Approaching Financial Transformation As a Financial Leader

Senior-level financial executives are continually tasked with levering new technologies and practices to transform the finance function. In fact, financial transformation has become its own practice within the industry.

Digital transformation is a major theme of this year’s Technology for Finance Leaders Conference in Boston.

Managing Editor Olivia Berkman sat down with FEI member Daniel Crumb, CFO of the Kansas City Chiefs, during last year’s meeting to discuss his efforts to technologically transform the NFL’s team’s approach to finance.
A transcript of discussion appears below the video.

Olivia Berkman: What are some recent financial transformation projects that you have initiated?
Dan Crumb: We have one project that we went on recently, a business planning system that we developed internally. The legacy foundation of that was a very manual, paper-intensive process. It was very disparate, didn’t have a uniform output and it was connected to many different departments.
We have approximately 20 different departments in our organization and we do an annual business planning process. This process involves department heads setting up objectives for the year, capital budgets, operating budgets and how those objectives tie to our strategic goals and how those goals support our mission statement. Under the old process we were getting a wide disparity of finished products using several different tools and different types of input systems.
Ultimately this process was manifested in a three-ring binder with papers, and it was distributed to the president and myself. We do all the reviews of the business plans, and the department heads come in and present those business plans to us. If we had a change that needed to be made, that department head or their direct reports would have to come in, grab the binders, pull the pages out and change everything.
We had some departments who would write a thesis for us. Some departments would be very small and short and concise, so we had to set some parameters as to how we wanted this finished product to look. We also knew we wanted it to be more automated and have it tie the objectives to the strategic goals. We wanted to be able to have visibility into those objectives and those goals, and how we’re tracking against the objectives for the year.
We partnered with our IT departments. We have several programmers that helped us out. We use SharePoint as our platform in our organization, so we developed a system with our IT department in SharePoint. It basically automates the entire process. Now, it renders in a PDF format, it has all the different sections, it gives parameters, so it forces you to use the format correctly, although it does give the users flexibility.
Berkman: How does this transformation project help you manage the finance function?
Crumb: We have dashboards which show us how the departments are tracking against their objectives so we can tell if they're on track at any time throughout the year. We can look to see who's accomplished their objectives. If you haven't accomplished your objectives, what's holding this up? Is it a budgetary issue? Is it a time issue? Resource issue? It gives us a lot more visibility into how the departments are executing against their plans for the year.
It also made it much easier, much simpler for them to prepare their plans, and then also to render the finished product of that plan, and if there's a change that needs to be made, they can make it on the fly. We get it updated near instantaneously, and so it's very simple for us to review the plans, and we all have the same version, so it's been very efficient and very effective from that format.
In another project, we used an external provider for the automating the reconciliation process. We looked at the foundation: and what are some of the processes that we're spending a lot of time on that we can automate? That reconciliation process took quite a bit of time every month when we do our month-end close, and we found a third party that provided us a solution that tied in with our existing GL system and made it very simple and efficient to execute that reconciliation process.
We've seen a lot of time savings, increased accuracy, increased performance, increased efficiencies, so all those metrics have tracked very favorably for us and have allowed us to have the visibility that we need whenever we want it, and it automates the tasks and the routines. It sorts of takes that base level where we were spending a lot of time and automated it so that now we can use that time to higher use, better use.