The last few years have brought a lot of change to all of us. Going through a pandemic has meant change to our personal as well as our professional lives. At Teradata, my role as CFO includes not only the traditional finance, accounting, investor relations, and internal audit teams, but also IT & procurement, information security, business process management, and operations. We are seeing a lot of change happening in all those areas and the pace is only accelerating.
When I started out in finance, we were very much focused on pure accounting -- the technical side -- making sure we got the numbers right. Over the years, we have evolved as a finance organization to be much more than that. Now more than ever we strive to drive business value, have a customer-first mindset and be a trusted business advisor. This transition has been happening for many years, but recently it has accelerated noticeably. Finance is now the catalyst of change. We are at the table, not just talking about the numbers, but influencing the business strategy. Because of that, you are seeing more and more CFOs take on responsibilities outside of the traditional world of finance, leading strategic, operational teams.
The Importance of Collaboration
This transformation will not happen overnight. It is a journey. On that journey you need to have a network of people to go through it together, solving real issues and finding solutions. Learning from each other is such an opportunity. I strongly believe in the importance of networking and collaboration as fundamental elements to success in today’s dynamic environment. I am part of a leadership advisory group for finance leaders. It is a great example for collaboration and sharing expertise. We learn from each other, and leverage each other for information, sharing ideas and feedback. We live in a new era, where we do not have a lot of clear answers. You can be more agile and move so much faster if we are all trying out different ideas and sharing feedback. We don’t know what the future holds, and we don't have all the answers. But we can get them much quicker when we work together. Collaboration and expertise wins!
The Most Important Asset
We can never forget that people are our most important asset. It takes a global village to make things happen. The recent years have changed people. Many want a different — better — balance. They want to try new things. At Teradata, a lot of our “people” development plans and programs have shifted to make sure that we are focusing on engagement and well-being. We are running wellness days and interactive sessions on balancing work and life in this flexible work world. We want people to be their best and are supporting them through mentoring programs, leadership development and new opportunities. I am a big fan of having people rotate through many different roles. We have introduced our own rotational programs, and we are encouraging our people to go and try something new; something they may not even have considered before. Giving people those opportunities and helping them to develop and grow is what enables you to retain talent. You also attract and identify new talent in the organization, both internally and externally. It is always exciting to see what people can do. People always surprise me in the positive. They deliver, they perform, and hopefully they enjoy it, too.
Recession and inflation put pressure on every organization. It puts cost pressure on all of us. In this climate we still must invest in the future, though. We cannot sacrifice that. At the end, it comes down to ruthlessly prioritizing. For me it is about people, process, and technology. In those three areas, we must ruthlessly prioritize investments to make sure we are looking after our people, enabling them to be the best, having the right processes end to end and making the right investments in technology. But we can't do everything. Especially when we have cost and inflationary pressures. Finance should drive that discussion at the leadership table. How are we going to prioritize to ensure we are doing the right thing, not just for today, not just for the next 12 months, but for the next three, five and seven years to come? Again, you’re starting to see more “back office” teams be catalysts of change driving these important discussions every day in companies across the globe.
The Chief Future Officer
What does the future look like? Already today, it is not just about having the data. It is about what you do with the data. What decisions are we going to make based on the data? Finance should be able to come forward with recommendations and advice on finance topics but also on relevant topics, which might not have been traditionally driven by the CFO. Many CFOs, including myself, are for example heavily involved in Environmental Social Governance (ESG). I'm the co-sponsor of our Corporate Citizenship Council at Teradata. There is a data element to ESG. But more importantly the question is, how do we help lead the ESG strategy of our companies? What are we doing as a company to make progress in these key areas, which may not have traditionally been considered as part of finance? Maybe Chief Finance Officers will be our Chief Future Officers going forward.
Navigating Challenging Times
These are challenging times. What helps finance organizations around the globe navigate these times? Planning helps. Having a plan is great because it helps to think through where you want to go. But don’t forget, things don't always go according to plan. So be agile!
Take control. Take control of your own career, take control of your own experiences. Collaborate. Network. As individuals, we can do a lot for sure. We can work hard; we can push things. But teamwork really does make the difference. It's about having the right team around you, both from a personal and a career standpoint. That's when you'll meet your full potential. Again, it is so important right now to collaborate. Collaboration speeds up change.
Have a sense of urgency and move things forward. Things are moving fast. Lead with speed to make sure you do not get left behind.