Alison Holmlund, Chief Customer Officer at Host Analytics, explored the future of finance in her presentation to Argyle's CFO membership at the 2018 Financial Leadership Forum in San Francisco on February 14. In her presentation, "The Future of Finance: Connection and Collaboration," Holmlund explained how fostering a culture of connection and collaboration can play a key role in a CFO's success.
The CFO plays an important role in a business, regardless of its size or industry. This professional is required to manage transactions and compliance. Plus, the CFO often is tasked with helping a company use state-of-the-art technologies to collect and analyze data, drive informed decision-making and ensure a business can become more productive and efficient than ever before.
Meanwhile, as technology evolves, the role of the CFO does the same. New technologies are becoming available, and CFOs must keep pace. Otherwise, CFOs risk missing out on opportunities to use technology to help a business promote innovation and differentiate itself from the competition.
The CFO role constantly evolves, and the CFO's skill set must evolve with it. As CFOs become business partners within organizations, they must allocate time and resources to obtain communication and collaboration skills so they can connect with internal and external stakeholders.
"As the role of the CFO expands and we have more responsibilities, our skill sets need to expand as well," Holmlund said.
CFOs frequently collect and analyze financial data. As such, they often partner with various business departments and help them make informed decisions.
"Finance can now be the keeper of great information that allows us to make great decisions and change our course as needed."
By fostering partnerships with business departments, CFOs can become key influencers within organizations. CFOs can work hand-in-hand with multiple departments and ensure these departments can gain unprecedented financial insights. Then, these departments can help a company optimize its productivity and efficiency.
"We're shifting to more of a business partner role," Holmlund stated. "We need to use technology to automate and accelerate mundane processes and operations. We also need to integrate different models … to create a single source of truth."
Today's CFOs must promote alignment across a business. By doing so, CFOs can help business departments work together to achieve common goals.
"We need to ensure that the strategy across a business is aligned to different business units," Holmlund pointed out. "We really need to become the right hand to the CEO."
How a CFO approaches technology may have far-flung effects on a business, its employees and its customers.
Technology remains at the center of a CFO's day-to-day operations. If CFOs understand how to properly utilize the technology at their disposal, they can help a company streamline myriad tasks. On the other hand, CFOs who fail to realize the full value of technology risk missing out on opportunities to help a company drive revenue growth.
"As the role of the CFO expands and we have more responsibilities, our skill sets need to expand as well."
Furthermore, data collection and analysis tools are transforming the way that CFOs utilize financial information. No longer are CFOs forced to analyze data to ensure accuracy. Conversely, today's data collection and analysis tools help CFOs quickly collect timely, relevant information and transform it into meaningful insights.
"CFOs are spending more time on strategy and non-finance tasks," Holmlund noted. "Technology has allowed us to focus less on making sure that the data is accurate, and instead, we can actually analyze this information."
Information sharing is paramount for CFOs. If CFOs share financial insights, they can drive informed decision-making across all departments.
"Finance can now be the keeper of great information that allows us to make great decisions and change our course as needed," Holmlund said. "This allows us to become a strategic partner because we're the source of great insights."
CFOs must establish priorities and objectives as well. With goals in place, CFOs can determine the proper steps to help their organizations thrive.
"Execution is all about taking your priorities and objectives and delivering on them," Holmlund stated. "It can mean different things for different organizations … and the key here is focusing on what you're trying to accomplish."
Lastly, CFOs must be willing to collaborate with IT and promote mutual innovation.
IT usually is responsible for the deployment of systems that can help a business streamline its operations. If CFOs collaborate with IT, both parties can determine the best ways to help a company maximize its time and resources. As a result, CFOs and IT professionals can work together to ensure a company can use technology to its advantage both now and in the future.
"As the role of the CFO has changed, the role of IT has changed as well," Holmlund pointed out. "The evolution of IT is critical to the role of the CFO and the CFO's new mission."
For the past five years, Alison Holmlund has led the Host Analytics Customers for Life organization, where she focuses on the ongoing success and satisfaction of all Host Analytics customers. In 2017, she expanded her role to include the Host Analytics Professional Services division as the new chief customer officer, where she oversees aof the company’s customer accounts and ensures that, from the moment a customer joins the Host Analytics family, all the way to contract renewal, expectations are exceeded every step of the way.
Alison has a strong background in developing B2B customer-experience strategies by constantly driving innovation, being a strategic thinker, and keeping the customer front and center at all times.
Under her leadership, Alison will be responsible for aligning the Customers for Life and Professional Services teams to make sure Host Analytics customers achieve peak performance by providing expertise in project implementation, delivering ongoing product education, sharing best practices, and supporting customers through critical milestones.
Alison has 20 years of experience in technology sales and services, helping companiesmanage their customer success initiatives. Prior to Host Analytics, she built out the technical sales, professional services, customer support, and renewal teams at Proofpoint, and played a key role in developing technical sales and professional services for AirFlash. In her role at Netscape as a principal consultant, Alison designed and implemented multimillion-user email systems for projects such as mac.com and thePalm VII device.
She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and Mathematics from New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.