April 28, 2021 at 01:00PM

Collaboration has always been a priority for Vince Man, chief financial officer at LoginID. A geographically distributed workforce means technologies that can support digital facetime have been critical to business operations from the get-go – and, luckily, ensured that the company did not face as much disruption as other firms amid the onset of the pandemic and sudden work-from-home requirements.

Cooperation is essential to any successful business. For Man, that means working with the finance team, the heads of other departments and, increasingly, with third-party FinTech providers. While digital solutions are undoubtedly crucial to facilitating this collaboration, there is a downside to rising levels of interconnectivity.

In PYMNTS’ latest Voice of the Digital-First CFO report, Man explored how he aims to strike a collaborative balance to ensure that FinTech helps, not hinders, productivity – and pointed to payroll, of all functions, to demonstrate the challenge.

A Help Or A Hindrance

There’s no doubt that digital messaging and video conferencing tools are a must-have for any organization with a disparate workforce – which, today, includes a vast majority of employers. But, as Man noted, the technology that supports this connectivity can also create new challenges in productivity.

“It seems like for most of our team, including our finance team, we were having more meetings than ever when we got into the pandemic,” he said. “That has impacted part of our back-office operations from a finance point of view. We’re having more meetings, and it seems like we have less time to do our daily jobs.”

It’s a scenario that lifts the curtain on the complexities of back-office cooperation, and the challenges that CFOs and other enterprise leaders face to ensure that facetime is productive rather than disruptive.

The Complexities Of Payroll

Understanding how to find the balance between one’s own coworkers is certainly important. But as Man moves forward with his own digitization agenda, collaboration also became a focal point in the process of FinTech adoption.

While automation tools can bring about significant efficiencies in a variety of workflows like accounts payable (AP) and accounts receivable (AR), the pandemic’s impact on employment and talent management created new challenges in the payroll department that similarly exposed the issue of collaboration.

At the peak of the pandemic, amid mass furloughs and the need for payroll service providers to participate in federal relief efforts, those third-party FinTechs faced massive surges in activity. As a result, Man said that it became difficult to collaborate with his firm’s payroll service provider, as it was a struggle to connect with help on the phone when an issue arose.

“Again, there’s an indirect impact from the pandemic where we realized that the response time from our payroll service provider seemed a bit longer,” he noted.

At first glance, this may appear to be an issue of a lack of collaborative capability between a business and its third-party FinTech partner. But Man instead said the situation presented an opportunity to embrace further digitization through the introduction of employee self-service tools – a function that negates the need to get the payroll provider on the phone whenever a worker requests information or seeks help.

Value-Added Collaboration

Man’s experience with payroll challenges raises yet another discussion about the power of collaboration. While payroll might be traditionally considered a function of human resources (HR), it is intrinsically linked to finance and, as digitization progresses, IT. As such, it is a prime example of how the CFO’s role has expanded beyond the finance department alone.

According to Man, collaboration across departments with other C-suite members of his team can be an incredibly valuable tool to address common challenges. “Learning from other members of the C-suite, or other CFOs, would be a great opportunity to streamline a lot of finance processes,” he said.

With FinTech finding more ways to offer the remedy to many of those organizational challenges, CFOs like Man are also tasked with driving digitization by choosing solutions that can support this delicate balance of collaboration. Indeed, Man said, it is important for FinTech tools to support collaboration (both between team members and between FinTechs and clients), while also enabling automation and self-service capabilities to avoid the over-reliance on collaboration that can hinder productivity.

And security remains vital when choosing FinTech partners. That’s particularly true for the finance team, which must exchange high volumes of sensitive information and ensure compliance.

As organizations find their stride more than a year after the pandemic hit North America, understanding how collaboration can both help and disrupt a business is an important lesson to learn — and one that can help CFOs shape their digitization roadmaps.

“As a CFO, there is a lot of opportunity because of the acceleration of collaboration technology,” Man explained. “As a CFO, we need to leverage the acceleration of that technology to get everybody collaborating on creative ideas, to improve processes and the way we do business. However, on the flip side, we also have to make sure we don’t collaborate too much, so we have time to do our daily work.”

CFOs Seek A Delicate Balance In Collaborative Technology …

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