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Q&A with FP&A - The Lasting Impact of COVID-19 on FP&A Teams

November 17, 2020
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We brought together members of our Finance team to share their insights on the challenges and opportunities they have unearthed in 2020 while navigating the global pandemic.First, we asked the team to reflect on 2020 and how the pandemic has impacted the team and their ability to perform their core tasks and responsibilities:

Q: What are the main challenges you’ve faced in 2020 due to COVID-19?

Jason Lin, CFO: The main challenges at the beginning of the quarantine were tied to communication. We have a close knit team that greatly enjoyed working together in the office.  Moving to 100% remote and interacting only through tools such as Zoom Video and Microsoft Teams was certainly an adjustment.As a general rule, Finance teams are 1) very lean and 2) incredibly busy.  When we were in the office, getting up to grab coffee or water always resulted in organic hallway conversations, which we missed out on when we went remote.  It is easy, if we’re not careful, to go a long period of time without talking to members of the team, because we are so busy with work.

Q: Have you uncovered any gaps in your current processes, tools or systems? And if so, do you plan on addressing those gaps as we look ahead to 2021?

Robert Andrews, Finance & Accounting Manager: Yes, we uncovered a few, but the major gap that jumped out right away is that our accounting software is on premise and forces us to log-in via a VPN process.  Early on it became very clear we needed to migrate to a cloud solution.There was momentum internally to move to a cloud-based accounting system which has only been accelerated by the pandemic. I am really excited that we recently committed to moving to the cloud;  we have started the implementation process and are targeting a soft launch in January of 2021. By moving to the cloud we will all have access to data/reporting remotely and can quickly and easily respond to requests. We also asked if they could share how COVID -19 has impacted the way they approach their  positions and tasks.

Q: As far as collections go, have you changed/altered how you communicate with customers?

Colleen Caldwell, AR & Collections Specialist: Yes, we have worked closely on navigating the changing business environment and being considerate of our customers' business situations. Our leadership team has become more a part of this process and offers us great support in making sure we are aligned with customer needs and expectations.

Q: Cash is king for many businesses, have you altered or adapted how you are managing your cash flow?

Jason Lin: Like many companies, we are cash-focused in this business environment. Using our own solution, Planning Maestro, we have identified different cost-saving scenarios and focused on the direct impact on cash balances (not just financial statements) by creating weekly cash forecasts.

Q: How have your reporting requirements and requests changed because of COVID-19?

Robert Andrews: Changes in the economy and business environment can have a significant impact on an organization’s financial position, and with the global pandemic this has never been more the case.  We’ve seen increased reporting requests from our CEO, CFO and other executive leaders. And those requests are more granular and need much more detail.  Confidence in data and analysis has always been important, but in situations where they affect spend or company decisions, they become critical.  Many of the requests coming through are “new” reports / data, which adds to the challenge.  We’ve also adjusted our key metrics;  examples include the number of payment delays due to “COVID- related” reasons, trends in bad debt, and changes in deal structure / incentives / discounting.

Q: Do you foresee adjusting any business priorities for 2021?

Jason Lin: Yes, I do foresee us adjusting several priorities - starting with a faster monthly close and forecast process .  Speed and efficiency is always a focus in finance, and we are being challenged by leadership to provide financial reporting and forecasts faster than we ever have, with less resources than in the past. Tighter collaboration and coordination among business contributors is another area we are focusing on. With the level of uncertainty for 2021, there is more of a need to be aligned with business partners on how the company should react to macroeconomic changes around our organization.

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