The following is a guest post by Dan Reeve, Vice President of Sales North America for Esker.
In the famous, I Love Lucy episode “Job Switching,” Lucy and her best friend Ethel take a job at a candy factory after arguing with their spouses over their spending habits.
Lucy and Ethel maintain that their husbands wouldn’t last a day keeping things together at home. Of course, their husbands insist Lucy and Ethel wouldn’t stay a day in the workforce and don’t appreciate the value of a hard-earned dollar.
Hilarity ensues as both sets of friends run into unforeseen mishaps, errors, and challenges while trying to hack it in an unfamiliar environment and prove their counterparts wrong.
Now, there are some painfully outdated gender stereotypes on display in this episode (it was 1952, after all).
Still, the main idea we can glean from it is this: If you’re suddenly expected to do a job outside your usual wheelhouse, you’ll quickly feel overwhelmed.
One role being asked to wear a head-spinning number of hats is that of Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
The rapidly changing landscape of finance has translated to an excessive amount of pressure being placed on financial directors and their departments.
Demands for digital transformation continue to surge while resources to perform them lag, and many organizations now look to CFOs to simultaneously safeguard their business and drive growth.
The solution starts with understanding how each role in an organization supports the other, recognizing limits without being defined by them, and then proceeding as a team toward a shared objective. But before such solutions can be implemented, looking at the issues that keep CFOs up at night is helpful.
A recipe for insomnia: Being asked to do too much, too soon
CFOs are being tasked with digital transformation, but they’re often not supplied with the resources necessary to get the ball rolling and keep it rolling.
In addition, the technical architecture of many businesses isn’t flexible enough to handle the frequent changes needed to become a digitally agile organization.
The urgency to keep relevant in today’s increasingly digital landscape seems at odds with a dearth of proper oversight processes, organizational agility, and sound data.
Remember that TV moment when Lucy and Ethel are frantically trying to wrap candy that zips past them faster and faster on the conveyor belt?
Unprepared for the continuous acceleration, Lucy and Ethel do their best but end up stuffing some pieces into their hats and gulping others, but ultimately, they fail miserably.
The point is, if you’re going to deploy a new, rapid technology, you need to plan how your team will function before, during, and after implementation, or run the risk of wasted effort and damaged morale. And there’s nothing hilarious about that.
A way forward — first things first
The good news is that there’s a way forward, and CFOs are becoming increasingly vocal about it. Here are a few of the most frequently cited solutions I hear CFOs speak about when considering how to ensure the success of fintech implementations.
- A new approach to change management: Radical transparency and trust will be vital in inspiring higher resilience within teams. Having a people-first perspective, while sometimes counterintuitive from a benefits perspective, is critical to understanding an organization’s unique culture and the set of beliefs that drive it. CFOs are learning to listen deeply to understand the core values that motivate individuals within their organization. This depth of understanding is crucial when reshaping the company narrative around objectives, timelines, and processes.
- Hybrid skills and agile workplaces: A recent study by Korn Ferry estimates that the global human talent shortage will reach nearly 90 million people by 2030. To offset this talent drought (keenly felt within the fintech sector), companies must become more flexible around whom they hire, paying close attention to culture fit, creativity, and technological savvy instead of fixating on a categorical educational background. They must also accommodate a borderless talent acquisition model (remote, hybrid, and in-person flexibility).
- Task automation: Automation should be the foundational technology within finance — it is central to becoming an agile system. This involves replacing outdated legacy systems, moving to the cloud, and building new organizational skills. Automation increases efficiency, strengthens data insights, and supports human creativity by eliminating time-consuming manual tasks.
- Make data foundational: As crucial as the above solutions are, they will only be as good as the data that undergirds them. For fintech solutions to be successful long term, organizations must treat data as a top-tier priority. CFOs can help make this a reality by educating their teams on how different stakeholders use different data to fulfill various organizational needs.
Agility starts with dialogue
If Lucy and Ethel and their husbands had taken the time to understand the challenges their counterparts faced in their daily work lives, each team would have been better equipped to find success in their new roles.
And suppose the candy factory manager had communicated what she expected of Lucy and Ethel and provided training and practice time. In that case, they might eventually have been able to adjust to the faster pace. Just like that conveyor belt, the pace of digital transformation continues to increase.
As thrilling as new technology is, there are no shortcuts to implementing it effectively. Becoming technologically agile starts with a commitment to strengthening dialogue between various factions within the organization.
This requires transparency amongst departments and the patience to restructure or do away with systems that no longer serve the common goal. Dialogue prevents the messiness of failed attempts to pivot rapidly without proper preparation.
The burden of innovation is never solely on any one role. CFOs and the teams who support their vision can look to the future of fintech with hope and determination.
When you start with a clear vision, sturdy systems, and constant communication, you won’t be left watching the future of your industry slip right past you: You’ll know how, when, and where to implement it and keep it going strong.