In the ever-evolving landscape of corporate finance, the role of the CFO has undergone a significant transformation. Gone are the days when CFOs were mere ‘number crunchers’.
Today, they are strategic leaders, steering the ship through turbulent waters.
The CFO sat down with Chloe Giraut Pierron, CFO of business planning platform Pigment, to discuss her views on the changing dynamics of the finance function, the importance of finance automation, and how CFOs can adapt to the new normal.
Being a CFO of a start-up during this period of volatility must be tough. What are your biggest concerns right now?
We are fortunate to have recently raised an $88 million Series C funding round which means we have significant financial security. Having said that, we are still being prudent and spending wisely. After the last few years, my primary concern and focus is that as a company we are always in a strong position to adapt and react quickly to unexpected events or changes if we need to.
This goes beyond just having a strong financial moat. It is also about making sure we have the right information and processes in place so that we can be strategic, make the best decisions, and plan for different eventualities.
As you look to the next 12 months, what would you like to achieve in your role?
For me, it is less about specific achievements over the next 12 months and more about being able to continue growing, learning, and pushing myself and my team forward. I have a brilliant team and one of the best parts of my job is watching them grow and achieve their goals.
Over the past couple of years, more and more CFOs have been involved in the operational side of their business. Why do you think this shift has occurred?
CFOs have needed to reshape their roles, and transition from financial number-crunchers to strategic leaders in the company. As part of this, CFOs and finance teams are increasingly sitting at the heart of an organisation, and working cross-functionally with other teams, such as HR, sales, operations, legal and marketing. If you look at operations specifically, it makes sense for finance teams to be more involved. After all, operational efficiency has a direct impact on the financial health of a company.
To be a successful CFO in this regard, what are the three primary things they should do to ensure they are attuned to what is going on operationally?
Move away from number crunching and free up time spent on repetitive manual tasks. CFOs should embrace the strategic and proactive side of their role that allows them to drive the organisation’s long-term goals.
Leverage real-time, data-driven insights to gain a comprehensive understanding of the business landscape, identify trends, anticipate market shifts, and develop agile strategies that drive business growth. Highlight the importance of scenario planning, stress testing, and strategic forecasting to identify risks, evaluate opportunities, and more across the entire business.
Create a culture of resilience. CFOs must foster an environment of adaptability, encourage agile experimentation, and foster collaboration across departments to navigate uncertainty and drive growth — especially in uneasy market conditions.
Automation appears to be the buzzword within the finance function at the moment. How do you discern which processes can be automated and which tools are right for your business?
Every business is going to have different needs and requirements and be at a different stage in its automation and technology journey. The best approach is to first look at your current processes and identify target areas where automation can substantially improve accuracy and efficiency.
For example, any tasks that are too time-consuming, repetitive, manual, or prone to errors.
Taking a step back, however, it is not just about automation for the sake of increasing efficiency. It is also about making sure you can understand your business at a micro-level so you can make decisions with full visibility. Automation is a clear path to achieving that and there are some excellent tools on the market to make this process easier than ever before.
What tools has Pigment implemented to aid automation within the finance function? What have been the outcomes?
Pigment is a business planning platform for finance, sales, and HR teams, so of course as a finance function we primarily use Pigment! This allows us to automate a variety of processes, whether that is data collection, reporting, or even notifications and workflows to improve collaboration with other teams. We can move quicker as a team, be a better partner to other departments, and be more strategic, as we move away from time-consuming, lower-value tasks.
CFOs are constantly being told to use data to drive their decision-making. There is no lack of data but ‘seeing through the noise’ can often be difficult. What is Pigment’s finance team’s data strategy? And how is data used to drive decision-making?
I strongly believe that it is not enough to just be data-driven. You also need to trust the data and use it in the right way. Unfortunately, many businesses struggle with inaccurate, incomplete or siloed data which hinders their ability to plan, make decisions quickly, and react to changes.
As I said, our finance function team at Pigment uses Pigment, which helps us bring together data from all sources and departments into one platform that anyone in the company can use and access. So, it is not just our finance team that has access to Pigment, but our leadership, sales, marketing, HR teams, and so on. We are all working together on the same page.
By analysing data, decision-makers across the organisation can identify trends and opportunities, make informed decisions, monitor strategies, and track performance over time.
Many companies, especially in this period of volatility are reluctant to try new things for fear of failure. How important is ‘failing forward’?
Extremely important! The economic climate has affected nearly every industry at one point in time. When this happens, it forces business leaders to get creative, pivot their strategies, and adapt to change. To stay afloat. Over the years, we have seen that the companies that play it safe, avoiding innovation or sensible risk-taking in an economic downturn, were left in the dust.
Failure is an inevitable part of challenging yourself, growing and moving in new directions. The key is to take any lessons from failures and apply them to future situations so that you emerge stronger and more resilient.
Is there any pilots/ tech testing you are really excited about within Pigment’s finance function?
We are fortunate that we can be some of the first testers of the new updates our product teams make to Pigment. There are some exciting things in the works including Pigment AI which uses generative AI to make it even easier for us to get the information and analysis we need. We’re also building out a carbon account program to help teams make confidence and accurate decisions while lowering overall emissions.
How are you approaching the balance of sustainable growth and tech innovation?
We recently raised a series C investment to help ensure that innovation is at the forefront of business. We use real-time data to help us stay on the right path while we are innovating and because of that can pivot quickly to make sure we are still on a sustainable growth trajectory, despite our constant focus on innovation and creating the best possible product on the market.
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