We just love talking with our GenCFO community of finance professionals about digital finance transformation and helping them understand how technology can help them be more efficient and effective. But if you talk the talk, you need to be prepared to walk the walk.
Well, now I have my chance. So, over the next few months, sit back and I will take you on the journey with me.
A return to hands-on finance
My last job in a traditional finance role was back in the late 90’s when I was a CFO of a small, international organisation. If you ignore my interfering in matters when I was building business and sticking my nose in when it was not needed, the last time I was really hands-on was before my CFO role, as a Group FC role in global logistics.
Until now that is. I have recently accepted the role of treasurer at my beloved sports club. After many years of enjoying the facilities for myself now is the time to give something back. Certainly not retirement from playing may I add. I still hate losing, even with my ageing and aching limbs. Do you remember Viz magazine and competitive dad! Well, ask my daughter who won our last tussle on the squash court.
Now is the perfect time to use the skills and experience picked up on my career journey. And I have to say, despite the role being all-consuming as we speak, I am really enjoying getting my hands dirty.
Small and complex
The club is a fairly large, multi-sport complex (squash, racketball, hockey, tennis, gym and fitness studio) with a bar and food with a few thousand members. Whilst it may be considered a ‘small’ business, there is still a medium level of complexity.
However, the comparison with large businesses is easy to see. Like many organisations, the club has grown organically over the years. It has added technology piecemeal when it was needed. A booking system here, a finance system there, even a SaaS solution for marketing. And the result? There is a lot of data to be found, but it is held in silo’s and is not uniform. Manual intervention in processes is common and a great, dedicated team are working more hours than they should.
When you look at these issues, does this sound familiar? It is certainly very similar to many of the organisations we talk about within our advisory work and community discussions. The only difference is the scale.
A chance to transform
So, there is a big opportunity to transform many aspects of the club. And this is the reason I am so excited about my new role. A live patient on which to operate, applying some of the transformation experiences and knowledge I have picked up over the past few years.
I already have some draft thoughts in mind. This is only a first pass but is likely to include the following:
- We are using Xero, so I am comfortable with the capability of the technology platform, but:
- Are we using the full capabilities?
- Are we posting transactions at the granularity level needed for reporting?
- Can we automate some of the manual processes, such as raising invoices, chasing debtors and reconciliations?
- Can we integrate a PO system to improve the authorisation and payment process?
- Review the other technology platforms in use:
- Are they integrated?
- How much manual intervention is required?
- What data is collected?
- What drives the business?
- Utilisation rates of facilities
- Who uses what and when?
- Demographics of members
- Industry data to benchmark our performance
- Feedback from members
- How do we plan for the future?
- How often do we plan and how far into the future?
- Who is accountable for performance?
- How will I get the board to invest in my ideas?
- How much will it cost?
- What is the business benefit?
With such a small team, it is vital that we are able to build resilience. We need to be able to cope with growth in the organisation without increasing headcount. We need to be able to deal with staff absence by having robust and documented procedures. We need to de-risk reliance on technology by working in the cloud and with off-the-shelf solutions.
Digital transformation really is for everyone, learn more here!
Technology is important – but do not forget the people
Technology is going to play a big part in enabling this transformation. As I have mentioned, we already have Xero. We will also be looking at Robotic Process Automation (RPA), EPOS, P2P and CRM solutions for starters. I have already been getting stuck into the budget, creating a zero-based, driver-based model in Excel. However, we may need more than Excel can offer so reporting and planning solutions could be required.
But of course, none of this can happen without taking the people with us. They are the key to this being a success. Whether it is the other directors who need convincing to invest the member’s money or the staff who will need to implement the changes, all of them need to be convinced this is the right thing to do.
I will be publishing a regular ‘warts and all’ update on the progress we are making with this transformation, talking about the issues faced and the solutions used. Hopefully, this will be a learning experience that we can all benefit from. Of course, if you have any guidance or ideas that will help me on my way, feel free to let me know!