How Technology is Changing the Role of the CFO

By Nina Hendy.

Technology is changing the way forward thinking CFOs work, particularly in the last year during the Covid-19 health crisis.

Technology has revolutionised the CFO role over the years, streamlining processes and bolstering company insights in new ways.

That’s according to the CFO of environmentally friendly food packaging company BioPak, Kim Jeanneret, who is an avid believer that the wonders of technology can drive better business outcomes.

The Sydneysider reveals how technology is enabling her to see around proverbial corners for the $200 million-dollar global business as part of a recent trans-Tasman CFO Lunchtime Live Series.

And while BioPak took a financial hit during Covid-19 like so many, it was only a temporary falter. The company is a force to be reckoned with, with the 15-year-old company growing between 20 and 40 per cent each year.

The cloud-based system utilised by BioPak (NetSuite) proved seamless during work from home orders. Jeanneret’s team could log in and continue to keep the business running. “Everything was still at my fingertips. I could get access to real-time data,” she says.

Jeanneret organised regular tweaks and upgrades to the company’s technology to help teams to offer better customer service proved to be a lifeline during the Covid-19 pandemic.

For example, first-time purchasers were put on a separate approval to ensure that loyal customers could get access to what they needed during Covid. This enabled BioPak to protect existing customers during a difficult period. The system includes granular detail on each line item such as carbon footprint, postage costs and margins.

She was working 7 days a week and up 10 hours a day during the stressful Covid-19 period, utilising technology to regain control amid the uncertainty.

“Technology should be doing the heavy lifting and free you up to better service your customers, which was certainly the case in 2020”

Kim Jeanneret, CFO | BioPak

Accessing the system in real time enabled her to tap into current sales as they were being processed and look for patterns, such as low sales on line items. Everything was online, including leave forms. “We didn’t miss a beat, everything ticked over,” she says.

Another system integration included an automated email to customers when a payment was one day overdue, prompting an alert email to BioPak staff, who then picked up the phone to see where things were at for the customer.

Jeanneret believes that businesses that utilise technology to foster closer relationships with customers will continue to thrive, she says. “These system integrations have made a huge difference to where BioPak is at today,” she says.

While the future of work is likely to be a hybrid model of both office and working from home, it will be important that teams come together in the office regularly. Time in the office together builds relationships and breaks down barriers, she says.

She urged other CFOs to grab the bull by the horns in 2021 and utilise technology to solve the frustrating elements of a business. “Then the world is your oyster. You got through Covid, so you can do anything,” she says.

While an ERP implementation program could be considered a massive change, she urged CFOs to commit to doing the due diligence and implementation in 2021. The Covid experience will be ingrained in the memory of corporate decision-makers, enabling CFOs to drive important technological improvements to the company, she says.

“Everything you need to do in finance will be told to you by the system, which will make the audit process easier,” she says.

She acknowledged that change can be scary but urged other CFOs to embrace change in a bid to unburden staff from mundane tasks, in turn empowering teams to focus on creative thinking and problem solving.

Technology is here to stay, she says. The future will include Artificial Intelligence (AI) to pick up discrepancies and voice recognition technology will be a part of the finance world, she predicts. For example, if a customer stops buying a product, the system will alert you, enabling CFOs to implement better customer service processes into the business.

“Adaptable and flexible systems are very important. Automations can save a huge amount of time.”