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Looking Ahead

Readers comment on the value of budgets, the challenges of improving corporate culture, and other issues.
CFO Readers, CFO Magazine
June 1, 2011

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Your article "Let It Roll" (May) is right on point. The companies that we work for have really changed their view and philosophy on the annual budgeting-and-planning exercise. As a result, demand for finance professionals who can provide an accurate, real-time view of future scenarios is increasing.

Today's finance professionals must understand their companies' business and underlying challenges, constraints, and variables outside of the finance department. As stated in the article, the finance professional most in demand today is able to stand on the bridge of the ship looking forward and make adjustments.

James F. Wong
Founder
Clear Focus Financial Search
Chicago

 

A budget, when prepared in a disciplined manner by the people involved, can be an excellent starting point to integrate corporate objectives in a democratic manner.

A rolling forecast is clearly needed in times like these. Businesses have to function amid uncertainty, and it is prudent to keep updating forecasts periodically to be in sync with ground realities and thrive regardless.

Chandrasekar Venkataraman
Via E-mail

 


 

Critical Data

"Disaster Averted?" (April) is an excellent article. I see ERM projects and the software solutions that support them as providing a structure that is so critical to achieving the goals set by a company's management, as Alliant's Mona Leung noted in the article.

ERM survey results for 2010, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and sponsored by SAS, reflected many of the same trends as those discussed in the article from the Deloitte survey. One trend worthy of highlighting concerns data. As many readers know, the success of ERM projects in many ways rests on the ability of the company to integrate risk data from various siloed systems to provide that full, companywide view of various categories of risk (market, credit, and so on). In the EIU survey results, just 39% of respondents said they are good at collecting, standardizing, and storing the data needed for risk management.

For companies embarking on ERM projects, focusing on risk data management and integration in the early project stages will increase the project success factors.

David M. Wallace
Global Industry Marketing Manager, Financial Services
SAS
Cary, North Carolina

 


 

Something Old, Something New

There is certainly something to be said for reducing turnover ("Weaving a New Corporate Culture," April). The key is to find a healthy balance. Low turnover can also be damaging to a company's bottom line and growth.

I recently commented to one of our employees that everyone seemed "happy" with their jobs. She replied that they were probably more content than happy.

Very low turnover results in high overhead in terms of salary and benefits. Yet, the greatest cost is often lack of motivation and creativity. Complacent employees can lose this drive. It takes a strong manager to help these employees remain happy rather than content and bring out innovation and growth.

Some turnover is very healthy. I have yet to find the perfect balance. I do know that sometimes it takes someone new with a fresh perspective to keep the forward-moving momentum that an organization needs to be successful, as was evidenced in this article. It took someone new, from the outside, to help Beaulieu make the huge leap forward with its corporate culture. Kudos for a job well done!

Kym DeWitt
Chief Financial Officer
Elyxir Distributing LLC
Watsonville, California

 

One of the keys to the success of a program has to be the involvement of employees from all levels and disciplines simultaneously. Years ago, when I worked at General Motors, employees were encouraged and often required to participate in various workshops and training programs. But, for the most part, those programs and workshops were conducted under a "separate but equal" aegis, with executives attending together (and usually first), and staff and rank-and-file workers in separate workshops.

The material presented may have been identical, but by shielding themselves from the nonexecutive employees, management (1) protected itself from any potential embarrassment if any executives didn't understand the issues and principles; (2) wasn't able to see the potential in any staff members, especially if a manager didn't want specific people to have any exposure outside his or her own sphere of influence; and (3) continued to project an image of "we're different from you, and therefore better."


Robert O'Brien
Huntington Beach, California

 


 

Saying Yes to the Cloud

Your article "Can Cloud Computing Clear the Air?" (April) seems very much geared toward the chief information officer's perspective. It's almost a sales pitch to keep the CIO. So many CFOs have been held hostage by their IT departments for years, and I hope that the cloud will level the playing field. So often, I hear, "We can't do that" or "That isn't possible" or "That won't work." I'm happy to look toward a place of yes rather than that same old no.

Cathy Iconis
Chief Executive Officer
Iconis Group
Atlanta

 


 

Liddell Gems

I loved Chris Liddell's three leadership gems, which can be applied broadly to leaders in any professional category ("GM's Chris Liddell Takes Stock," Topline, March):

(1) Data. Don't just crank out data; turn it into actionable information and insight that others can use to grow the business forward.

(2) Dialogue. If you have one hour for a presentation, spend a little time presenting the data and much more time in a two-way conversation about how to take action.

(3) Drive. Get out of your office and talk to employees and customers. And by "driving every car in the portfolio," you can experience products firsthand (data) and take action.

Great article. It will be interesting to see where Chris Liddell leads next.

Ginny Schlosser
Business Coach
Lead It Forward Inc.
West Palm Beach, Florida

 


 

Change Happens

I understand that the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) is proposing changes to the standard audit report, including possibly acknowledging the auditor's responsibility as it relates to fraud ("Where There's Smoke, There's Fraud," March). This is earth shattering!

Change is the only constant, and hopefully this is for the greater good. However, I'm sure there's an argument that the proposed changes are not so good.

If investors, decision makers, or regulators need and want new information in the audit report, why shouldn't they have it? After all the fraud scandals, bankruptcies, and the financial crisis that took place in the past decade (and those that are still to come or are yet to be uncovered), it's time to shake things up a bit and learn from our experiences. Everyone needs to be held accountable, including the auditors.

I'm not sure if the Securities and Exchange Commission needs to approve the proposed audit-report changes or not, if and when those changes become reality. But the agency already has enough on its plate, between its budget issues, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the vote on international financial reporting standards, convergence projects, and so much more.

I'm curious as to where the PCAOB's proposed changes fit on the SEC's list of priorities. I look forward to watching how this all shakes out.

Bill Storey
Indianapolis

 

The trend of fraud is quite alarming in the developing world, where risk management is still practiced at a rudimentary level. The gradual shift to enterprise risk management will likely be more efficient than isolated internal controls or operational risk monitoring.

Adewale Giwa
Via E-mail




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