Yesterday I spoke at the first Tomorrow’s CFO event of 2016, where delegates looked in detail at the specific challenges faced by finance teams when engaging with sales teams and their leaders.
The Tomorrow’s CFO seminar series is now in its third year, and continues to bring together some of the brightest minds in corporate finance, to discuss the toughest and most interesting challenges they face in their businesses.
We were joined yesterday by the Chief Executive of CIMA, Charles Tilley, who was kind enough to introduce the session, and spoke passionately about the changing nature of the finance professional’s role, and the demands that are made on them in a modern organisation. Of particular relevance, given the topic of the event, was his focus on research highlighting how a majority of finance teams at large organisations have not yet realigned their activities to focus on the leading indicators of business performance – such as sales and operations.
We were also very pleased to be able to welcome Jason Peters, European head of finance for the financial and risk division of Thomson Reuters, the global news and information conglomerate. Over the last couple of years, Metapraxis has been working with Thomson Reuters to build a platform that both generates an accurate, automated forecast of sales success, and also provides finance with an understanding of how sales activity can be optimised to improve revenues.
Jason spoke in detail about the challenges of accurately forecasting sales at a large organisation such as Thomson Reuters, and how any inaccuracy can have a serious detrimental effect on the wider financial planning and analysis process. He then spoke about the process of developing and implementing a forecasting process based around predictive analytics, and how this has been adopted and integrated into the wider organisation.
Delegates at the seminar then looked at how finance teams can use analysis to identify the actions that sales staff should take, in order to achieve the financial outcomes implied by the organisation’s overall strategy. This included analysis such as looking at the composition of the pipeline, in order to focus sales efforts on opportunities of the right type, and analysing conversion statistics to inform training programmes.
As Charles Tilley pointed out, effective corporate finance is no longer a simple matter of measurement and control. Modern finance teams are neglecting their duties if they are not effective partners to the rest of the business, able to communicate not just in terms of financial results, but in how operational activity contributes to that performance. As was clear from the many conversations around the room yesterday, that means harnessing data, technology, and new ways of communicating with diverse parts of the business, including the sales team.