Today’s top finance leaders are being tasked with an ever-growing plate of responsibilities.
And as a surplus of modern digital solutions are increasingly brought to market to support those needs, how is a CFO to choose what’s best for their business?
“It’s a constant iterative process,” Leon Weiss, CFO at cloud-based software company XOi told PYMNTS in a recent discussion. “You implement something, you grow and scale out of it, and you have to consider — what’s the next step? So when you’re picking solutions it really comes down to what can grow with you, versus something that might solve for today but in a year or two might actually create a bottleneck.”
Research in the report, “Digital Payments: Changing Economy Sparks New Priorities for Systems Spending,” a PYMNTS and Corcentric collaboration, finds that 7 in every 10 (70%) retail, finance, and insurance CFOs say their digital investments are paying off — underscoring the importance of not just choosing the right tool for the right task, but of taking a holistic view of organizational growth engines and how to best support and scalably activate them.
“From the finance seat, the responsibility lies in managing profitability and the two sides of growth and efficiency in order to find the right level of both to be successful and sustainable as a company,” Weiss said.
There can be a lot of cash burn particularly for fast-growing companies, but Weiss added that one of his goals since he joined XOi has centered around becoming more profitable and more efficient without slowing down the existing growth trajectory.
“It’s making quicker decisions on investments and making sure we’re adequately resourced in areas that are proving to be growth engines and showing opportunity, as well as finding the areas where we can do things better and more efficiently, places to scale without increasing certain expenses,” Weiss said.
He added that one of the interesting elements of being an executive at a software-as-a-service (SaaS) firm himself is that XOi’s sales leaders are constantly talking to their own prospects about how to automate and be more efficient, “and then you have to turn and look at yourself and ask if you’re following that internally too.”
Weiss emphasized that in order to manage business profitability for sustainable growth, it’s important not to get lost in the weeds.
“We’re looking at today, but also thinking about needs one, two, three, four years in the future and how do we solve for that today a little bit, and does it make sense from a value perspective at this stage? So it’s thinking strategically in a big picture by forecasting how everything will play together down the line, as opposed to thinking this one thing is a great solution for this one problem, but maybe it doesn’t scale or communicate, making it not the greatest long-term decision,” he said, adding that the proliferation of modern digital finance and accounting solutions has made the role “very interesting.”
Still, he noted, “There can be certain things in accounting that are pretty traditional, and there’s a lot of good reasons for that … but these new tools open up an opportunity where the same amount of resources and people can do a lot more higher-value activity, which helps their career growth and helps them feel more engaged and happier in the job.”
It’s just this long-tail of use cases, he added. “If [a digital tool] can do this level of work, that can this load off this person, they can take the information and do some analysis based on it” and that sort of compounding value really adds up, Weiss said, with information that makes jobs easier versus having to spend the time pulling and contextualizing disparate information and data.
When asked about artificial intelligence (AI) and what its impact might be on the next wave of enterprise solutions, Weiss says he sees the emergent tools less as a people replacement, and more as a way to make people more efficient and allow them to do more value-add activities — but added that it’s still “early innings” with regard to the technology’s applications.
Particularly for new and rising accounting and finance employees, Weiss sees AI as boosting their career development. “It’s an exciting time for someone just starting out in the industry as they get to walk right in and do these things that used to take years and years to grow up to.
“These tools will allow us to do more with less, and that’s important for both accountants and the technicians XOi supports, because we don’t have a very strong pipeline going into either of those professions,” Weiss said, emphasizing that he’s bullishly positive about all three — the future of SaaS tools, the future of the finance office, and the future of field technicians.