One thing all Finance Directors have in common is that this role has seen a dramatic shift over the past 18 months and the pandemic has accelerated change overall in the finance function.
In 2021, CFOs and Finance Directors need to step out of their comfort zone and broaden their remit – moving from a cost centre to an innovation centre which typically means that their workloads have increased.
So, how are CFOs and Finance Directors supposed to take on more strategic responsibility whilst still managing their day to day workload?
We caught up with Flexpert Finance Director, Joe Newbold who gave us an insight into how getting to grips with automation and more efficient processes is the key to the new world.
Joe has over 10 years experience in the field across both startups and more established organisations.
Totum recently interviewed CFOs of Fortune 500 firms and over 50% cited their top priority over the next 2 years as investing more in technology and automation.
Where have you seen the biggest increase in automation?
The biggest increase of automation I have seen is in processing data, and this isn’t limited to just profit/loss data. Now we are taking ownership for data that can actually drive UX, product enhancements, reduce churn and increase customer acquisition. We are looking at more granular data points than before and working cross-functionally with departments such as Product and Engineering.
In terms of day to day tasks automation has had a big impact on financial modelling. You can now build models and automate (API) reporting and create an ecosystem which makes this process 10x faster and more efficient. Since CFOs are taking on more responsibility, any meaningful automation is the key to working smarter and delivering against expectations.
One of the key characteristics of a Flexpert is the ability to automate aspects of their role so they can add more value to a business. What’s your take on this?
If you are a true juggler you are often working simultaneously at 2-3 companies. A task like financial month-end, for example, takes 2 days typically – if you can get it down to half a day that’s considered to be super efficient.
As a Flexpert, if it’s taking 2 days to complete month-end and you’re working at a company 8 days a month then you’ve lost a 1/4 of your month’s capacity on administrative tasks, leaving very little time to add strategic value.
It’s essential that automation and efficiency is established for any task that isn’t adding strategic value as a FD or CFO, especially if there isn’t a team below you.
The golden rule? Process, process, process. Anything around OCR, expenses, or automating AP within finance will give you the bandwidth to do everything else you still need to do around forecasting and strategy.
The key takeaway here is bandwidth – you need the capacity and mental energy for tasks that require more thinking which often can’t be automated.
Why do small businesses get more value from hiring a Flexpert vs a traditional Finance Director, for example?
An organisation hiring a CFO/ FD for £100-120k is expecting huge value BUT this person has more time – typically 5 days of the week to deliver this value.
Even if you’re working 2 days a week if you are the only finance person in the business, the expectations are still the same as a full-time CFO from a CEO/ founder perspective – there’s no one else to carry out those tasks.
Therefore, as a Flexpert or juggler there is an element of this ‘forced behaviour’ – you have to find ways to make your life easier and to be more productive in order to meet and exceed against expectations.
With smaller organisations especially you are often the only resource they can afford and ultimately the workload is often the same as an organisation with a full-time FD. Therein lies the value for money – Flexperts have to be hyper focused on productivity and efficiency which means they will always spend the first few weeks getting to grips with the most efficient processes and the tasks they can automate – it’s a self preservation thing!
As someone who is currently juggling 4 roles, what empowers you to be more efficient and productive?
Invest time and energy at the beginning of your career in establishing the right systems and processes – don’t cut corners.
I have spent time creating a comprehensive and scalable toolbox or handbook that I can rinse and repeat across multiple organisations and verticals. That means I’m not reinventing the wheel every time I work for a new organisation and can hit the ground running – founders love it when you can be thrown in the deep end and get your hands dirty right away!