Administration, Finance and Control: analysing the numbers, understanding company events, and having the ability to plan and make forecasts for future or alternative scenarios. And simplifying messages to share with the entire company. We talk about the aspects of the job with the Administration, Finance and Control Manager, Marco Zanni.
Albert Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge. How much room is there for imagination in your job?
Our job is based on technical foundations and is generally seen as being slightly boring, uncreative work. Fortunately, this is actually not the case. Along with the technical aspects that remain important, our job requires deep knowledge of the company, the business and the connections between the various departments, so our role is increasingly moving towards that of a business partner. With this in mind, imagination encourages the development of new ideas and helps find new solutions to support the company. Imagination helps even more to improve relationships between people, and brings us to analyse the same problem from various angles, empathising with other people’s point of view. If properly developed, all these characteristics become a factor for success for anyone who does our job. That said, we must not forget that the main goals of the AFC professional family include guaranteeing accurate, transparent information. So while, on the one hand, creativity, imagination and empathy are welcome for finding new solutions, on the other hand, great attention is also needed to the rules and processes. A good part of the success of our role comes from knowing how to find the right balance between these aspects: creativity and imagination for business, and knowledge and skills to support decisions that are at times uncomfortable and not much fun, yet always necessary.
Jeremy Hope, one of the leading figures in the world in the field of performance management and the author of the best-seller “Reinventing the CFO”, likes to simplify things: his model suggests that companies only focus on numbers when they are really useful, staying away from a paranoia of details.
What is your approach?
The most fun part of our job is analysing the numbers, understanding company events, and having the ability to plan and make forecasts for future or alternative scenarios. All this work requires the ability to look at the numbers in the eyes of someone who understands the business and company and not of someone who is paranoid about every detail. However, I would add that focusing on the top part is a luxury and some fun that only applies to people who have very solid foundations. Only looking at useful numbers is definitely all you need, but only after having guaranteed that all the other numbers below, the ones which not everyone wants to examine, are made with the right level of detail, analysis and expertise. If the base is missing, what you see above is not reliable and an unreliable number can lead to wrong decisions. Another very important concept is simplification. When doing our job, we often run the risk of being incomprehensible to our colleagues at the company. We talk about the principles of accounting, financial parameters and data classification in a way that is not easy to interpret for everyone and this can lead to a certain distance between what we do and the benefit which the rest of the company perceives. Our goal, on the other hand, is to make the messages we bring to the rest of the company very simple and understandable. We have to be able to summarise and explain the result in such a way that it is easy to read and interpret even for people who deal with something else, if we do not manage to do this, it means we are doing something wrong. Once again it is about balancing various aspects of our work; we have to convey simple messages that are easy to interpret, even though the analysis that leads to the summary is complex.
How has the role of the CFO changed in recent years and what skills are needed by the CFO of tomorrow?
I think one of the most important tasks for our professional family is to provide all the economic and financial information to support company decisions in a correct, transparent way that is easy to interpret and at the appropriate times. Our task is to describe where the company is going, where we predict it will go in the future and what steps we think are necessary to change course if needed. We are the navigator who says how fast we go and, above all, which bend will come immediately after and after that again. We also have the task of promoting and supporting change, and of setting the right level of “challenge” when we think that different solutions to the established versions can lead to more effective business models. And we have to do all this while ensuring compliance with processes and rules and being strong enough to say no when we think we have all the elements that we can and must say it. From this point of view, our role does not change and I do not believe it will change in the future. However, the needs of the business change, the tools change and so it is essential to be faster and more concise, to improve our analytical skills, knowing how to find the right solutions to support the business and to help the company achieve its goals. We will be greatly affected by automation processes and digitisation, and some activities will become outdated. I see an opportunity in this: we will spend less time in preparing the details and we will have more time to interpret and analyse events that generate the numbers. I would like to add to all this an essential and now highly topical issue: we will have to support and verify the process that helps achieve sustainability goals. Our job will no longer just involve assessing economic and financial parameters, but also analysing indicators and actions, and the relative level of implementation, which are required to guarantee the right transition towards becoming a more sustainable company.
A message to share.
Every day at work can be an opportunity to improve what we do, to bring value to our team, to learn something new and to help our company grow. I do not know if it may be useful for other colleagues too, but I like to make a quick balance sheet at the end of every day because I am convinced that the big results we want to achieve come from lots of small actions, from our commitment and our ability to collaborate and interact every single day.