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Becoming a technology evangelist

INSIGHT ARTICLE  | 

Modernizing the office of the chief financial officer (CFO) means revamping traditional roles that focused on risk, controls and timeliness of financial statements. Today’s CFO is working towards strategic partnering within the organization. CFOs and finance leaders must become more tech savvy to help drive innovation and organizational success. Being tech-forward and aware of the current and needed solutions across lines of business earns you a seat at the table to assist in the decisions rather than simply being the checkbook. How do you become a technology evangelist?

RSM’s recent e-book, How middle market CFOs can become digital innovation leaders—Five pillars that drive modern digital success, reviews the evolution of financial leaders from purely functional to strategic, by focusing on five pillars of success: people, processes, technology, reporting and analytics, and controls.  An important step towards modernization is evangelism. 

What is a technology evangelist?

A technology evangelist is an advocate or champion for more productive and efficient technology-enabled functions. What does that really mean? The goal of a technology evangelist is to create process standardization and efficiencies as well as eliminating manual efforts through integration. Often an IT department evangelist focuses on a single tool or solution. The modern CFO role consists of more than accounting, it also means being the evangelist for solutions across the organization. 

Modern CFOs have a broad scope across the organization: they interact with all levels and lines of business. This allows CFOs to:

  • See issues and connect the best internal and external resources to better leverage existing technology or select new solutions  
  • Bring together the various lines of business to find leading practices
  • Better evaluate needs and possible optimization
  • Develop disciples (evangelists need followers to share the enthusiasm and to spread the message!) 

Understand the technology landscape

Before you can start spreading the word, you need to understand the available solutions. While it isn’t necessary, or expected, that the CFO be an expert at all solutions, you should have a general understanding of what the various options are. You also should be able to leverage your IT leaders or third-party specialists to provide deeper explanation. Understanding your applications and uses of the current solutions and platforms will build credibility and widen your disciple base. You should:

  • Be aware of existing technology: It can start with a list of tools, and what they do, or a digital assessment, to better understand environmental strengths, weaknesses and controls
  • Meet with IT leaders regularly
  • Sit on the IT committee, ask questions and better understand the solutions being discussed
  • Work with IT leaders, lines of business, and various staff and departments to walk-through their processes and discuss challenges
  • Attend annual provider conferences to get up to speed on products
  • Stay abreast of newer technologies, utilize industry periodicals and take advantage of useful daily feeds

Once the issues are defined, and a support group is in place, corrective steps and innovation can begin. 

Digital innovation culture

The most successful organizations understand that ongoing innovation and continuous improvement is imperative. Innovation is often thought of as huge projects requiring programmers, but there are many simple steps on the path to innovation.

One of the biggest challenges is to foster the capability within your company to change. When determining which innovations are practical, take into account: 

  • Are you meeting the expectations of your customers?
  • Are you keeping up with your competitors?
  • Are you catching-up?
  • How will your employees be affected?

Effectively communicating the current landscape, goals and alignment to the organizations strategy often aids in the acceptance of change. The most powerful way to evangelize is to be seen using the tools and encouraging others to bring ideas to the table. 

Communicating effectively to various levels of technological expertise is necessary to meet your audience where they are.  Analogies, real-life examples and word pictures often work well to set the baseline, allowing for a deeper conversation. 

Ultimately, CFOs need to do more than understand the concepts. “Do as I say, not as I do” will not be effective. Often we hear, “It’s available online, but we print it for the CFO.”  If CFOs are treated as exceptions, they will have trouble pulling the organization forward.

 

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