How to Architect Your Finance Stack for the Future
Today, the CFO plays a critical role in implementing the right financial tech stack for their scaling business. Although many initiatives stalled at the onset of the pandemic, technology implementation skyrocketed. As a result, most CFOs have adopted new tech stacks and the ones that haven’t are realizing that now’s the perfect time to invest.
For modern CFOs, automation is their secret weapon. And technology’s dominant role in making manual processes more efficient is increasing the financial tech stack’s importance. As a result, financial leaders listen to technology partners, speak to analysts and influencers, join industry groups, and attend events and webinars to ensure they are staying current with the newest technology trends.
For many, implementing a tech stack can be intimidating—like a colossal ball of tangled chords—but the benefits far outweigh the risks. When CFOs embark on implementing new software, they consider the potential operational issues, employee satisfaction, and onboarding time. But once built into their processes, technology facilitates efficiency, increases access to data and business insights, and improves employee engagement across the entire finance team.
In the CFO Leadership Council’s recent panel discussion, Get Stacked! Architecting Your Finance Stack of the Future, Sarah Spoja, CFO at Tipalti, moderated a spirited panel of three finance experts, Jonny Harmer, CFO at USA Properties Funding, Bonnie Tomei, Head of Finance at Achronix Semiconductor Corporation, and Jonathan Wu, Former COO at Touch of Modern.
This panel of financial leaders provided invaluable advice on architecting finance stacks for future business conditions. They deliberated on the modern financial tech stack, where they find the most value, and how automation improves operations and drives decision-making.
The Current Finance Tech Stack
When building a financial tech stack, there are many different operational pain points to consider. To help make the CFO office the most efficient and effective it can be, our panel of experts agrees that implementing multiple technology solutions is the key to improving manual, time-consuming processes.
In the very beginning, we just used the basics. We chose a friendly ERP that we could build into. Since Touch of Modern was a consumer business, we used a credit card processing solution, individual department cards, a payables solution for suppliers, a banking solution, a cap table solution, and a tax solution. That was our tech stack. And then over the years, as we scaled, we upgraded as necessary.” —Jonathan Wu, Former COO at Touch of Modern
We have an interesting setup because we have several discrete businesses within our organization. So we do piece together different solutions based on where we are from a budget perspective. Currently, we have a couple of systems that we use on the AP side and one for property management.” —Jonny Harmer, CFO at USA Properties Funding
I’ve been such a systems junkie. I’ve used multiple ERP systems, HR software on the payroll side, AP solutions, equity tracking, a solution for the FP&A side of planning, and contract software.” —Bonnie Tomei, Head of Finance, Achronix Semiconductor Corporation
The Benefits of Automation & Digitization
Tech stacks help CFOs understand how their business is performing, which features are most efficient, and which processes are less user-friendly. Our panelists explain how tech stacks benefit their company and how automation unlocks new opportunities.
From a technology standpoint, anytime that the solution makes it easy to automate the workflow has been proven to help save time and improve processes.” —Bonnie Tomei, Head of Finance, Achronix Semiconductor Corporation
Automation has allowed us to do our work more effectively and efficiently. It’s made it so that our existing team can scale and handle more projects without adding headcount. It’s also been a lifesaver with enabling us to work remotely.” —Jonny Harmer, CFO at USA Properties Funding
Automation allowed us to scale without thinking too much about the financial side of things. Then we could put most of our attention towards marketing growth and building out our operational stack.” —Jonathan Wu, Former COO at Touch of Modern
Evaluating New Software
Evaluating new technology solutions includes looking at all components and determining if they integrate well together. CFOs look for technology that improves user experiences and efficiently streamlines their workflows. Our panelists discuss how not to get your wires crossed during the selection process.
You look at what the company needs. You look at internal controls, you look at the age of the potential product, you look at your pain points, and you look at the workflow. If your tech stack doesn’t make it easy for your executives to review and approve, it’s challenging to gain efficiency.” —Bonnie Tomei, Head of Finance, Achronix Semiconductor Corporation
Our system was outdated—we needed to make a change. We did a very in-depth study looking at a few different providers to see how much time savings we would gain with the efficiencies of a new system.” —Jonny Harmer, CFO at USA Properties Funding
Always have an executive sponsor no matter how small, or large the new technology you’re looking at will be. It gives you the flexibility to essentially adjust your budget as needed to plan and scale for the future.” —Jonathan Wu, Former COO at Touch of Modern
Investing in the Tech Stack
COVID influenced a set of new technological opportunities and updates for CFOs. These thriving leaders strategically invested in technology to meet changing company goals. With strategic investing, our panelists talk about maximizing ROI and future-proofing workflows.
When evaluating technology investments, keep these three things in mind: Strategy, think long-term. People, everybody needs to be engaged to make the implementation a success. And training, understand how the solution is doing and how you can maximize the tool.” —Bonnie Tomei, Head of Finance, Achronix Semiconductor Corporation
Look for tools that have robust APIs and can sit as a core platform—technology solutions that have native integrations with others.” —Jonathan Wu, Former COO at Touch of Modern
There are two things we think about—budget and ROI. What is the actual cost versus what is the anticipated cost? And what do we gain from this new commitment? Just because something becomes more efficient doesn’t always mean it’s more effective.” —Jonny Harmer, CFO at USA Properties Funding
The Importance of External Stakeholders
Digital tools help finance teams improve relations with stakeholders. The CFO should deliver accurate financial results and provide a reliable control framework. Our panelists agree—real-time data proves to partners that the tech stack is beneficial for every party.
We deal with a lot of Fortune 100, 500 companies. They don’t care about our financial stack—they care about theirs. So the question is, “How do we become a part of their ecosystem?” —Bonnie Tomei, Head of Finance, Achronix Semiconductor Corporation
Our auditors were very interested in our financial tech stack. When auditors are familiar with established technology solutions, they don’t feel like they need to audit the software.” —Jonathan Wu, Former COO at Touch of Modern
Listen to stakeholders, not just the investors, the auditors, and regulators, but the principles in the solutions that you’re considering—they’re stakeholders in your success as well.” —Jonny Harmer, CFO at USA Properties Funding
Final Advice From the Experts
Tech stacks provide infinite options for CFOs to explore and scale their business effectively. Our panelists offered practical advice on strategically employing digital tools and automation to propel their business to success. With the right tech stack, the only way is up.
Implement very detailed reporting. Consolidate all of the data into one location, one source, and transform it so that it can be searchable, usable, and extractable.” —Jonny Harmer, CFO at USA Properties Funding
Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize.” —Bonnie Tomei, Head of Finance, Achronix Semiconductor Corporation
Before opening a new role, try to see if you can use technology to delay or replace that hire. This will influence how you look at technology across the spectrum, including within the financial stack.” —Jonathan Wu, Former COO at Touch of Modern
For more insight from the experts, be sure to check out CFO Leadership Council’s panel discussion, Get Stacked! Architecting Your Finance Stack of the Future.