The Key To Digital Transformation? Simplify Processes First

Ana Maria Chadwick, CFO of Pitney Bowes, says the steps you take before embarking on digital change can make all the difference.
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Ana Maria Chadwick, CFO, Pitney Bowes

For finance professional Ana Maria Chadwick, it’s all about process optimization, communication and collaboration.

Chadwick, CFO of Stamford, Connecticut-based global shipping and mailing company Pitney Bowes, spoke with StrategicCFO360 about how her company is improving finance processes, being purposeful and why CFOs should be wary of the trendy.

What do you think is the biggest organizational trend in finance and why?

Over the past few decades, outsourcing and later automation were viewed as key strategies CFOs would reach for in their quest for productivity. Times have changed and now digital transformation and artificial intelligence have become top of mind for many CFOs. However, as many embark on this journey, the importance of collaboration is often overlooked. In fact, a survey of CFOs conducted by PYMNTS found that a lack of resources and the burden of technological integration have typically stood in the way of progress, meaning part of the battle is getting everyone on the same page first.

That is why this year, I have formalized an initiative among my global team of 300-plus professionals at Pitney Bowes to ensure that process optimization, communication and collaboration are top of mind. I believe that the key to success lies in making Lean Six-Sigma principles and Kaizen brainstorming events for continuous improvement part of our culture. We need to move beyond automating specific repetitive activities and look cross functionally at end-to-end processes to truly transform the customer and employee experiences.

Do you think digital transformation is being thought about or used in the most effective way by CFOs to support accounting processes and reporting?

While each CFO has their own goals for improving accounting and reporting processes, I do think that the pandemic and remote work has shed light on ways we can all be using technology more effectively. For example, I think that having the majority of a workforce work remotely highlighted the silos that can be created at work without proper communication and collaboration.

It is my belief that before CFOs begin using new technologies, we should first be more purposeful in examining our current processes, so complexities and other improvements don’t fall through the cracks when new technologies are implemented.

What advice do you have for CFOs on how to improve accounting processes and reporting, and the role digital transformation plays in the current landscape?

As CFOs look toward digitally transforming accounting and reporting processes, I would advise them to first look to minimize process complexities and increase collaboration to drive greater efficiencies. Though this may be tough in a world of hybrid/remote working, establishing a process for communication and addressing complexities before turning to digitization must be the priority.

Working with a remote or hybrid team brings new challenges, which is why we need to be that much more purposeful in engaging our teams. At Pitney Bowes, we have been addressing this challenge by hosting Kaizen events to drive purposeful interactions centered around action-oriented continuous improvement.

CFOs need to move quickly to allocate and reward teams that break the monthly or quarterly cycle of closing the books, reporting and reconciling accounts, by introducing new processes and technologies that will drastically transform processes and the employee experience. I think a winning formula is founded on a continuous improvement culture that is not looking at digital transformation without first simplifying the processes you are looking to digitize.

This is why I invite you to ask yourself, what are you simplifying today? It is a question I constantly ask myself and my teams.

How do you expect this trend to evolve in the future and how can CFOs stay ahead of these changes?

There have always been new and trendy technologies and plenty of suppliers knocking at our doors selling solutions. However, I think a CFO who is intentional about simplifying their organization’s processes today will be more successful at implementing new technologies in the future. The PYMNTS survey that I mentioned previously also interestingly found that nearly all CFOs surveyed—96 percent—agreed that transforming business payments isn’t solely about accelerating cash flows or reducing costs, but rather, it’s about improving B2B relationships. This finding closely mirrors my opinion, that CFOs who are truly leaders in our industry are those who can identify opportunities to make things better for their customers and organizations, before focusing on new trends.

 

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