The CFO Playbook

Top automation lessons from finance leaders

29 November 2021  |   7 minutes read

If you want to be a great CFO, you should know that automation is a necessity for more than just sales and marketing. Leveraging real-time data and technology is key to scaling the finance side of any business.

Not only does the right technology increase efficiency, it empowers the finance team to do more impactful strategic work which has realtime and longtail benefits for a hyper-growth company.

Here we pull together some of the best advice from the past year shared by guests on The CFO Playbook.

1. Leverage technology to build a foundation

Top finance leaders agree: automation is no longer a ‘nice to have.’ Fast growing companies must view technology as a critical foundation for scale.

Russ Keefe, VP of Finance & Ops at Corelight underlines the importance of incorporating technology from the get-go:

‘What you want to do is you want to eliminate the sort of redundant manual work and create automation. And it’s really important as you scale’.

Investing early allows the organisation the flexibility to grow quickly, and gives your team the time to focus on strategic areas that drive the business forward.

2. Invest deliberately as you continue to grow

Once you’ve laid the groundwork, you have to be strategic when investing in additional technology. Start by identifying your pain points and you’ll be less likely to purchase the wrong tools or systems.

If you’re unsure what questions to ask, Long Dinh, VP of Finance at Ada, provides a jumping off point:

‘So the way we think about implementing systems, it has to satisfy three things: Is it a reliable system? In other words, they have to provide accurate information. Is it a system that allows us to scale into a hundred million dollar company or thousand employees from this stage? And the third one is we need to build systems with automation in mind’.

If done well, automation will increase efficiency and create more time for strategic thinking. It should also be integrated with other areas of the business.

3. Automation impacts people, not just systems

The right technology can be great for employee retention, but you also have to hire the right employees to leverage the investment to its full extent.

Luckily, Jeannie De Guzman, CFO at 1Password, reassures us that there’s more finance talent out there that have the skills to optimise technology:

‘The technical abilities of a finance person have changed over the years… I have an analyst on my team that can code things on the side… So there are incredibly technical people coming, especially all the young kids coming up: they know how to use technology better than anyone has before’.

Once the right people are in place, make sure to take advantage of the extra time automation allows to challenge and engage your finance team.

4. Technology’s benefits pay dividends

Automation can help finance leaders directly with sharper forecasting, real-time cost controls, and fewer processes, which create space for them to focus on company strategy.

With finance leaders’ responsibilities increasing over time, Lena Loiberg, VP of Finance at Melio, says that automation allows for far more effective partnering with the CEO and the rest of the executive team:

‘You want to be a good business partner and take the company together with all of the owners towards the goals and needs. So us providing the data in such a real-time way, it’s really great. It is a lot of time investing in implementation and building and modeling. And it’s something that you need to invest in now.’

Don’t let your finance department get left behind

The turbulent nature of the last two years has only underlined the need for forecasting and staying nimble. While you can’t predict the future, the right technology can help you manage, plan, and stay in-the-know.

Your finance department shouldn’t be reliant on spreadsheets and manual processes. Invest the time and capital into automation to stay informed and drive insights for the long haul.

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