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From budget cruncher to transformational leader, the role of the CFO in 2023 

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By Nadine Pichelot, Senior Vice President Finance, Anaplan

 

Over the past few years, rapid, complex change has drastically transformed the way we live – from how we work and exercise, to how we shop, bank, and communicate. We’ve felt the effects of chaos on both our personal and professional lives, from the impact of COVID-19 and supply chain volatility to Brexit disruption, political shifts, and market turmoil. Because of this constant change, many organisations have had no choice but to rip up their long-term planning strategies and pivot to meet the reality of more short-term circumstances. It’s been a lesson in agility and resilience for Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) in particular, one that they must now leverage to chart a path forward in the face of a looming recession.

But to be successful in this environment, CFOs might need to tackle challenges outside of their comfort zone.

CFOs have long had a reputation for being stuck behind spreadsheets and numbers – keepers of the budget with little flexibility. And while this might have held some truth at the start of the pandemic, over the past few years CFOs have evolved their role – from financial gatekeeper to transformational leader. The post-pandemic c-suite is shifting, and CFOs are stepping into a more strategic position, helping their companies navigate an increasingly dynamic business landscape with agile forecasts, continuous scenario planning, and an eye for mitigating risk.

Now with a recession on the horizon and economic uncertainty soaring to new heights, CFOs will need to get their priorities in order and open their doors to a more collaborative environment across departments. If they don’t address these specific cultural tensions, CFOs might miss out on opportunities to optimise their operations and solve critical challenges for the business, from alleviating margin pressures to meeting the needs of an evolving customer base.

By the book, but on a different page

To be successful on this journey, CFOs need to first examine the state of their existing cross-functional relationships. According to new research from The Harris Poll – commissioned by Anaplan and Deloitte, – rifts currently exist between the way CFOs view themselves and their evolving role, and the way they are viewed by their cross-functional colleagues. This divide in c-suite perception is a growing issue as CFOs continue to take on more responsibility across the organisation.

Businesses are relying on the CFO to address and manage challenges beyond the bounds of traditional finance, with CFOs also playing their part in effectively managing issues like the inventory bullwhip and supply chain constraints, to the management of ESG. However, owning these challenges outside of their traditional remit means that collaboration is essential. To align financial goals and plans with operational realities, CFOs need to prioritise strong relationships across departments, from sales and HR to supply chain and marketing.

And there is clearly a lot of work to be done. According to the report from The Harris Poll, Anaplan, and Deloitte, 78% of senior colleagues believe the CFO could improve relationships with individual business units, and more than half of marketing and sales colleagues said increased collaboration and connection with the CFO could reduce conflict between their teams.

This lack of communication has already played a part in how companies have shown up in the face of disruption, with 82% of CFOs and 96% of their senior colleagues agreeing that recent challenges – like the transition to hybrid work and supply chain volatility – could have been addressed more strategically if there was stronger communication and alignment between departments.

So how can CFOs reduce these departmental silos in order to successfully collaborate moving forward? It’s a matter of breaking down existing cultural tensions and building stronger cross-functional relationships. A task that will require an investment in change management and a willingness to listen and learn from all departmental leaders.

Priorities for the future

Better connection between departments isn’t the only thing that needs to be addressed as we embark on a new fiscal year. In a volatile environment, businesses also need to ensure that departments are on the same page when it comes to the priorities they are going to plan towards (long-term goals) and the priorities they are going to activate on now and over the next few years (short-term plans). With the COP27 Summit fresh on our minds, it’s no wonder alignment around a company’s Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals, priorities and initiatives has taken center stage.

Although ESG is among the critical concerns of modern organisations, there is a disparity between how organisations perceive their CFO’s efforts towards ESG and how CFOs see these efforts themselves. For example, although businesses believe that the responsibility for ESG lies with the CFO, this is not reflected in CFO priorities, with the management of ESG initiatives coming in fifth (70%) on the CFOs list in the Harris Poll survey. This misalignment is a real issue when trying to achieve lasting change. If the expectations of what should be delivered are constantly misunderstood and oversold, it will make it difficult for any business to truly achieve any long-standing ESG success in the future.

There is a huge opportunity for CFOs to expand their role in driving ESG initiatives into the future, and a clear appetite across the business to see CFOs step into that role. However, CFOs have to embrace ESG as one of their core priorities in order for progress to be made. This is another area where cross-functional collaboration will be key. CFOs who can align operational realities with both financial goals and ESG priorities will be able to transform their business to be truly accountable for delivering on tangible change.

The road ahead

The role of the CFO has become a lynchpin of achieving a litany of positive change in recent years. CFOs have helped organisations navigate unprecedented volatility, led digital transformation efforts forward – starting with their own departments – and have made great strides in establishing the use of data for sustainable business growth.

As we set our sights on another challenging year, both personally and professionally, it’s clear that the work is not yet done. CFOs need to continue to show passion and genuine enthusiasm for supporting other areas of the business. Achieving this will require CFOs to squash cultural tensions and take the lead in establishing a culture of cross-functional collaboration. With the lines of communication open, and a clear set of priorities in hand, CFOs can use their experience, emotional intelligence, and data-driven expertise to instil the trust and understanding needed to mitigate risk, uncover new opportunities, and drive sustainable growth for the business.

Business

Accounting Automation in the Future

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Accounting automation is the process of streamlining repetitive tasks in financial processes. For example, some processes like invoicing are time-consuming and repetitive. Automation can reduce manual labor and save businesses both time and money. Also, it helps improve accuracy, reduces errors, and provides more accurate financial reporting.

Accounting automation in the future will be increasingly important for businesses to stay competitive. But every new change comes with both advantages and challenges. Let’s dive in to get ready for this future trend.

 

Potential Future Benefits of Accounting Automation

Increased Efficiency and Cost Savings

Accounting automation is a great way to increase efficiency and cost savings. For example, AI bookkeeping uses advanced algorithms to automate many accounting tasks. So, companies can track expenses, prepare financial reports, and more using AI.

It reduces the time needed for manual entry. So, businesses can spend fewer labor hours on tedious processes. They can increase efficiency by freeing up resources for more strategic work. It also helps reduce errors and inconsistencies associated with manual processes. So, the cost of compliance is lower because of greater accuracy.

 

Improved Accuracy and Reliability

Accounting automation can improve accuracy and reliability in accounting processes. For example, Automating bank reconciliation is less prone to errors from human mistakes or miscalculations. You can automate the process to identify discrepancies between the bank statement and accounting records. It helps to ensure that financial reports remain accurate and reliable. So businesses can take corrective action faster than processing data manually.

 

Streamlined Business Processes

Streamlined business processes involve eliminating unnecessary steps, reducing paperwork, and automating repetitive tasks. This allows businesses to focus on higher-value activities, such as developing new products, improving customer service, and developing strategic plans for the future.

 

Making a Better Decision

Accounting automation can enhance decision-making in 3 ways.

1. It enables businesses to access real-time information from multiple systems. So they can identify trends for better decision-making.
2. Automated accounting also helps with forecasting, budgeting, and auditing tasks. It enables businesses to be more proactive in their decision-making processes.
3. Also, automated accounting tools can integrate with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. They can manage data across the enterprise and make concise decisions that are favorable to the company as a whole.

 

Increase Customer Satisfaction

Accounting automation can help businesses increase customer satisfaction by streamlining their processes and providing a more efficient customer experience. For example:
4. Automated accounting systems can automate tedious manual tasks such as invoicing, data entry, and payroll processing. This allows businesses to focus on other aspects of their operations that are more important for customer service.
5. Automated accounting systems can also provide customers with more accurate and timely financial information. The information can help them make better decisions about their finances.
6. Also, accounting automation enables businesses to respond quickly to customer inquiries. It helps reduce wait times and improve the overall customer experience. So, you can build better relationships with their customers.

 

Improved Accessibility

Accounting automation takes place online or comes with cloud-based solutions. So, you can access your information and do your job from anywhere instead of being confined to one spot.

 

Challenges to Implementing Accounting Automation in the Future

Cost of Technology Infrastructure Upgrades

Automating an accounting system often requires businesses to invest in new hardware and software, such as servers and other associated equipment. These upgrades come with a hefty price tag that may be difficult for small businesses to afford.

There are also extra costs, such as installation fees, setup charges, software licensing fees, cloud storage costs, and maintenance fees.

 

Training Requirements for Staff Members

Accounting automation involves using advanced technology to automate certain processes. So, it creates a need for trained staff members who can handle the new technology. Training requirements vary depending on the type of software used.

Some common training includes record-keeping procedures, software applications, and troubleshooting skills.

 

Regulatory Compliance Issues

Accounting automation can be a time-saver, but it also requires firms to be aware of the applicable rules and regulations. Companies must ensure that their automated systems are compliant with relevant laws and regulations such as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), and other applicable accounting standards.

Besides, they must also comply with legal requirements related to taxes, financial statements, and other reporting obligations.

So, businesses must consider the complexities of regulatory compliance when automating accounting.

 

Security and Data Protection Concerns

As businesses move their accounting processes to the cloud, they are exposed to a wide range of potential security risks. Data breaches can cause significant damage to the business’s financial and reputational integrity. Besides, the complexity of automated accounting systems can make it difficult to identify and detect suspicious activities or errors in the system.

To ensure data is kept secure, businesses must have strong measures in place to protect against unauthorized access, encryption, and regular backups of data.

Furthermore, companies must train their staff on the proper use of the system. It helps staff to know how to protect confidential information from being accessed or misused by unauthorized personnel.

Businesses may also need an experienced IT team to monitor and maintain the system to keep up with any changes or updates for optimal performance.

 

Final thoughts

Accounting automation has come a long way in the past few decades. It is likely to continue to advance in the future. As technology continues to evolve, more businesses will likely begin taking advantage of automation in their accounting processes. So, businesses should be aware of the potential challenges and prepare to stay competitive.

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Finance

Weathering the economic storm in 2023

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Nikki Dawson, Head of EMEA Marketing at Highspot

 

New year, new business challenges. When it comes to creating and converting leads into sales for a business, both the marketing and sales teams are critical. Both functions think differently but are equally important in driving growth and revenue. Now more than ever in the current economic climate alignment between the two to achieve business goals is vital to survival.

Entering 2023 it’s important we look back and pinpoint where there’s room for improvement within our business and between our teams. With this, I predict the majority of businesses will realise it’s now critical to get their teams to communicate, collaborate and align more effectively.

What we learned in 2022

Findings from a recent survey of sales and marketing professionals found that over half (52%) of sales and marketing leaders in the UK agree they don’t understand which marketing assets are driving results with potential prospects. For marketers, this lack of visibility over assets limited the amount of valuable oversight which would allow them to improve content and increase adoption.

As a result, we’re now left with over a quarter (29%) of marketers not feeling confident in their ability to demonstrate the ROI achieved by marketing initiatives. Due to this, 30% of those surveyed this year feel a lack of confidence in creating marketing assets that have demonstrable success at meeting specific business objectives and driving sales growth.

Equipping teams with the right tools and technology they need to achieve business objectives seems obvious, but the latest research reveals that over a third (34%) of marketers aren’t confident they have the tools they need to manage and maximise digital marketing initiatives. Furthermore, 30% of UK marketers believe that a lack of efficient technology and tools and inconsistent use of CRM (31%) are barriers to their company’s sales and marketing collaboration.

These are all crucial learnings for what marketers have identified as key barriers in their role, it’s now down to business leaders to listen and take action.

How was revenue impacted?

The lack of alignment between marketing and sales, and the limited visibility over how digital marketing initiatives performed in 2022 had a negative impact on businesses’ ROI. This, as well as not having a single source of truth for marketers and salespeople led to content chaos and became a pain point for both parties wanting to do their jobs effectively.

For business leaders, during a time when demonstrating and justifying marketing and sales spending is needed now more than ever, the gap between marketing content, salespeople and ROI is of great concern.

The year ahead

Misalignment between sales and marketing means, at best, energy and resources are being wasted. At worst, it leads to strategies directly contradicting each other and not being delivered, while team members get frustrated and potentially leave.

Sales enablement has proven that it can dramatically resolve these pain points and be the foundation for alignment. With 72% of both teams equally agreeing that implementing sales enablement to support sales and marketing is something they believe their company should consider in the near future. It’s safe to say that in 2023 may well be the year we see it come into the mainstream.

By design, sales enablement software bridges the gap to provide a platform for alignment, offering one source of truth for linking sales and marketing activity to revenue. This year, the research found that the vast majority, (71%) of sales and marketing professionals agree that a lack of alignment between their teams has had a negative impact on revenue, and 52% of sales and marketing leaders in the UK agree they don’t understand which assets are driving results with potential prospects.

It’s clear that the need for aligned business functions has never been greater and soon, marketers and salespeople will call for AI-powered sales enablement as an essential tool to do their job effectively.

Now is the time…

If businesses want to optimise their work and maximise profits in the turbulent economic climate, they need to focus on driving change from the front by aligning their sales and marketing teams. Smart investment decisions that adapt processes based on buyer engagement with marketing content, and seller activities will be crucial in the coming months.

Having a sales enablement process in place can provide the necessary framework to begin coherently organising, finding, sharing, customising, and analysing content. Sales enablement platforms can be a one-stop shop for sales processes and marketing insights and it’s no longer something that can be overlooked by businesses.

Final thoughts

The need for optimisation has never been greater. In order to maximise profits sales and marketing functions need to work together seamlessly. This year we can expect to see more businesses utilising sales enablement technology to achieve key milestones. With this, marketers and salespeople alike will recognise sales enablement as a crucial day to day tool that is just as essential as the CRM they’re using today.

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