With the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations face drastic revenue losses resulting in budget cuts and restructuring. In addition to this immediate impact, other short- and long-term economic challenges are pressuring organizations to become agile and adapt their financial decision-making and modeling to not only weather the pandemic, but also drive sustainable competitive advantage in spite of it.
The pandemic has accelerated the urgency of organizations to adjust paradigms toward the new economic normal. This requires new financial management policies and practices across the value chain. Financial management will be a catalyst of change as organizations reengineer their business models to ensure business continuity and pursue new growth opportunities.
In this blog, we share some high-level recommendations to help financial leaders serve as agile business partners throughout the pandemic. With the right mindset and actions, financial leaders can play an important role in enabling their organizations to effectively respond, rebound and reinvent in the face of unprecedented financial challenges.
Respond: Conduct a broad assessment of current financial operations
Responding effectively to the pandemic’s financial impacts first requires a broad assessment of current financial operations. Through this assessment, as agile business partners, financial leaders can identify and deliver pragmatic solutions for immediate adjustments to systems, controls, reporting and governance that will protect cash, manage risks and advance their organization’s overall business agenda.
Additional recommendations for this critical response phase include the following:
- Align the financial department, IT and business units through a common language and understanding of operational and capital expenditures, as well as information transparency
- Deliver financial management best practices in comparative analysis, cost benchmarking, cost transparency, and cost planning and savings
- Lead discussions and decisions on structural changes to assess costs and secure cash for new growth opportunities
- Assess the finance department’s maturity, value, risk and cost mapping
- Identify short-term opportunities for financial process standardization and automation
- Prioritize value-add, short-term actions for cost savings
- Reduce financial process vulnerability through contingency planning
- Share a financial diagnosis, with recommendations and an overall vision, in full transparency with the executive leadership
Rebound: Invest in financial processes and tools that optimize financial assets
In the rebound phase, it is important that the financial department has the necessary processes and tools for optimizing the organization’s financial assets. This requires, for example, creating a more collaborative environment with simpler and more automated financial processes that provide faster and more autonomous access to critical financial data. Doing so helps to ensure the financial department is well equipped to drive positive changes in response to negative impacts for the benefit of the entire organization.
Other key rebound recommendations include the following:
- Develop financial models that analyze recovery, probabilities and risk exposure
- Secure working capital and financing for agile business development and expansion
- Mobilize time, capital and resources to focus on growth opportunities with the biggest payoffs
- Reduce the risk of new capital expenditures and improve return on investment, key performance indicators, payback and cost savings
- Reduce operational costs while increasing return on investment and change velocity
- Manage critical project execution to ensure expected business outcomes and reduce overspend
- Identify medium-term opportunities for financial process standardization and automation
- Achieve a balance between reducing costs while ensuring quality of service-level agreements, contracts, security, resiliency and serviceability
Reinvent: Focus on long-term financial transformation and growth generation
In the post-COVID new economic normal, the weakening impact of the pandemic on corporate cash and capital reserves will likely lengthen any recession recovery and require organizations to reassess how they adapt and run their financial operations. New ways of working and new business models will emerge, as organizations address dramatic changes in their ecosystems and supply chains.
As these changes unfold, financial leaders will likely rethink their own role, focusing on broader, longer-term financial transformation that helps to generate growth. Here are some recommendations to consider in the reinvention phase:
- Allocate capital expenditures to drive sustainable financial model transformation and make the model more skills-based and agile
- Promote financial modeling principles as the basis for driving value, business intelligence and return on investment
- Identify long-term financial process standardization and automation opportunities
- Reinvent financial management structures, systems and processes through innovative design thinking, robotic process automation and artificial intelligence
- Free up resources to lend finance expertise to a sustainable business model for value creation
- Reconsider financial leadership capabilities for areas such as driving sustainable business value in the new economic normal
- Convert new strategies into actionable results, aligned decision-making and transparent communication
While the new economic normal continues to evolve rapidly before our eyes, financial leaders with foresight, preparedness and agility play an extremely important role in ensuring the business continuity and ongoing viability of their organizations throughout the course of the pandemic and long afterwards.
CGI business consultants are working with organizations across the globe to drive performance and competitiveness through innovative financial management practices. To learn more about our work, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.