how we meet and why it matters.
Priya defined a gathering as “anytime three or more people come together for a purpose with a beginning, middle and end.” It’s where people come together for a shared purpose—whether that’s to identify with a community or vision. But the conversation didn’t end there. What else did Allison find out about Priya’s research, experiences and upcoming work? And what else can leaders and facilitators do to drive more meaningful interactions in today’s world?
8. Panel: Agile Revenue Planning Best Practices
In this panel discussion hosted by Howard Dresner of Dresner Advisory Services and featuring Venanites Thomas Krolak, Ruslan Valeev and Andre Proulx, the panelists discussed the benefits of agile revenue planning, sharing best practices on how to align finance, marketing and sales departments to power organizational growth.
9. Panel: Agile Business Forecasting Best Practices
Today, finance teams are at the forefront of change—leading their businesses as they plan for today and tomorrow. With this responsibility comes the need for a new way of working: an agile methodology for business forecasting.
In this panel discussion, led by Vena VP of Sales Shaun Jansen and featuring fellow Venanites VP of FP&A Tom Seegmiller, VP of Revenue Operations and Strategy Burzin Contractor and VP of Global Talent Acquisition Laura Victoria, the panelists shared best practices for connected planning across finance, human resources and revenue operations to drive agility and resilience in the face of ever-changing business conditions.
Throughout the engaging session, the trio shared their own personal experiences of achieving cross-functional alignment at Vena and how adopting an agile approach to business forecasting helped them get to where they are today.
10. Session: Contemporary Skills for the Strategic Finance Professional
To be a strategic finance professional, which contemporary skills do you need?
Vena VP of Customer Lifecycle and Community Marketing Truman Tang who moderated this panel posed this question before asking the panelists (Paul Barnhurst, Olivia MacDonald and Muneerah Kanji) what they believe is the most important skill for strategic finance professionals to have in order to thrive right now. Each panelist provided their personal opinion and also shared anecdotes about their respective journeys to their current careers in finance.
They discussed over communicating, automation, change management, mentors and mentees, telling a story with data visualization, the importance of asking “why” and the strategic importance of partnering with internal teams.
11. Keynote: The Art of Negotiation
As an FBI hostage negotiator, Chris Voss persuaded “bad guys” to see things his way. In this highly-anticipated keynote session hosted by Vena Chief Marketing & Ecosystem Officer Allison Munro, Chris shared some of his field-tested strategies to help you negotiate and get what you want in everyday business situations.
Chris and Allison kicked things off with an eventful hostage negotiation roleplay where Allison played the role of negotiator. The pair then looked back at the role-playing scenario, and Chris shared the “science” behind the changes in his tone of voice and the physiological effects these nuances were designed to have on Allison in her role as negotiator. Chris then explained how you can incorporate best practices in tonality when negotiating in business situations, and how you can achieve your desired outcomes by understanding the foundational concepts of negotiation and psychology.
Looking to grow your communication skills and get game-changing insights into human behavior? Then this is one session you won’t want to miss.