By now you’ve heard me and probably others talk about Financial Transformation and Continuous Accounting. My interview with financial transformation expert, Gayle Edwards, Managing Director of Professional Accounting Solutions (PAS) discusses the top three skills CFOs execute to transform their accounting departments from loss leaders to strategic advisors. These are the same skills that can't be run by pure software or artificial intelligence which has been written and talked about because of a recent MIT and Boston University study. This study concluded "1 Robot Eliminates 5.6 workers". Here are the three executive skills robots CAN'T Take AWAY!
Skill #1: Take the LONG VIEW
CFOs need to have a 360-degree focus. When implementing new technology and heading towards automating your accounting function, make sure you take the long view. The most successful CFOs include different stakeholders to be involved during the planning, selection and execution process. Allowing team members from different departments gives strategic CFOs a better understanding of what's meaningful to measure key outcomes. If you don’t get buy-in from everyone, you will certainly have some major bumps in the road.
Skill #2: Being aware of Roadblocks. Inevitably when implementing software there are unforeseen problems that get in the way. You may have an issue with an employee that is afraid of losing his job and is stalling to achieve the next project milestone. Perhaps you don't have full cooperation from IT. You might have other projects or software installations, that get in the way. Taking an inventory of what roadblocks have been presented and what's a priority is key to addressing these roadblocks in a timely fashion. The most strategic CFOs also budget the extra effort when they do face these road blocks such as the cost to hire a temp consultant. Once they budget the extra effort, they actually weigh the other option be, if they didn't go with their initial plan to face the road block. In short, what would happen if the road block isn't fixed? These CFOs not only know what Plan A is going to cost them, but they also know what's going to happen if Plan A isn't implemented to remove their road blocks. This gives them more information to present to the CEO and gain the respect from the team to remove these road blocks.
Skill #3: Test and be flexible. Test everything you put into play, from the beginning and all the way through the end. CFOs initially test their new software at least 3 times before going into production. They want to make sure that things are playing out the way they expected. Strategic CFOs are flexible when certain issues get in their way. For instance, accepting certain complex Excel files may have to stay the way they are, and not fully automate their process. Most CFOs seem to add cushion to their financial automation journey, from weeks to even months. A general rule of thumb is to add an extra 10% of the total hours to the end of the project as a cushion.
What should CFOs Monitor During a Financial Transformation?
CFOs find that what they THINK is happening, isn’t really happening. So, they need to thoroughly test their financial reconciliation process to avoid stumbling blocks. CFOs need to determine where some of obstacles might take place and get input from everyone. When everyone has input and everyone is heard, you will have a higher adoption rate.
ROI: Beyond FTE (Headcount)
We know that CFOs are very numbers oriented and rightfully so. But they need to look beyond the headcount or reduction of staff and take a closer look at the QUALITY of the FTE. For example, if they hired an accountant, is the accountant really doing accounting, or mundane tasks that a clerk can do, such as checking to see if a deposit hit the bank account. With BlackLine’s Matching Module, all of this is automated and your accountant can truly focus on the things that are important to the business. They can spend their time on analysis of WHY the deposit of off, or why the interest rate on a credit card went up. This way, you are truly paying for higher level analysis and forecasting, rather than the clerical tasks.
Risks of Not Automating
Looking back instead of Forward. Many CFOs ask, so what’s the risk of not automating? Why do I need to do this now? CFOs should ask themselves how long they are waiting preliminary numbers. Do they find that investors have information before they do? If they are constantly looking back at numbers several weeks into the following month, Gayle says they’ve probably “already hit an iceberg!” If they had the information sooner, they can be “steering the ship,” rather than looking back at old data!
Last Minute Audit Adjustments. Another red flag is last minute audit adjustments. If you find that you constantly have these, you know you need to start the analysis process sooner, rather than waiting till the auditors get there and you have to explain what happened. This will cause you to lose credibility with the audit committee and increase audit fees.
Common Roadblocks to Avoid
Change Management. “We’ve always done it this way,” is what you might hear when you’re working toward automation. Accountants need to feel comfortable doing away with paper. Just because we’ve always done it this way and relied on paper, doesn’t mean you should get stuck in that process. You need to convince the team that there might be a better way. Ensure the team that they will not lose their job because of automation.
Implementation Partner. Sometimes it’s helpful to have an implementation partner, so no one feels doing away with a process they started is personal.
Now the Fun Begins
Once automation solutions have been implemented, now the team can spend their time on what they were actually hired to do, which is being an advisor! Imagine if you provided your top accounting staff 25% more time to investigate bottlenecks in the business. Imagine more time spent supporting management's key strategic decisions on how and what really needs to be done to operate the business. After a financial transformation process, accountants can go home on time and spend their work hours on more meaningful projects.
Connect with Aviva Spectrum today to start your Financial Transformation journey: info@AvivaSpectrum.com (424) 226-2944.
More about Gayle Edwards
Listen to Entire Interview.
Gayle Edwards has over 25 years of experience in hotel operations, starting as a night auditor and advancing to the VP of Finance level. Her impressive track record and wealth of operational insight allows her to be the resident BlackLine expert for PAS and pasUNITY. By leveraging her deep knowledge of back office operations, Gayle has been able to successfully introduce BlackLine into hospitality, creating one of the largest Blackline Partners deals to date. Gayle earned a BA from Penn State.