The CFO and ERP: If you lead, I will follow
Hats off to the CFO. Literally. It has come time to remove our hats, and with them, our preconceived notions about the typical holder of the company funds, pursuer of the purse strings, bearer of the bank account. This is because the Chief Financial Officer is the one C-level position that is almost always – misunderstood.
No longer is the CFO pegged as that overworked executive slouched over a lofty pile of spreadsheets. Since the advent of all-things-digital and pretty much every industry’s move towards a digital workplace, the CFO’s role has also changed, now having to master and oftentimes, lead the company’s tech revolution. How has this role evolved so quickly – and what’s this newly-clad CFO wearing today?
More than just a numbers game
While the CFO’s main responsibility is to manage company finances – such as financial planning, managing financial risks, record-keeping and reporting, today, the CFO is often responsible for bridging the company’s digital divide. First order of business? Build a bridge. This new role is not only defining and achieving the company’s bottom line, it’s advising management on how they can realize growth and with it, continue to grow.
For the modern CFO, beyond a keen understanding of the macro and the micro, they must also understand their company’s market niche, its challenges, its pain points and its overall landscape – and where and how to invest in its future. Outside of balancing the books, lies an entire world of digital business management tools that companies of any size can benefit from.
Today’s CFO must put aside ‘pencil and paper’ and that includes legacy software that still supports entire organizations. Often, it’s a mix of standalone business management solutions that handle budget and finance, time and attendance, human resources, and invoicing and purchasing, to name a few. But digital tools and tougher competition have left little room for the antiquated spreadsheet. The CFO can no longer demand the same level of reporting, track purchase orders, engage with customers, or see what’s on inventory shelves without a holistic view of the company in real time.
The more open-minded CFO knows that technology’s role in business is critical and that the best decisions are made when all the information – all the relevant data, is up-to-date and more importantly, accessible, 24/7. This same CFO also knows that investing in a single reliable business management system, is essential in the successful running of the organization, from C-level, to mid-management, right down to the last employee.
Depending on the size of the company, more often than not, it’s the CFO who will initiate the move toward change and set out to find a business management solution to support the company’s needs. In smaller organizations, where the CFO is also responsible for business operations, the focus will be on the initial investment, potential cost-savings, implementation time, and manpower requirements. This is when enterprise resource planning (ERP) software joins the conversation.
ERP is business process management software that allows an organization to use a system of integrated applications to manage the business and automate many back office functions related to technology, services and human resources. A comprehensive ERP solution provides management capabilities for finances, manufacturing, supply chain, project and services management, human resources and payroll, and more. So, how does a single CFO get the organization on board?
Today’s CFO cannot walk this path alone. To jumpstart the ERP journey (which can be anywhere from 6-18 months), the CFO must first build a team of key players from within the organization. Successful ERP implementation should be steered by an internal cross-functional team, so that every department’s needs from an ERP solution become part of the equation. The CFO will lead the team in the initial planning stage, define objectives and work in tandem with the chosen ERP vendor.
And there are countless choices out there. The CFO, now primed and ready to go, knows that selecting a trustworthy ERP vendor is critical. CFO’s should survey the market carefully, get references from within the industry and choose a vendor who excels in delivery time, reliability and yes, price. Today’s CFO will use their newly-discovered technological know-how, consult with internal software experts and ply their age-old accounting experience into making the best possible strategic business decision. This is the basis for selecting the ideal ERP vendor.
Now, about that hat
The CFO wears many hats and that includes a newly-designed digital one. As CFO’s make the move from “just accounting” towards embracing innovation, focusing on productivity and efficiency and transitioning the organization over to a strong and viable business management platform, they are well on the way to success.
By combining a keen understanding and building a strong team to help the organization move forward and implement an ERP system, the new CFO’s role will be exceeding more valuable over time. Keeping the finances in check is no longer the only requirement in the CFO’s arsenal of expertise. Today, the CFO is fast becoming the leader of the pack and wearing not one, but many hats.