Robust Systems Essential Support for CFOs During COVID

By Alexandra Cain

The ability to manage and integrate data is at the core of the CFO role, especially when so many finance teams are working in a dispersed fashion. This discussion was one of the highlights of the most recent CFO Lunchtime Live event, attended by over 150 CFOs and featured two of Australia’s most dynamic Finance leaders, James Solomons, Global CFO of online referencing checking leader XREF and Ben Tregoning, CFO at global software firm Objective Corporation.

The session’s topic, ‘Data-driven decision making in uncertain times’, was especially relevant given it’s never been more important for businesses to have access to timely, accurate data.

Solomons acknowledged the privileged position the finance function is in as the data custodians in a business – “we get access to all the data that comes into the business” – and quizzed Tregoning about what having access to such rich data during COVID means for his team.

“Having robust systems in place has really helped, especially as we’re not in the office,” Tregoning said, noting the value that’s derived from being able to talk about forecasts in person during more normal business conditions.

Like many CFOs, during this time he’s focused on making sure the company’s mission remains relevant even when the team has not been physically together. “This is a critical job.”

Tregoning has also maintained the momentum of important projects such as process improvement initiatives. “You need to continue to put bricks in the wall, irrespective of where you’re working.”

Objective’s Tech Evolution

During the session Tregoning outlined the journey Objective has been on to evolve its technology suite. It was a NetSuite early adopter, which it implemented in 2011, immediately elevating the finance team from the more mundane finance tasks and enabling them to do more high level work.

“Over time there’s been a real focus on putting in place a long-term tech plan around best-in-class systems that are integrated back to the general ledger. The process has taken four years and is ongoing. At each point, we have assessed the greatest risks in the business in terms of producing accounts and explored how technology can assist us or remove risks,”

Ben Tregoning, CFO | Objective Corporation

An example is OpenAir, NetSuite’s professional services automation solution that integrates seamlessly with both NetSuite and any other ERP instance already in place. NetSuite OpenAir now sits behind Objective’s substantial professional services business. It replaced a spreadsheet-based system. “It used to make me nervous producing accounts in case there was an error in the spreadsheet,” says Tregoning.

Another step forward was the implementation of accounts payable management system Concur, which also integrates into NetSuite. Aside from the processing efficiencies Concur has delivered, it also means the finance team no longer has to do credit card reconciliations and scan invoices.

“Concur means we can immediately capture credit card expenses and gives me better oversight. Having more accurate data is so beneficial during COVID. It makes meetings and the exchange of information much more efficient,” he adds.

Objective also uses an API connector to extract data from NetSuite and SalesForce, giving the business access to a more data-driven financial reporting framework and better data quality. Its sophisticated technology has also underpinned the business during a time of rapid growth, with Objective having completed four acquisitions in four years, the most recent of which was at the start of July.

The ASX-listed business, which operates a subscription revenue model, has gone from an annual revenue of $50 million in 2016 to annual revenues of $70 million in the previous financial year.

Like many in the industry, the finance team is presently focused on preparing its full year financial results. Tregonning says having good systems in place puts it in a good position during reporting season.

As for the future, he recognises how important it is to continue to move forward despite the difficult operating environment. His challenges include continue to prioritise the company’s ongoing tech evolution and remaining a business partner for the organisation.

“We have to distil data in a way that’s relevant to different business units and develop personal relationship with our internal customers. You’ve got bring value to every meeting, which means being aware of their systems, their operational metrics and how they translate to your numbers.”

It is the perennial CFO challenge, at which Tregoning and his team at Objective appear to be seriously succeeding.

Meet the CFOs

Ben Tregoning, CFO | Objective Corporatation

Ben Tregoning, CFO | Objective Corporatation

Ben was appointed CFO of Objective in July 2016. Ben has over 15 years’ experience in financial roles within Financial Services and corporate finance businesses both in Australia and the UK. He is also responsible for company secretarial and corporate governance support at Objective. Ben has a B.Commerce and a M.Commerce

James Solomons, Global CFO | Xref

James Solomons, Global CFO | Xref

James Solomons is a dynamic and innovative Global CFO with experience drawn from a range of industries. His area of expertise focuses on the technological revolution taking place and its impact on the role of accountants in the new digital landscape. As Xref CFO, James has been successful in managing its exponential global growth by building an efficient and effective finance division which supports the entire business.

The CFO Lunchtime Live WebCast was proudly sponsored by Oracle NetSuite