Voice of the CFO: Looking Beyond the Books

Chief financial officers (CFO) positioning their companies to scale to the next level have their optimization work cut out for them.


Dennis SchumacherCFO at Coolfiresaid he and his team have been adding automation, considering how the company’s employees work and the real estate footprint they need to do it, and analyzing possible effects of the changing macroeconomic environment.

Schumacher joined the cybersecurity firm in December 2021, bringing over 25 years of experience in a variety of finance, accounting, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and operational leadership roles at IT companies. He was tasked with positioning 20-year-old Coalfire for the next level of success.

“What I was asked to do is look at the operating environment as well as the tech stack and the ability to work kind of cross function to set Coalfire up for the ability to scale to each of the next levels — half a billion, a billion and beyond,” Schumacher said. “So, that’s what takes up most of my day.”

Focusing on Adding Value

Interviewed for the PYMNTS series “A Day in the Life of a Digital-First CFO,” Schumacher said the company launched a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system with Workday in January and is continuing to execute on its automation road map.

With these upgrades, Schumacher said, “Our resources in the back office are focusing on adding value and driving value to the business, and not just spending time doing many hours of multiple work for something that can be automated from a reporting perspective.”

This automation also helps with employee retention during the Great Resignation, because it enables the company to keep them engaged and doing challenge work rather than manual work, he said.

See also: Engagement Key to Taming ‘Great Resignation’ of Finance Teams

“That value prop is very important to us externally, but we have to do it for our resources as well so that we can maintain high-caliber resources, both client-facing as well as in the back office,” Schumacher said.

Being More Efficient

Another part of Coalfire’s modernization is its continuing effort to do away with paper checks. The company still receives some, Schumacher said, adding that checks add complexity to the environment and at least four or five days to the process of receiving payments.

“I think the more efficient that is, it just takes stress out of a CFO’s environment and allows, again, the team to focus on adding value and not chasing around checks and trying to get them deposited so the cash flow works,” Schumacher said .

Related: 5 Best Practices for Payables, Receivables Digitization

This eliminates a lot of headaches for customers, too, because it does away with the possibility of the check getting lost or sitting in a lockbox for a week because the recipient hasn’t gone to the office.

“It reduces the rework on their side, too,” Schumacher said. “So, being more efficient for yourself and your customers is obviously the end goal.”

Considering a ‘New World Office Setting’

Like many companies, Coalfire is also considering how to optimize its work model and its office space. The firm maintains a hybrid work model for its more than 1,000 employees, maintaining physical space in seven different cities.

The company is looking at condensing its real estate footprint and shifting to either a short-term space or a flexible space that would be used for meetings and collaboration, rather than being used five days a week.

“It’s more of a ‘new world office setting,’ if you will, where you could have customers and client meetings in one room, and you could have collaboration on solving different problems in another room, and have different leadership individuals come into those spaces to drive different agendas,” Schumacher said.

Looking at the Economy

Schumacher said the current economic climate impacts everyone because it can lead CFOs at other companies to reinvestigate how they’re deploying their dollars and reconsider which spending is “must-have” and which is discretionary.

In the case of Coalfire, Schumacher said there’s a lot the company can do to help customers prepare for different types of audits, work on their cybersecurity, and make their environment more efficient and more automated.

“I think some of that, as the environment itself becomes more complex, those will shift from being more discretionary to being more ‘must have,'” Schumacher said.

As with any company today, Coalfire trains its employees to understand the security environment, to know that the complexity of cybersecurity threats continues to increase and to realize that they have a fiduciary responsibility to the company not to introduce those types of threats.

“It’s going to become fundamental to other core trainings that resources have to operate responsibly in today’s environment for their own companies,” Schumacher said.

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About: More than half of utilities and consumer finance companies have the ability to process all monthly bill payments digitally. The kicker? Just 12% of them do. The Digital Payments Edge, a PYMNTS and ACI Worldwide collaboration, surveyed 207 billing and collections professionals at these companies to learn why going totally digital remains elusive.

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