Jimmy Eyerman, group CFO of EDM Group, gives his views on the year ahead
What have been the biggest challenges for your business over the past year, and what role did finance play in addressing them?
In line with changing demands from customers, EDM Group is transitioning the services it provides from paper-based document management to the provision of smart digital processes.
Managing the performance of the analogue business, while investing in new technology and people to support the digital solution transformation has been the biggest challenge over the past 12 months.
The customers we work with in the US and UK operate in highly regulated markets such as financial services and they are all at different stages in their own digital transformation programmes of change. Finance has supported primarily with data-driven insights around customers and sales performance, as well as resource allocation decisions.
What are the key political and economic risks/opportunities you face in the year ahead?
The US election and Brexit have upset the macro environment and currency values, but as a business with a significant US contribution, the strengthening dollar can lift results if the US business performs up to expectations.
While we haven’t had any customers ‘saying’ they are delaying investment, recent events have driven uncertainty. However, our business may be presented opportunities as an outsourcing business service and technology provider, as companies look to reduce cost due to uncertainties and shed critical but non-core competencies.
Which capex projects will you be focusing on in 2017, and how will these be financed?
Our focus this year will be squarely on investing in technology to refine our US operations and develop our business process platform.
This will be financed with cash generation from operations, as will the ongoing expansion of technology solutions for customers in the process of digitising their businesses.
How do you expect the balance of your role to change in the coming year; between compliance and forward-looking/strategic? And why?
The CFO role continues to evolve so that it is as much about operational and strategic insights as it is about compliance, accounting and forecasting.
Going forward, the CFO needs to understand and advise on how to connect financial success drivers with changes needed in the business to reach objectives. If we’re not reaching those objectives, then why not and how do we need to pivot in order to do so?
That could involve helping to instigate change in technology, resourcing or even product marketing – the CFO needs to provide data and analytics that enable the business to manage risk and opportunity. That means spending more time analysing data and less time producing it, which in itself fits in with the trend towards financial process automation.
Advice for other FDs for the coming year?
My biggest piece of advice is to focus on what’s important. Because of the changing role CFOs have, there is much more they need to get involved with, but they can’t do everything.
There needs to be a laser-like focus on what is important, and then there needs to be clear communication with the team to ensure they know where the priorities lie. Ensure the right people are in the right roles – you cannot be successful without them.
Supporting that, it’s important to remember the old adage of ‘what gets measured gets managed’. Get your KPIs in place and your reporting systems aligned to measure progress and deliver insights to business users.
Finally, stay externally focused. You need to listen to your customers and keep a close eye on your competitors and your market. Then follow what the data says to support decisions and change direction when you need to.