Modern Finance Takeaways


2015 has certainly been an exciting year thus far, and expectations are that it won’t be tailing off anytime soon.  I had the privilege of speaking in front of hundreds of professionals at dozens of events on the topic of Modern Finance.

Here are 6 of the biggest takeaways coming out of those events:

  1. Nobody likes their Intercompany processes – actually, there was one guy who did. As part of my presentation on Modernizing the Finance function, I always ask for a show of hands to see if anyone likes their current intercompany process or thinks that it is clean and efficient.  So far, only one gentleman raised his hand.  Although I suspect he might have misunderstood the question, even if he didn’t, the numbers are overwhelming.  The lack of visibility and control in this crucial area is causing a lot of lost sleep at night for more than a few of our senior-level finance leaders.

  2. Companies are ROI focused, and you should be too! – One of the most frequent requests from our clients is for help crafting a business case for Blackline. BlackLine’s capabilities really resonate with its future users, but getting approval to move ahead can seem like a daunting task.  By focusing the business case on ROI, as well as addressing the cost, employees can demonstrate to the decision makers the true value in a solution like BlackLine.  If your company (or your employees) are asking “what’s the cost?” then they’re asking the wrong question.  You can’t save your way to prosperity, and there’s often a significant cost to doing nothing.

  3. Expectations of Accounting today have moved from keeping score to adding value –Today, businesses need the numbers to make strategic decisions about where to invest, where to change, and countless other operational judgments. CEOs and COOs rely on the CFO organization (from entry-level staff accountants all the way up to the senior-most director) for insight into business performance.  Accountants aren’t viewed as overhead anymore; much more is expected.

  4. Everyone is being asked to do more with less – Increased business complexity, additional compliance efforts, increased premium on accuracy, and expectations of timely reporting are the norm. It’s also the norm that this increased demand on Finance departments don’t come with additional resources to accomplish the mission.

  5. Successful organizations focus on the journey, and not a destination – There’s no such thing as a steady state anymore. With the changing business climate, mega-mergers and acquisitions, and improvements in technology, companies close their books very differently today than 2 years ago. Based on what we see in the market, it will be very different 2 years from now too.  What’s interesting is that these changes normally don’t happen all at once. There are incremental improvements along the way that transforms the way the work is being done.  Sometimes it’s an idea from a team member on a better way to do something; other times it’s about technology that can do something today that it couldn’t do yesterday.  Either way, steady incremental improvements are the focus of most successful companies today.  Continuous improvements lead to world-class processes, no matter what the starting point.

  6. Strategic Business Partners – should be called early and often. The importance of business partners has never been so paramount.  Global advisors, CPA firms, attorneys, bankers, consulting firms, recruiters, and technology experts should all be on speed-dial for any executive.  The world is getting smaller; everyone is linked, connected, and reachable.  There’s no longer the need, or really even the option, to have a single go-to employee expert for everything.  CFO’s can’t play the part of CPA, lawyer, and HR Director at the same time.  Companies either see too much risk in centralizing such a vast amount of company knowledge in a single person and purposely diversify or more likely, very few people have the wherewithal to be able to function as a walking company encyclopedia.

Finally, in my presentations on Modernizing the Finance Function, I ask the audience members to keep the following in mind as they think about their journey toward Modern Finance:

  • Nobody but a wet baby likes change, and

  • Nothing falls into place except dirt.

Change isn’t easy or comfortable, so don’t expect it to be.  Don’t run from it; embrace it.  It also won’t just happen on its own, so be intentional about it; drive it!