Inside the CFO mind: The most important tech solutions
CFOs are on the front lines of optimizing company processes, and that usually includes selecting the best technology for the job.
Their job often is to recalibrate the best processes for proactive spend in organizations, shrinking the widening disparity between modern expectations of technology and the aging technology stack that accounting and finance teams are often stuck with. Because the role of a CFO is so dependant on organization’s scale, it’s important to be able to diagnose your own spend culture to know what kind of financial controls, tools and processes are necessary.
The collection, analytics and subsequent decision making is a routine CFOs are well accustomed to, which is why many industry veterans subscribe to the idea that a CFO is only necessary at a certain scale (some experts maintain that it only truly becomes necessary at around the $10-15M ARR mark, or for venture capital funded startups, during your Series B growth stage). Such ambiguous and adjustable watermarks are really speaking to how much your company is spending, what your company’s spend culture and processes are, and what your growth expectations are.
We’ve independently interviewed some of the most forward-thinking CFOs and financial thought leaders today, and we’ve compiled a comprehensive stack of financial tools your organization will need to succeed. Let’s start with mid-sized businesses:
1. Base accounting with specialty features
Paul Riegel, regional director of CFO Centre, reckons that a good starting place is an all-encompassing, reliable and robust accounting platform to manage the procure-to-pay cycle as well as related workflows.
“Companies may have a base accounting system however may choose to go with a different brand for other related software solutions such as purchasing, or span management. Regardless of its size, every business needs a base system”, Paul said.
He continued: “This generally includes your general ledger system, accounts payable and accounts receivable functionality, bank reconciliation functionality, a budgeting module, management and financial reporting systems, and payroll functionality, depending on the organization size.”
Consideration to smaller organizations in payroll specifically was also a key differentiator. Paul said, “Smaller organizations tend to use an outsource payroll provider to process its payroll, whereas other large organizations still prefer to handle their own payroll processing in-house and may choose to use a payroll system that comes with its ERP, or may choose a separate solution entirely.”
2. Financial forecasting system
Forecasting and budgeting aren’t necessarily the same thing even though some accountants often define them in a colloquial sense. In general,the two terms are largely interchangeable despite their literal sense. Forecasting looks to the future and attempts to use select datasets to predict an organisation’s financial outcomes in the light of past results and known or expected financial and non-financial factors affecting the business. A forecast is an organisation’s prediction of where it is likely to be quarters and years down the line.
Paul Reigel is an advocate for this kind of predictive analytics and forecasting. “In addition to the base system there are other systems that businesses may require, the first one being financial forecasting,” he said. “This of course is dependant on scale, as some smaller businesses resort to using a spreadsheet application such as Excel, whereas some larger organizations may use a data warehouse combined with an office forecasting system.”
3. Stop gap between accounting and ERP
Jon Brodsky, country manager of Finder.com offered some sage wisdom on the crossover between accounting processes and enterprise resource planning with some anecdotal and data driven insights. Brodsky said:
“Some people will see me in my day to day and ask, ‘Why is the person in charge sitting here like spending two hours going through receipts?’, and the answer is: I actually don't do that at all. In reality, I put a giant pile of receipts I send them off to our accountants and say: ‘Bye. Thank you again!’
“If we could just take real time reporting needs and plug it to all the various tools and networks we use to recruit people to all of us, and incorporate all of the places where we spend money, whether it's a credit card, or just regular invoicing, or rent you just have that all updated minute by minute and day by day — I would be ecstatic because then I could sit there and say at any given time like here's where we are in profitability for the month without having to guess started use a heuristic."
4. Moving to the Cloud
Moving the ERP to the cloud is an essential step for mid-sized organizations. Enabling organizations with limited resources to gain automatic visibility and reduce the need to supplement it with spreadsheets amidst accounting, regulatory, and operating environment change.
Steve Yu, the CFO of UCLA Law, told us that he landed on a cloud solution in his own practices after much research and deliberation.
“So we we went through different options for reporting and financial management. We looked at Workday and some other places as well but ended up with Oracle to to help us manage our finances to kind of get away from the proprietary software that we've built that are built off a mainframe that might like crash at any time, and jumping ahead now to cloud based solutions which are important and much safer.”
Now, let’s move on to looking at the spending tools needed for enterprise companies:
5. Comprehensive spend management
For this one, we’ll send it back to Reigel:
“Some companies develop customized software solutions or operate in the professional services niche you would also need a time in building software functionality. More companies (and I'm seeing this increasingly) have a purchasing system or a spend management system which powerfully tracks your spend from order to pay (P2P).”
Here, Reigel recognizes that we are living in an age of disruption, where changes are accelerating making innovation a strategic and systemic habit for any organization looking for survival. With this in mind, the pressure on procurement to support business continuity is becoming greater than ever before, and agile supply chains are becoming the ultimate goal for organizations.
Achieving an agile supply chain organization requires change across people, processes, tools, and systems and most importantly a shift in culture and mindset. With a vision, strategies and related technologies — this complexity is simplified to a transformational program that addresses all challenges with clear objectives and measurable outcomes.
6. CRM system
For enterprise organizations, it’s hard to know what you need your customer relationship management software to do and how much you should be paying for it. Reigel had the following to say about his own experiences in picking the right customer relationship management system:
“Many businesses have a CRM or customer relationship management software which is used to track and correspond with your customer base. You’re also supporting all of the systems in an enterprise ERP or within a business normally is a backup or redundancy system in case of a natural disaster, a power failure, or any any other sort of outage. Generally for enterprise businesses, you want a system or systems that are very user friendly.”
From all these specific solutions and tools for mid-size and enterprise businesses, the two biggest takeaways for measuring the quality and fit of any financial tools in a tech stack are accessibility to data and ease of use.
“Ease of use and robustness means that the tool can handle any type of business transaction or support any reporting functionality”, says Reigel. “One in which system upgrades don't put an undue burden on the organizations as well as you want systems that have a good user track record, in fact.”