In the midst of the news of the federal and state government’s dramatic social distancing measures to reduce the infection trajectory of the COVID-19 curve, remote working has become the new norm. Now every CFO is now operating as a Virtual CFO.
I understand too well how sad the current situation is and I am taking it very seriously. I have elderly parents who live 3 hours away and have isolated. I’m not sure when I will see them next. My partner owns a local café that is subject to compulsory shut down indefinitely as I type and my daughter has already lost her part-time job due to lack of customers. Thankfully none of my clan have been infected yet.
I’m choosing realism over populism by saying this, but the elephant in the room is that the virus shutdown is the ultimate in validation for the virtual working model.
Mainstream businesses that previously have looked at virtual working as a short term alternative to on site working will have no other option than to look for ways to embrace remote working if they hope to survive, and possibly even thrive.
The days where “remote working” is considered an inferior alternative to having full time on-site staff has passed, as we are now forced to adapt our working practices, or lose out to our competitors who are more willing to adapt to the pace of change.
Let’s be clear on this, at the most important juncture, at the most vulnerable point in most companies’ entire histories traditional on site CFOs are now operating as Virtual CFOs. If the companies they work for do survive, their Virtual CFO will have had to overcome psychological inertia, and historical barriers that companies have clung to out of comfort and change by adapting to the new order of the world.
The mandated shut downs will force CFOs to learn new skills and technology, to manage their teams remotely and continue to deliver on performance targets.
Processes will need to be tight and delegation more outcome based. CFOs will have learn to trust their team, and effectively communicate expectations in order to succeed.
And what they will discover is at least 10 benefits :
1. Their companies didn’t collapse because there was an empty chair in the corner office.
2. CFOs can still function. Differently, but just as effectively.
3. The work will get done. People are resourceful and will find a way and they probably get more done via remote flexible working than chained to a cubicle.
4. Remote working workflows become better, more efficient, more transparent and less key person reliance risk.
5. Staff turnover and sick leave will ordinarily be lower.
6. If they are brutally honest, most CFOs can cut ‘non-essential’ activities off their remit, resulting in reduced duplication controlling effort, reduced regurgitated messaging and unnecessary opportunistic interruptions.
7. Non-essential activities stick out like a sore thumb when you work remote. Eventually they simply stop. It’s much easier to join the dots looking back.
8. They have 2.5 hours each day of extra time as they aren’t wasting it commuting. More time for work, more time for family.
9. The roads, trains and cities become less congested
10. Morale and culture are more than Friday drinks and massages at your desk.
Left to their own devices, most CFOs would probably prefer to change nothing. CFOs are risk averse. They hate change. Change is risk –many feel it’s better not to change than to manage a small risk for a big reward. The idiom “why fix it if it ain’t broke” could be the calling card of a CFO. In the past they would have resisted making changes for no apparent gain, thinking things like “Who are the staff going to ask now – we can’t just have people running around making decisions willy nilly?”
But if they are to survive, they must overcome that thinking. Processes, procedures and a delegation matrix need to be properly mapped, so all that thinking is effectively done up-front. Routine decisions need to be delegated to the appropriate level. There is less reliance on ad-hoc authorisation and less over-authorisation.
As this historic health and economic event unfolds CFOs need to remove themselves as bottlenecks or their companies simply won’t survive. They need to embrace technology, remote working and design a way to let things flow. If their companies do survive, their Virtual CFO will have played an integral role in that.
Think about this, if your company can weather the worst storm on record by embracing a Virtual CFO, when you come out the other side why would you ever revert to the old way?