RSM on the data opportunity for CFOs

Gavin Backos

The deal has closed and the celebration has ended. Now the real work begins. Everyone knows that the time immediately following the closing of a deal is very busy. Often leaders at private equity firms and portfolio companies are laser focused on growth and innovation, which is perfectly normal; however, they often lose sight of the performance possibilities gained through investments in integrating technology. This is a big mistake.

Chief financial officers are often inundated with manual, labour-intensive processes that create difficulty in producing vital and timely financial and management information. It doesn’t have to be this way and let’s face it, the CFO’s role has changed.

Decision-makers have learned over the years that CFOs have access to more company performance and operational data, which has made their involvement in key operational decisions more important than ever. CFOs and finance teams are no longer number crunchers – they are taking more responsibility for company performance.

CFO BURN-OUT

In fact, according to a study completed by Oracle of more than 1,900 finance decision-makers, nearly 40 percent of finance leaders say the finance department is becoming more accountable for the success of the business. This has led decision-makers to lean on CFOs more. The bad news is that despite taking on a more crucial role, the CFO is still expected to be able to perform back-office functions in many organisations. This leaves the finance chief fatigued from the sheer amount work they are expected to accomplish, which ultimately leads to burn out.

Private equity CFOs are continuously seeking opportunities to drive investor value. The idea is to modernise, innovate, re-engineer and restructure portfolios to yield high returns. Over the past decade, we don’t believe the mindset has changed but options and the availability of solutions, technical or otherwise, have evolved dramatically. Today, with cloud-based technology we are seeing sizable investments made, intended to modernise the front and back office.

The ability to report results timely and accurately is unprecedented. The demand for financial results and performance metrics is only increasing and the effort required without the right processes and technologies can become taxing on the organisation.

Without up-to-date, real-time information, finance leaders and decision-makers are at a loss as to how to make informed decisions and manage their business. Modernised technology can help alleviate the burden on the CFO while producing great results. Updating operations to conform to leading practices that are enabled by modern and integrated technology can drive much-needed efficiencies and performance relief. This type of efficiency empowers organisations to become more focused on value-added initiatives as opposed to the time-consuming transactional workload.

UNIQUE CHALLENGES

Each company is unique and managing its own set of challenges. Common reasons for not using technology include the time burden, worries that making the transition to technology “feels overwhelming” and, of course, budgetary concerns, but it really is critical for management to allocate the time and money to understand the tools available to them.

Using the right technology will undoubtedly speed processes and make the crucial financial information more accurate when it comes to budgeting and forecasting. Technology will also allow users to manipulate data in real time in a much more sophisticated way than can be done with spreadsheets.

To understand the appropriate technology fit, first assess the critical requirements and desired outcomes you want to achieve. Each requirement is designed to overcome current pain points while ensuring the operating standards conform to cutting-edge practices.

So how should the technology be selected and implemented? There are two basic principles: first allow the process enhancements to lead the implementation of technology; and second integrate the technologies with appropriate controls to ensure a single version across platforms.

A successful transformation connects an organisation’s vision to its strategy and delivers measurable performance improvements. The burden that the CFO carries post-implementation is minimised but not entirely eliminated. Continued performance measurement is necessary to ensure that the investment is achieving the desired results.

We have worked with multiple portfolios implementing the CAP game plan to drive performance results and improve operational efficiency. In a short amount of time – just three to six months – the transformative results can be bucketed into shorter close cycles, improved accuracy in financial reporting, the quick and nimble assembly of performance metrics, plus better visibility, control and governance. All of which are pillars of improvement on any CFO’s strategic roadmap.

This article is sponsored by RSM