Fluid Information: How CFOs Adapt to “Unprecedented Times”

By Brian Busch in SaaS Integration, API Industry Trends Posted May 27, 2020

As companies cautiously approach a “new normal” during the COVID-19 pandemic, chief financial officers (CFOs) play a critical role grappling with never-before-seen issues. Short- and long-term financial controls are essential in a gyrating economic environment, yet CFOs struggle because they rely on myriad software applications to manage vast amounts of information. The data exist, but actionable insights depend on deep integration across a multitude of enterprise systems.

how cfos adapt to unprecedented times

Extraordinary Real Estate Decisions

Let’s look at real estate, for example. In a matter of weeks, working from home (WFH) has become the norm for many office workers. An April 2020 survey conducted by PwC of 871 CFOs in 24 countries worldwide found that 41% of CFOs are more likely than average to consider reducing their real estate footprint in light of COVID-19. In investigating the impact of WFH in New York City, The New York Times reported on the enormity of employers’ real estate decisions:

Barclays, JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley are part of a banking industry that has long been a pillar of the city’s economy, with more than 20,000 employees. Collectively, they lease more than 10 million square feet in New York — roughly all the office space in downtown Nashville.

Jes Staley, the chief executive of Barclays, the British bank, said that “the notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past.”

James Gorman, the Morgan Stanley chief executive, [said that the firm] had “proven we can operate with no footprint. That tells you an enormous amount about where people need to be physically.”

In a recent email to employees, JP Morgan Chase, which until last year had been the largest office tenant in New York City, said the company was reviewing how many people would be allowed to return. More than 180,000 Chase employees have been working from home.

In the immediate wake of the mid-March WFH mandates, IT teams scrambled to ensure employees could do their jobs remotely. But as companies consider long-term adaptations as the NYT piece indicates, IT teams will likely have to reexamine how they support critical business processes when employees can’t “swivel chair” to ask questions or handle exceptions manually.

Controlling Fixed and Variable Expenses

In making sure companies can operate and even invest amid the downturn, CFOs are under enormous pressure to control costs and make the smartest decisions possible. In the past, office space and real estate were typically addressed as mid- to long-term planning project. The massive economic change created by the pandemic calls for real-time assessment of workplace costs, usage, options, and alternatives. 

Purpose-built software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions can provide fluid, integrated data flow from financial, HR, ERP, and CRM systems so that CFOs can implement short-term expense controls while also analyzing more strategic long-term moves. This crisis, like others in recent memory, has reprioritized IT’s integration roadmap, giving CFOs hope of more holistic and real-time visibility.

However, as businesses begin to reopen, integration to manage costs may compete with automation and digitization efforts that leaders say are necessary to keep customers and employees safe, according to the May 11 update of the PWC survey mentioned above.

SaaS Firms Bear the Burden of Integration

To win sales and gain market share, the integration burden often shifts to the shoulders of SaaS vendors. In the procure-to-pay process, for example, that means integrating with customers’ highly-customized ERP systems—each new customer a time-consuming professional services engagement. 

More, SaaS firms don’t have unlimited development resources and may have to choose between core product features and building enormous portfolios of point-to-point API connections. For product companies, both differentiating functionality and robust integrations are necessary to deploy reliable solutions in complex enterprise environments. 

To win, SaaS point solution providers need a way to achieve one-to-many integration. That’s what Cloud Elements delivers. A wide range of leading SaaS providers rely on Cloud Elements for one-to-many API integration, including: 

  • Global payables automation (Tipalti)
  • Corporate credit card and expense management (Divvy)
  • Integrated travel, expense and invoice management (SAP Concur)
  • Realtime expense request, approval and tracking (Teampay)
  • Replacing paper invoices with digital processes (Tungsten)
  • Source-to-pay process management and network (SAP Ariba)

Learn More

Find out more about how your company’s SaaS solution can quickly become an indispensable tool for CFOs navigating the pandemic’s economic recovery in our latest eBook, “What Today’s CFOs Need to Know: Everything, at Any Moment.”