By Paul Williams, CFO, CloudCall Group plc
CloudCall enables its clients to communicate with their contacts directly from their CRM, maximising the effectiveness of sales and customer services teams.
Let’s be honest – sometimes Chief Financial Officers have a reputation for not being tech-savvy. But with so many examples of innovation, especially in financial services, we need to know more about tech than just how to work MS Excel.
As a CFO of a successful software company, I have a keen interest in how technology can enhance business performance. After having evaluated and implemented a number of innovations, I thought my list of the top three solutions currently in use here at CloudCall might be useful to other Finance professionals.
1. Customer behaviour + revenue = accurate forecasting
I’ve been looking for a way to improve the accuracy of my financial forecasting. As a cloud-based software company, our clients essentially rent our software so it’s a SaaS (software as a service) model. We have high levels of predictability of income from software subscriptions but the accuracy of our financial forecasting is heavily influenced by customer behaviour such as how fast they on-board users and ramp up usage.
Having reached the limits of what Excel can achieve, I have been looking for a more effective way to model this customer behavioural information together with sales and billing data to achieve more accurate financial forecasts.
We evaluated several solutions and trialled Microsoft Power BI. We found it stronger in its back-end connectivity to our systems than other solutions but its user interface was not so intuitive. That is likely to mean we need to spend more time and money on training and probably incur more operator mistakes.
We are currently piloting Salesforce and trialling its Wave Analytics solution. Like most Salesforce products, the user interface is very intuitive and visually effective, and early results show it to be very effective in marrying financial information with customer data to achieve the kind of powerful insights I need to better support the business.
2. Prepaid cards = expenditure control
Cash-based expenditure management really should be a thing of the past. The expense of handling cash, the unclaimed VAT due to lost receipts and risk exposure goes against virtually every principle that finance professionals hold sacred.
We assign credit cards for use by our executive team but we are a growing company and nurturing talent at junior levels. As part of their development, we foster a culture of financial accountability and trust – within certain boundaries.
We use the expenditure management solution of B4B Payments that enables us to issue Mastercard prepaid cards to our junior team members. We can stipulate when and where the cards can be used and drip-feed funds into those accounts. I remember several junior members of the team saying that they couldn’t travel for business if they had to initially fund it themselves as they didn’t have the spare cash. It’s an important courtesy to our staff that we don’t make our people fund company expenditure and then go through a tortuous expense claim process which may delay funds back to their own pockets to reimburse them. We can also give staff prepaid cards as gifts as rewards or for anniversaries, which keeps things simple and is very much appreciated by all those that have received them so far.
3. Customer view = opportunities for improvement
You’d be surprised at how many ways you can improve your business if you look in the right places. Technology can give you a unique view of your business and allow you to see it exactly as a customer does. Most of the time it’s good but sometimes it’s not – and that’s your opportunity to improve things.
I regularly listen in on sales and customer service calls (it’s ok, we have one of those messages that say calls may be monitored). I can easily do this through our CRM system, which is integrated with a great solution called CloudCall. Yes, it’s a key feature of our own software but it really offers a huge opportunity when agents are routinely presented with real examples of what they do well, and what they don’t do well to learn from. I really do use it myself. CloudCall technology will also help us with General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) compliance as we will be routinely asking customers and prospects for permission to hold their data and record their verbal permission. I suspect we’ll get a much higher opt in rate over the phone than via email, and the CloudCall technology will help us to keep the permissions up to date.
The pace of innovation has reached unprecedented levels in recent years and I’m sure my list of top tech tips will be entirely different in a year from now. But the point is that we must not be intimidated by new technology or else we – and the companies we serve, will quickly fall behind.