Better Together: CFOs Reveal the Challenges That a Blended Team of Experts Helped Them Overcome

Jay Thompson, Managing Director Business Performance Improvement, Protiviti
Melissa Shipman, Managing Vice President Managed Business Services, Robert Half

Protiviti and Robert Half frequently host summits with our clients to understand their views on various topics. We very much value our clients’ time, and these forums provide us an opportunity to listen to and learn from those we service. At a recent gathering in San Francisco, we organized a similar panel of chief financial officers (CFOs). This post is the first of a three-part series to share what we heard from the participants.

Our clients at the forum described their experiences with interim resourcing solutions, with one CFO summing up the general sentiment like this: “I prefer to use people who can relate to my challenges; who have been in the trenches, cried my tears and bled my blood.”

She made that comment to highlight how important specific operational experience is to her company, and that it must accompany the strategic-level advice provided by most consulting firms. Teams that blend both kinds of expertise in that way often include experts in digital transformation, business performance and other strategic areas, augmented by operational staff with relevant finance and accounting expertise. Together, these resources deliver the right blend of strategic insight and operational muscle. 

At Protiviti and Robert Half, we define this model as Managed Business Services (MBS). This CFO went on to remark, “I gain great insight working with consultants, but when you blend it with operational talent to bring in specific financing and accounting experience — or particular industry or system expertise — that’s powerful.”

Her words captured what many CFOs know well: Experts can bring value by providing a broad, forward-looking perspective on enterprise successes and challenges. But it’s often the resources that supplement that expertise — those who possess a similar industry background or system expertise that’s analogous to the client’s environment, and have tackled the same problems before — that make the relationship successful.

Supporting Major Initiatives and Accelerating Transformation

We heard another story at our recent forum about a blended team assisting with an acquisition. Because a key member of the team had been a controller in the past, a collaboration with the client’s own corporate controller emerged very naturally. Working together, they were able to avoid the transaction pitfalls to which an uninitiated accountant could fall prey.

Also, as with many acquisitions, this one involved a population of employees who were resistant to the coming changes. Members of the blended team whose backgrounds were similar to these employees helped to build rapport with them, which sped adoption of this organization’s transformation. The CFO expressed great relief that the blended team helped accomplish this acquisition more quickly and easily than anticipated.

Yet another CFO described using a blended team to implement a new payroll system. Because one of the resources was fresh from a similar project, the daunting process of converting payrolls from two legacy systems onto the new platform was achieved with speed and accuracy. “Literally, we could not have done this without Julie,” this CFO told us. “Not only did she go through every payroll register and create adjustment files for us to load, but she also reconciled 26 payrolls between ADP and Workday. She was also available at the drop of a hat to make sure we were set up for our final payrolls. I cannot tell you how much we appreciate her efforts.”

When CFOs consider bringing in outside help to support major initiatives, not every consulting firm available to help will have ready access to resources who’ve “been in the same trenches; bled the same blood — the operational experts with several years industry experience as controllers, financial analysts, payroll managers, procurement specialists. These individuals have direct experience with the same tasks, issues and deadlines our clients face. They have these matters on their minds as they come into a new assignment, from years of practice. They’ve been through data conversions, system implementations, acquisitions and other challenging initiatives many times before.

A client at our recent forum said: “It comes as a great relief to me when I hear one of your team members say, ‘I’ve actually been a controller going through an acquisition very similar to this one,’ or ‘These are the things we learned when I was implementing SAP.’ It tells me you are more than a consulting firm; you were in the same seat as I’m in now.”

We will share more CFO stories from the panel in our upcoming posts on this blog. Subscribe to receive them in your inbox.

Add comment