The way things are recorded in accounting has not changed, but the way people interact with data has changed greatly, Amir Jafari, chief financial officer at Plastiq, told PYMNTS. For example, he explained that the system of records has been untouched for 40 years, while the move to enable greater speed and visibility has been underway for the past five or 10 years.
“We talk about digital being workflows, being systems of action, which is really the starting point, but trying to end with a system of connection so that you have greater visibility and mitigate risk — and that’s really just the beginning in terms of how we’ve seen things change,” Jafari said as part of PYMNTS’ “Day in the Life of a CFO” series.
To handle this switch, he said CFOs must be strategic and balance their worlds in such a way that they can create and maintain a foundation and structure for the back office — people, processes and automation — while also delivering access to data in real time.
“That’s going to be one of the biggest pressures that makes you reconsider how you would restructure processes from 20 years ago or 10 years ago until today, to really make it scalable for the future,” Jafari said.
Building a Built-to-Last Company
Among the things that are top of mind among Jafari’s responsibilities as a CFO is ensuring a built-to-last company, which means making sure projects that are undertaken today are set up for the right scale.
Risk, in all its forms, is also top of mind for almost any CFO, he said — not just in terms of fraud, but in terms of top-line profitability, how systems are being handled, connectivity and how teams are working in the post-COVID world.
“So, those two factors are how you handle your world,” Jafari said. “We all have a desire to be strategic, but we’re making sure that we’re establishing the right processes and creating that automation, that scale capability, within our back-office organization.”
Winning in a Corporate World
As defenders of the company, Jafari said CFOs must play defense to protect what’s happening in the business, while their peers play offense and focus on the future progression of the company. “That’s when you find real balance and the equation for how to win in a corporate world,” he noted.
With the start of the pandemic and the move to remote work, Plastiq focused first on protecting employees, and secondly on making sure there is still camaraderie and a focus on joint goals.
As far as the back office, those who wanted to be on the journey of digital transformation have had the opportunity to become accelerants, and those who were more hesitant about digitization have had to become more forward-thinking.
Understanding Data and Ensuring Interconnectivity
Over the next year or two, Jafari believes data will play a bigger role in the back office, and he stressed that companies need to understand that. Connectivity is also important: As companies deploy different systems for the digitization of certain processes, they must make sure those systems are connected and working together.
“It’s essential to have interconnectivity, or integration, so that these systems can speak to each other, so that it simplifies and automates the majority of the work we do,” Jafari said.