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Engaging Department Heads Beyond Finance in Planning and Forecasting

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Guest blog by Lisa Bauman, CFO, Certus Energy Solutions

In today’s data-driven world, CFOs are increasingly called upon to decipher and deliver the single source of truth used in strategic decision-making, due diligence, and evaluating performance across the organization. The challenges involved in gathering, analyzing, and presenting data from disparate sources can be daunting. Fortunately, today’s technology and software products provide us the sophisticated tools that we need to be successful in this endeavor. (Disclaimer: I’m an Adaptive Insights customer.) However, this data challenge cannot be solved by software alone. To succeed, we must rely on our entire team to ensure we are gathering the right data from the right people to deliver the right analytics.

In September I attended the Adaptive Roadshow in Dallas, where Chairman and Founder of Adaptive Insights Robert S. Hull spoke about the transformation of successful CFOs into a more strategic role. During the learning sessions that followed his keynote, participants asked a variety of questions:

  • How do I roll out Adaptive Planning to all of my operations managers who have never used cloud software like this before?

  • How do I know what level of data we should house within Adaptive Insights?

  • What do I do if the person who sets up my model leaves the company?

  • What is the best way to structure my data?

Even though many of these questions related to product, I later realized that at the heart of all the queries from attendees was the same question:

How do we get there?

Let’s face facts: The majority of people in any organization fear change. Given that, how do you drive the organization toward a single source of truth? How do you coax data out of the many silos of the organization? How do you convince people across the organization that all of this collaboration and participation is a good thing?

The short answer is, it cannot be done by the CFO alone—but it can be accomplished through amazing teamwork. And in this case, I am not referring to teaming up with or collaborating with operations.

The first step to becoming a strategic CFO is to start with our own team.  

Finance and accounting teams of the past sat at their desks quietly, crunching their numbers and emailing people if they needed a variance explanation. In fact, if they never actually spoke to anyone all day, that was fine.

I was once asked during an interview for a job, “If someone leaves you a voicemail, do you call them back or do you send them an email?” Obviously the answer is that I would call them back. But until that moment, I had never thought through why that was specifically important. The information that can be gathered, and the relationship that can be built by taking the time to talk to someone, is invaluable. But it is a concept that many staff accountants and financial analysts do not intuitively understand—and this lack of understanding results in lost opportunities to build collaborative relationships.

What does a collaborative, strategy-focused finance and accounting team look like?

In contrast, finance and accounting groups in a strategic organization are alive with activity. They have a customer service attitude toward everyone in the organization. They begin to work together to figure out how to get the information they need. They come to their bosses with data gathering issues and analytical problems that they are trying to solve, and end up in a brainstorming session with their boss and someone in operations who has insight into the problem. They learn to rely on each other and work as a team to support the CFO’s new mission.

Instead of being perceived as a nuisance when they are researching variances, they become information providers. Operations managers begin to call them because they know they can quickly find out the answers to their questions. Eventually they realize that the finance team can help them interpret their metrics too. In time, the CFO has an organization that can quickly and efficiently provide insightful information and analytics—and that is a true partner to operations.

To hear more about finance transformation, watch the webcast “Thinking Beyond the Numbers,” presented by veteran CFO Robert S. Hull, founder and chairman of Adaptive Insights.

Lisa Bauman_CFO_Certus

Lisa Bauman, CFO, Certus Energy Solutions

Lisa Bauman is the CFO at Certus Energy, a leading oilfield equipment rental and inspection company backed by Intervale Capital. She has 25 years of diverse finance, financial systems, risk management, and accounting experience in public and private equity-owned companies, and she is a certified public accountant. Prior to joining Certus, Lisa served as the vice president, finance at Transplace, a private equity-backed logistics software and transportation management company, where she was a key participant in the sale of Transplace to Greenbriar Equity Group.

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