As Planful’s Chief Customer Officer, it energizes me to see how our customers use Planful to get the information they need to make critical decisions about their business in today’s economic climate. When finance, accounting, human resources, marketing, and other teams have a clear view into their business, they can collaborate to make better, faster decisions that increase resilience.
CloudMargin is a Planful customer that has done just that. Steven Marconi, Chief Operating Officer at CloudMargin, joined me for a recent conversation hosted by The CFO to explain how this fintech company pivoted its Office of the CFO from being reactive data processors to becoming proactive partners of the business. It did so using Planful as its single source of data truth to increase financial consistency and clarity, create frictionless scenario-based planning, and bring real-time collaboration into financial processes.
CloudMargin created the world’s first cloud-based collateral management workflow tool, which helps financial institutions meet time-critical regulatory deadlines and reduce the costs associated with collateral requirements. As the company grew incredibly fast, however, its manual data gathering processes added friction and left its finance and accounting teams with little time for analysis. Steven and his small, three-person team knew they needed to modernize how they worked, but didn’t have time for a long transition to a new solution.
“The main challenge is, when you’re starting from scratch, it looks quite daunting in terms of what you should do or what you can do,” Steven explained. “But, there’s a great opportunity to really think about how to structure things and grow sustainably.”
In a story that’s been repeated again and again by Planful customers, CloudMargin’s finance and accounting teams were living in a massive tangle of spreadsheets. Overcoming the friction of spreadsheets may be the catalyst for teams to seek a modern solution for finance and accounting, but they soon find that it frees up bandwidth to focus on the numbers and what they mean for the business.
“We called [our spreadsheet] ‘The Beast,’” said Steven. “When you don’t have the right tools and technology, you end up cobbling things together and, ultimately, it can get you only so far. Our biggest challenge, thinking back on the journey, was about understanding the tons of data that we really needed to distill and focus on.”
Steven honed the data to focus on CloudMargin’s key performance indicators, both leading and lagging. The team’s challenge then was in finding, collecting, organizing, and analyzing that data on an ongoing basis. That production, as Steven called it, was taking too much time away from his team. They needed a better solution than to keep expanding The Beast.
Once customers deploy Planful, teams are able to get out of the production of the numbers and focus more on the numbers themselves. Using Planful as that single source of data truth eliminates much of the manual effort required to find and organize the necessary information. By doing this, days and even weeks can be freed up per month so that finance and accounting teams can spend more time to better understand what the numbers actually mean. That’s incredibly important in today’s global climate.
“There are myriad challenges out there at the moment,” Steven said. “It’s just a confluence of economic, political, and social challenges that are hitting everybody at every level of business. It is both an interesting and a challenging time. You really need to not only understand what your strategy is, but what your options are. And, it’s not just plan A, it’s plan B, C, D, and E. If you’re not prepared to understand and you don’t have the tools to understand what the impact is going to be on your business, then you really are flying blind.”
At CloudMargin and other Planful customers, the time they now have for understanding the business is typically devoted to scenario planning. CFOs and executive leadership teams want to see into the future, understand their options, and understand how different inputs generate different outcomes.
It seems clear that volatility and uncertainty are only going to increase into 2023 and beyond. Having the ability to quickly model different business scenarios, collaborate with the business to determine what might happen, and then change assumptions in an instant will be crucial to success.
“One of the things that really drew us to Planful was the ability to do the scenario planning,” added Steven.
“We’ve got multiple scenarios going at any one time, and when the CEO or the board asks, ‘What does this look like?,’ we can turn that around in a matter of minutes. If you don’t understand the key drivers and the variables of your business and you aren’t able to understand the impacts, it’s going to be really challenging over the next 12- to 24-months.”
Employee retention is top of mind for everyone, and keeping top talent engaged and motivated is key. As the economic environment becomes more challenging, CFOs want to have the best and brightest people working to spot opportunities and create compelling stories to rally the business. CFOs, and any good business leader, must keep teams happy, engaged, and challenged. Few people want to spend days digging through spreadsheets. As Steven mentioned, Planful helps elevate work above that tedious, frustrating, manual effort so people, both inside and outside of Finance, have more time to focus on the business.
“[Planful] acted as a catalyst for people to get excited about what we were doing,” Steven added. “It wasn’t just, ‘Here’s a dashboard with some charts.’ It was an opportunity for members of my team who are growing their careers to kind of flourish. If we had not taken the decision as a team to [implement Planful], I definitely wouldn’t have the team in place that I do today. It was a catalyst, like I said, for people to get involved beyond just finance and give people a platform to get more engaged with the rest of the business.”
This is truly the Golden Age of CFO Technology, as Planful’s CEO points out. But, when you think about the teams that quickly regrouped and rebounded after the pandemic took hold, they had or quickly implemented the tools necessary to be extraordinarily agile and equipped to leverage data to make changes and respond to evolving business conditions. Today, those who stayed in spreadsheets continue to work nights and weekends and are likely to be swept up in the “quiet quitting” or Great Resignation trends.
Trailblazing leaders of finance and accounting, like Steven, recognize the value in empowering their teams to do more engaging work, do it with confidence, and do it with more resilience. Especially for a lean team like CloudMargin’s, deploying the tools to reduce frustrating work and focus on strategic efforts is a great place to begin. That’s always been true, but it’s even more imperative as finance and accounting teams prepare for more volatility in 2023.
Watch my complete conversation with Steven here. He dives into more detail on how CloudMargin is using Planful and provides his recommendations for CFOs who want to change how finance and accounting work.