The Finance Leader Podcast

069: The CFO and Technology Planning

November 16, 2021 Stephen McLain Season 8 Episode 6
The Finance Leader Podcast
069: The CFO and Technology Planning
Show Notes Transcript

All organizations in the 21st century must view themselves as a technology company first, no matter their industry, to set the correct mindset and perspective. Your technology system determines how relevant and how quickly information and communication can be processed, which is critical to making the right decisions at the right time.

Episode outline:

  1. Every company must see themselves as a technology company first,
  2. Automate routine information and reports,
  3. Your system must be secure to ensure trust with all stakeholders, and
  4. Technology planning must be included in the base budget.

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Stephen McLain:

All organizations in the 21st century must view themselves as a technology company first, no matter their industry to set the correct mindset and perspective. Your technology system determines how relevant and how quickly information and communication can be processed, which is critical to making the right decisions at the right time. So don't overlook the importance of technology planning, budgeting, and implementation within all strategy discussions. Please enjoy the episode. Welcome to the finance leader podcast where leadership is bigger than the numbers. I am your host Stephen McLain. This is the podcast for developing leaders in finance and accounting. This is episode 69. And I'll be talking about the CFO and technology planning, and I will highlight the following topics. Number one, every company must see themselves as a technology company first. Number two, automate routine information and reports. Number three, your system must be secure to ensure trust with all stakeholders and for technology planning must be included in the base budget. Steve Jobs said technology alone is not enough. In the last few episodes, I have mentioned goal setting for 2022 and reminding you to get your CPE finished for your certification or your company's requirements. I was recently reminded of another interview issue, make sure you are using your benefits before they expire like training, or your health and safety allowance. And turn in your expense reports that haven't been turned in. I think Kasha who I follow on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn for this very useful reminder. So use your benefits before they expire. And if you have any travel you have completed and haven't turned it in, please turn it in. This week, we are talking about technology. All organizations in the 21st century must view themselves as a technology company first, no matter their industry. This episode will not be a technical analysis of different systems out there, like ERP and CPM. Like everything in the finance leader podcast. This is about taking a leadership role, to make improvements to change our mindset and to deliver the vision. Leaders must take an active leadership role to ensure technology planning is interwoven into the right discussions, especially around strategy. Here's a quick review of a few of the systems from a high level concept. an ERP is an enterprise resource planning system that can track and integrate all the basic functions of your company like financial transactions, inventory data, human resource tracking, and project management to just name a few. This system manages your core systems to help your business run efficiently. I CPM is corporate performance management, which is where you manage budgeting, F PNA and other related data, where it helps you reduce risk, monitor your KPIs and achieve the organization's goals. A CRM is your customer relationship management system, which is designed to track and analyze all your customer data within all these system concepts are many solutions to choose from on the market. Again, this episode would not be a technical recommendation of specific technology solutions. But we will talk about leadership mindset and an approach which the finance leader podcast is all about. My technology vision is for leaders to have dashboards on their phones, and other easily accessible devices for the routine information they need. Let's automate the routine information requirements. So analysts, staff, accountants, and other functional coordinators work on solving problems, get the routine information gathering off their plates after your team members. Your greatest competitive advantage is the ability to process and have access to real time information that can affect decisions. This creates the urgency to get the technology planning and implementation right. It cannot be an afterthought or considered a problem to address on a project team later. You cannot be complacent with technology planning and implementation strategy and the technology required must be in the same discussion every time. Your IT teams need forward thinking team members who are not resistant to change and who don't try to derail critical updates to the technology infrastructure. And we need more automation to free analysts and staff accountants to solve problems not to just format routine reports and for analysis and making better decisions and share your using graphical in interfaces like Power BI or Tableau. These are game changers with how you update and are presenting information. Every company needs an IT executive on the board and the executive team, it's time to elevate this position to board level if you're going to get this right, the IT team is often under the CFO. And that made sense in the last century, it doesn't make sense anymore. It just doesn't. This IT executive must embrace pushing the company toward a better integration of information in decision making, and must be willing to take more risks to do so. And the CFO has a huge role in this too, how often our technology platforms, but only through special projects. And this is because technology planning was only done when it was critical when it was needed when somebody found a problem. And then we created a project team to address it. It's important and probably necessary to create a hybrid project team to research and decide upon to purchase a tech system or special software point of sale systems, the workstations your staff uses or whatever is required. I want to recommend that your company budget for technology every year, and to review all the tech systems and how they function together every year. How many systems in your company cannot communicate with each other? How often do you have to download information from one system formatted in a spreadsheet and then upload it to another system? Is this smart? Is this efficient? But it does happen? There are companies that are doing this today. You must also consider the trust relationship you have with your customers. Protecting your data is where trust begins with your customers and all stakeholders. How are you securing the data? And if there is a breach, how long will it take to report that breach to your stakeholders, the IT team must be part of the decision making process. But you need forward thinkers leverage their knowledge but be careful of experts who are risk and change averse. The ones who have been around a while who don't want to spend the time and effort to upgrade or install entirely new systems. You need a mixture of IT people who love change, and who know how to mitigate risk. We can never be complacent about our tech systems. Now I spent four years of my Army career as a budget officer and Resource Manager for the information systems and communications budget in a NATO organizations while I was serving overseas. Now here are a few lessons that I learned to have an annual budget dedicated to it planning. Don't only rely on special projects, but always have a ready list of tech items and services you may need never stop it planning, you will always be disappointed with the minimum solution offered, spend the money to get a solution that is easy for the user to get their jobs done. The front end to systems must be easy to use. Consider how each system works together to accomplish your mission. Plan software, hardware and bandwidth together, they all go together. And your team will need quality training and not training by the technician or coders of the system. They need quality training to go beyond formatting, or where to click but how to fully utilize the systems to add incredible value for decision makers. Please consider following me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. My usernames and the links are in the episodes show notes. And also please join the Facebook group I have for this podcast community. Thank you. And let's talk about a few key points about the CFO and technology planning. Number one, every company must see themselves as a technology company first, your team members are the most important to your company, and its success. But after that it's your culture and mindset of the company, you must get your technology systems right? This becomes a competitive advantage in the long run. I don't care if you are making pizzas, manufacturing building materials or renting cars. You are a tech company because you are using technology to connect with your customers using technology to order raw materials and using technology to make better decisions. It's how you capture critical information about your customers sales and cost information metrics around how effective your marketing is. How effective are you using your labor pool in your sales space? And that's whether it's online or in a physical space, then how easily can you use that information? Now that you have information, but how can you use it to make better decisions and to grow incremental revenue or even new streams of revenue? Who can get to this information? And how quickly can decision makers get this important information? Number two, automate routine information and reports. I would love to see the everyday key metrics show up on the phones and other devices as dashboards for the senior leaders. Let's Stop having analysts and coordinators, pull routine data and then spend valuable time formatting in a spreadsheet and then emailing it. I want this information pushed to decision makers as real time as possible. Your analysts should be solving problems and looking at projections for incremental revenue and doing analysis are on your current products and services automate everywhere you can. Anything that needs to be pulled in a regular basis should be fed to a dashboard, or should be pulled with one click, and it is already formatted. I have asked this many times, how much time are your people spending time on formatting and cutting and pasting reports, it's often an obscene amount of time, this is just a waste of time. Number three, your system must be secure to ensure trust with all stakeholders. Any relationship with your customers or suppliers begins with trust? Can they trust you with their data? Can they trust you to quickly report a breach if that happens? What happens when you find out a brand you regularly use and love had a data breach you don't trust them for quite a while and you change your spending habits with them. Usually, you need to be transparent with your stakeholders on how in protecting the data and transparency when something goes wrong and give regular updates when it does happen. Number four, technology planning must be included in the base budget. How much technology planning is included in your base budget, I know that you have system maintenance and probably a way to bring in outside IT service providers to help with a more challenging problems. But what about money dedicated to looking at the future in tech, consider spending for software, hardware and bandwidth all in one, they all go together for a complete solution and ensure you have lifecycle replacement built into the budget. Encourage department leaders to develop technology requirements that can be included, which also means that a longer term IT strategy must be developed. Many leaders don't want to open the door to an IT strategy due to how much it costs or they don't know the terminology. But I believe that you must have these discussions on a regular basis, so your company is not caught unprepared. This is why we need to elevate an IT executive to the board to push this need to evaluate the IT systems. I'll share another story from my Army career. Having the right financial system is critical to creating relevant and usable information for timely decision making. My last assignment before I left service was in the Pentagon on the army staff. We were fortunate to have an amazing leader who worked in a data warehouse who would set up routine reports in the system. It was incredibly time saving to just click once or a report that included the raw data and a chart that can be inserted into a presentation hours received by this action in this approach. I know this is unique because of the resources that the US military has. But this is a great goal to move towards to automate routine reports and data requirements. I have been in companies where the IT team felt it was a bother to have this approach which means they had the wrong IT leaders and the wrong it team eliminate the hours spent generating routine reporting requirements. Now for action today. How much time our financial analyst and staff accountants formatting spreadsheet data downloaded from your finance systems. No matter what leadership role you're working in today, take a look at how much time is spent fulfilling routine analysis requirements and how that analysis is done. Is it a cut and paste drill always those are demoralizing to most analysts and staff accountants who are tasked to do routine work. They should be working on solving problems, and helping to either be more efficient, growing incremental revenue or helping to find new lines of business. routine analysis should be fed into a dashboard by your tech system. What can you do today to make this happen? Today I talked about the CFO and technology planning and highlighted the following points. Number one, every company must see themselves as a technology company first. Number two, automate routine information and reports. Number three, your system must be secured to ensure trust with all stakeholders and for technology planning must be included in the base budget. One final thought before I wrap up this episode. Technology Planning requires leadership in the right mindset. Get Smart on the systems and what they can do. Maximize what your present systems can do and build technology planning into every strategy discussion. To execute the strategy. You need the right people, the right mindset and the right tools, which includes what systems you're using. Next week, I'll be talking about this CFO pathway, please consider joining the Facebook group I have for this podcast. It's called the finance leader podcast community. This is a place where we can help each other to grow and be prepared for the next step in our careers as finance and accounting professionals. The link is in the show notes with this episode. I hope you enjoyed the finance leader podcast. I am dedicated to helping you grow your leadership skills, to change your mindset and to clarify your goals so you achieve the role of chief financial officer. You can find this episode wherever you listen to podcasts. Until next time, you can check out more resources at financing your and sign up for my weekly updates so you don't miss an episode. And now go lead your team and I'll see you next time.


Thank you