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Strategic priorities for CFOs now

CFOs and finance teams are well positioned to provide valued strategic counsel when businesses are adapting to evolving external circumstances such as those brought about by COVID-19.

Insights Jason Toshack, Oracle NetSuite 28 August 2020
— 2 minute read

As businesses in ANZ start to reopen their stores and scale up operations in line with government health directives, strong leadership and solid guidance from CFOs will help teams align priorities and plan effectively for the months ahead. 

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Here are some key areas for CFOs to consider as businesses around the globe look to rebuild their operations.

Use scenario planning to boost transparency and agility

Accurate forecasting during rapidly changing market conditions is particularly difficult. What may be relevant today can quickly be irrelevant the day or the week after. This is when frequent, and comprehensive, forecasting is critical.

Start by creating multiple scenarios, examining the various political, economic, social and technological factors that might influence each, and forecast the business impact of each from best to worst case. With these scenarios in mind, you can develop more accurate risk analysis across business units, identify new challenges or even uncover potential opportunities.

Here are some areas for consideration when planning scenarios:

• Review sales forecasts and develop assumptions that assume another lockdown or wave of restrictions and a moderate/fast recovery
• Review all hiring plans, salary raises, bonuses and other planned expenses
• Examine working capital, payable, receivable and all cash flow-related projections and assumptions
• Factor in other risks, such as employees getting sick or suppliers not being able to deliver goods and services. Develop secondary options for these scenarios
• Re-assess costs and allocated budgets sitting where it may no longer be needed, such as events or travel

Ensure your employees, customers and suppliers are set up for success

When external factors are ever-changing, it is often necessary to review business operations more frequently and ensure your employees, customers and suppliers are set up for success.

Employees 

The health, safety and wellbeing of employees are a primary concern. As information from federal and state governments comes to light on the trajectory of COVID-19, CFOs need to have a plan in place to adapt accordingly. Business leaders should consider:

• The most recent and relevant guidelines from local health authorities and how these impact employees 
• Who should be responsible for co-ordinating reopening and return to work conditions? Ideally, this is a leader with operational experience
• How updates on return to work will be shared with employees and how their questions, concerns and personal circumstances will be accounted for — empathy is crucial here

Customers

This is a crucial time to stay close to customers and build loyalty which will fuel long-term growth beyond immediate setbacks. A report by Deloitte outlines key factors in building customer loyalty amid evolving circumstances, including:

• Stay true to your brand and purpose
• Boost communication to customers (and employees), highlighting your appreciation for them
• Think about special services you can offer high-value customers to demonstrate your commitment
• Review orders, supply chain and inventory to assess whether you will be able to deliver what was promised to customers. Communicate this with customers regularly
• Prepare and expect requests for longer payment terms. Minimise unpaid account receivables by invoicing on time and without error 

Suppliers

Supply chains can be disrupted by any number of factors including product shortages, shipping delays and evolving customer demands. Determine which suppliers are critical to business operations and see how you can best work together while “business as usual” may be disrupted. This could include amending supplier contracts with longer delivery or payment terms. 

CFOs have the finger on the pulse of the business, providing insights that guide all business units. By re-assessing impact planning, using scenarios to map out potential risks and opportunities and forecasting frequently, CFOs will provide much-needed insights and help business leaders adapt to external circumstances with confidence.

Jason Toshack, general manager ANZ, Oracle NetSuite

Strategic priorities for CFOs now
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