The art of (business) storytelling

Published on the 17/07/2018 | Written by Heather Wright

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CFOs need to improve their storytelling abilities in order to help speed digital transformation, according to one expert who says a disconnect between CFOs and their boards is hampering business transformation projects.

Steven Skinner, leader of Oracle NetSuite’s JAPAC CFO Centre of Excellence, says a big pitfall he’s continuing to see in implementations, including for ERP systems, is failure to have top down engagement.

Skinner says CFOs – who are increasingly the driving force for IT procurement – often fail to communicate early with the board of directors and C-suite peers.

“If they don’t tell it in a way that resonates with the board, they won’t see it as an important strategic initiative that should be adopted.”

“Often, when they start seeking approval for such a program, it gets knocked on the head because the CFO hasn’t communicated with the board and their C-suite peers. And that’s a missed opportunity.”

Skinner says the Centre of Excellence is designed to encourage boards of directors and the C-suite on their business transformation programmes, working with CFOs to articulate business problems, build out solutions to address the specific pain points and highlight the value proposition.

Skinner says boards need CFOs and the C-suite to step up with a strong story around what competitors are doing, the challenges the company is facing and their impact on the business, along with the potential solutions available and the outcomes following resolution, to present a strong business case.

“If they don’t tell it in a way that resonates with the board, they won’t see it as an important strategic initiative that should be adopted.”

While Skinner says vendors have a role to play in helping the C-suite position solutions to the board, the building of a story and business case around what a company’s future could look like, at the end of the day, it is the business itself that is accountable for the decision made.

“If you’ve got any doubts you should resolve those before you make a procurement decision. A big part of my role is mentoring to resolve those doubts so you don’t have any.”

Skinner’s role includes helping align a company’s strategic goals – such as growing organically or through M&As, improving productivity, taking new products to market with agility and speed, building capacity, providing more visibility and transparency across its business, having a better ERP solution or solutions for a particular function or department – with a technology transformation plan.

He notes that procurement, previously seen as an IT decision, is increasingly moving away from CIOs and the IT team and falling on CFOs as enterprise-wide strategists, with a bottom line focus and deeper understanding of the wider business, including regulatory controls.

One key factor in moving IT procurement away from the IT department is the move to cloud applications.

“Historically, with on-premise applications, IT has tended to drive the initiatives. With cloud based business applications it becomes a strategic business decision.”

But that doesn’t mean the IT team has a diminished role. Instead their role moves to value-adding activities, such as integrations between applications, and ways to build closer relationships with customers for example.

“They can really provide more value that way, being a real strategist for IT and a change catalyst for IT, rather than being an operator or steward of IT,” Skinner says.

Skinner is urging businesses to embrace multi-tenanted cloud applications, which he says can allow business to have up to date insights into operations and provide a platform for growth.

“If you’re not providing customer experiences that today’s consumers expect, you are likely going to lose customers to those brands who are easy to do business with,” he says.

“With true multi-tenanted ERP cloud platforms, like NetSuite, customers can be assured that they will always have access to the most up to date and current version of the application which will not only provide real-time insights into the state of their business, but also allows access to data and information that can drive strategic business decisions.”

Note: Steven Skinner no longer works for Oracle NetSuite

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