#14 Create a finance function blueprint with Matt Benaron

how to create a finance function blueprint with Kevin aopleby and matt benison on the growcfo show

You are a newly appointed CFO. You need to take a view of whether your finance function and the finances systems you use are appropriate. Matt Benaron joins the GrowCFO Show to show you how to create a finance function blueprint during your first 100 days in post.

About Matt Benaron

As Director and Co-founder, Matt Benaron leads the VantagePoint consulting team by drawing upon his extensive experience implementing finance solutions across multiple sectors. He is a CIMA-qualified chartered accountant with comprehensive experience across varying finance systems as a solutions architect.

How do you start to create a finance function blueprint?

Once you have secured your first CFO role you will need to act quickly. The first 100 days in your new role are critical. During that time you will need to assess your finance function and determine what needs to change. You need to have a finance function blueprint that you can use with your team and the rest of the business to signpost the way forward. Its likely you will need to implement change, and the finance function blueprint will set out the vision, the indicative solution, the roadmap, and the funds needed to change.

You will need to go through several steps in those first 100 days. Matt takes us through those one by one. We cover two key modules from GrowCFO’s Future CFO programme:

  • Module 8 Take over the finance function, and create a blueprint for your own team
  • Module 9 Create your identity, The first 100 days

Be clear on business strategy

Your finance vision must align to the overall strategic objective of the business. So start with CEO, the rest of the c-suite and the board, There may be a written strategy and objectives for the business. But its not unusual for that not to exist. Even where a strategy exists then the interpretation of it may not be universal across the whole top team. Find out what the real objectives are, and make sure you have alignment.

Often the objectives aren’t clear, or incomplete, so work with the board to understand what the objectives really are. You need everyone bought in from the start.

Translate business strategy into a vision for finance

Take a view on what the strategy means for finance. What do growth targets or geographic expansion targets mean for finance? How big is the company going to be? Will transaction volumes change significantly? How many currencies will you deal with? Is there a move to different channels? Will finance need to integrate with new things?

Get your team on board with the finance function objectives

Engaging with your team early on is extremely important. You need them to be bought into the solution. Communicate often. Think about catch phrases and themes, make sure they start using the language you do. They need to understand their role in the change.

Listen and engage with your entire finance team. Ideally one on one. Surveys and interviews work well. Find out what works well and what doesn’t. They will be able to give you a lot of the detail that will help you formulate the finance function blueprint.

There will be other key pieces of information easily to hand. Look at past audit reports and similar documents, they will give you clues about some of the issues you will need to address.

Engage with the rest of the business

Ask the rest of the business about finance. These people are your customers and will give you a great perspective of how well you serve them. A significant part of your job is raising the perception of finance in the business, so understanding what they need from you will start this process. The customer of finance will tell you about issues your own team won’t.

lots of issues for finance start in other departments, and finance causes issues for the rest of the business. You will need the whole of the business bought into your finance function blueprint, not just your own finance team. But remember to put the customer first. The customer of finance is the rest of the business

Get the right support for your finance function blueprint

The CFO doesn’t need to be an expert in finance processes and systems. There are so many aspects to your role as CFO these days that you can’t possibly master all of them. Its likely that there are other people in the business better placed to own the detail in your blueprint than you. Don’t be afraid to use them, they might be in finance or in the wider business, for example in the IT function. If you can’t find the right people internally, don’t be afraid to look externally.

Keep it simple and look for quick wins

You don’t turn every challenge into a massive transformation project, look for some simple changes and for quick wins. Quick wins will help get people on side.

Break things down into incremental changes. Don’t have one change, look for 10 or 20 smaller ones. Some will naturally go together and you will start to build a route map with a staged approach to change.

You need to take a holistic view of people; processes; and systems. Technology isn’t the answer by itself and won’t solve the problem without the right business processes and organisation design.

How do you get the funding for your finance function blueprint?

Once you have identified 10-20 change initiatives, you can establish a mini business case for each. The business case will explain why the change is needed, what it will deliver and when, the costs involved and how it will be done.

Changes are bundled into stages, and you end up with a roadmap. You will have multiple changes in a stage but the overall blueprint is broken down into bite size chunks

None of this should come as a surprise to the board. You have been building trust and expanding on your story right across your first 100 days. If you’ve managed those 100 days properly you will have taken your board on a journey. First listening to their concerns and issues, and their view on strategy and objectives. You will have helped the board clarify a common vision, and you will have demonstrated clearly how finance needs to embrace the vision and supply the right service to the future business model.

how do you find the right external support?

There are many consultancies to choose from, ranging from the big 4 to boutique firms. Generally there is no single right choice. You need to find advisors that you feel comfortable with, and you are happy to work with. It often ends up being a very personal choice.

it comes down to people….you need to work out who you will work with day to day. are they the right ones, will they engage and learn about your business, must bring right empathy and connection. don’t want someone that just brings a methodology that they force on you.

You won’t necessarily know all the firms that might be right for you. Reach out to peer CFOs and ask their advice and recommendations. The GrowCFO community is a great place to ask your peers for recommendations. Remember also to check out the future of the finance function topic, and maybe attend some of the regular Zoom sessions hosted by Chris Tredwell.

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