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Delivering customer success with purpose at the centre

by Nick Jackson, President at CIMA and Finance Transformation Leader at Oracle

An organisation’s purpose should be the heart of every decision, no matter how big or small. For every short-term decision a CFO makes, they should also be thinking about the long-term impact – both on the business and, crucially, on customers. To remain productive, continue growing and serving customers, purpose should be the guiding light of the organisation.

CFOs should enable their teams to be as close as possible to customers, to be the partner they can trust to support them through uncertainty, both now and in the future. This comes at a time when 89% of CFOs now say levels of uncertainty are high, more than 2.5x that of late 2019. More than ever, customers and the rest of the business want to counteract this uncertainty with success. This relies on putting purpose first and reinforcing resilience to consistently deliver customer success.

Shifting priorities

If customers’ priorities are shifting, this is a clear signal to shift your operations. Reframing your operations in line with customer needs shows that you can balance these alongside the needs of your business. It helps the CFO re-evaluate how efficient the business is, which contributes to furthering the organisation’s over-arching purpose. While initial cuts have already been made, CFOs should look to address any inefficiencies and their impact on performance before committing to further cost-cutting.

Two of the biggest drains on efficiency are dated systems and lengthy processes, from their impact on supply chains, to IT operations or the finance function itself. Any areas of inefficiency can be identified by centralising data from across the business. Once any inefficiencies have been uncovered, the CFO must do what it takes to put them right.

Say you discover the finance team spends more time chasing supplier payments than speaking to customers, for example. This isn’t helping either business. If CFOs look to automation to take on some of the manual work, they could free up their team’s time significantly to build these customer relationships. This would reduce time frames and errors, while still promising results.

Here, reframing operations with customers at the centre means CFOs can focus on efficiency, improve performance, and achieve the organisation’s purpose. Most importantly, all of this helps keep customers’ needs in clear view, and your business able to deliver success for them.

Closer collaboration

Once the CFO and finance team has built a closer relationship with customers, the rest of the business can also collaborate with them to address their needs and shifting priorities. It’s not finance’s job alone to do this. This could be collaborating with the CIO and R&D teams, to ensure any future innovations align with customer strategies as well as the business’ purpose. Or it could mean working more closely with HR to ensure the business can meet changing customer demands.

In the latter case, this means the CFO working with HR and drawing on data insights from across the organisation to evaluate where long term change needs to happen. Whether it’s divesting in certain areas, deciding which departments require new investment, or reshaping certain functions, changes in customer needs and buying patterns requires a pivot in business priorities. In conjunction with HR, workforce modelling can connect headcount with new financial plans, and bring together these needs with the right skill sets and budget. Ultimately, to make accurate, joined up decisions and collaborate effectively, taking advantage of data sharing is crucial.

Building resilience

What comes from good collaboration across the business is resilience. Resilience is a stand-out trait that customers look for in a partner, and the backbone of purpose. The CFO should aim to combine data and human insights from across the business, and its customer base, to get a real picture of what’s working and what isn’t, and how they can succeed now and in the future. This is key to building a resilient business.

Efficiency and resilience will help CFOs embrace change while maintaining a steadfast focus on the future. Doing this successfully will prove to customers that you are the partner that can lead them through this crisis and the uncertainty which it brings. In turn, they’ll know you can deliver once it’s over – which will help your business thrive too.





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