Preparing for the new normal: Four priorities for CFOs in a post-COVID-19 world
By Shak Akhtar, SVP Finance Automation/Customer Experience Officer, Redwood Software
As CFOs adjust to our changing world, the shortterm focus is understandably on implementing tactical solutions to address the immediate challenges the coronavirus pandemic has created. But it is also imperative for finance leaders to think more strategically about the long-term picture and prepare for a post-COVID-19 world.
Technology has been crucial in enabling business continuity and new ways of working through the crisis. It only serves to highlight that the future is most definitely digital. Those organizations that have already embraced digital transformation have generally been far better able to weather the storm.
However, with economic uncertainty on the horizon, the natural instinct can be to put those transformation plans on hold and pause technology projects. But history shows us that organizations that double down on digital investment now at the depth of the crisis have a far greater chance of emerging from the pandemic more resilient and more competitive.
According to a McKinsey Digital article, research and experience of previous recessions reveals that acting with a “through-cycle mindset” helps organizations accelerate out of a downturn, and that companies that move early and decisively in a crisis do best. “We have not seen the end of the crisis,” it explains. “Nor do we know exactly when the recovery will come. But it will come, and the CEOs who can best prepare their businesses effectively for a more digital future will give their companies the best chance for a brighter future.”
What does this mean for CFOs? The biggest failings in financial processes that have been highlighted by the pandemic hinge on those most heavily reliant on manual tasks, particularly those requiring significant collaboration between teams and using on-premises back office ERP, finance systems and data stores with all the access and support challenges that presents in a forced remote working situation.
At the same time, the urgent need for planning and forecasting insights – particularly for cashflow – is placing extra pressure on finance teams at a time when just keeping the lights on is a challenge. Without automation or self-service capabilities, many finance teams are struggling to give the business the forward-looking information it so desperately needs.
Workforce flexibility, especially around capacity and the work mix of the finance team, has also been propelled up the CFO agenda. The disparate nature of teams, and the new roles they are being forced to assume, also means that oversight, transparency and visibility have never been more important.
As CFOs grapple with the new normal and plan for a post-COVID-19 world, what can they learn from the experiences of organizations that have already embraced finance transformation?
Here are four priorities:
- Automate manual tasks, such as journals, accruals, intercompany accounting, reconciliations and balance sheet certification, ensures the finance function is not overwhelmed and allows CFOs to divert resources where they really matter.
- Move on-premises systems and data to the cloud provides the anytime, anywhere capabilities needed to support a more widely distributed workforce, including a work at home strategy that may be needed to ensure effective social distancing in the workplace.
- Document processes and use technology to monitor, manage and orchestrate end-to-end activities. This not only streamlines workflows but also highlights potential bottlenecks and gives you peace of mind with an audit trail of actions.
- Deploy self-service capabilities such as analytics dashboards to remove significant workload on finance teams and make it easier for the business to find the answers and insights it needs.
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