CPA Practice Advisor - 21

FEATURE
7 Productivity Hacks for the Strategic CFO

T

ime is the CFO's most precious resource. The role is expanding beyond financial
reporting and forecasting to strategy and innovation, and that means we have
more on our plates than ever before including helping the business find, evaluate,
and deploy technologies to do things more efficiently and grow the bottom line.
It's really an extension of the trajectory we've been on within finance. Implementing ERP
systems, business intelligence, AP automation, and tools for streamlining the financial
close are all ways to give ourselves more time for analysis, planning, and other valueadded activities.
But how can CFOs themselves use technology to be more
efficient and effective? As a Chief Operating and Financial
Officer, father of four daughters, and a newly minted
girls lacrosse coach, I'm always looking for ways to save
time. Here are some of my current productivity hacks and
some of the software tools I'm using to support them:

1. SINGLE SIGN ON

As leader of IT, I asked our tech and security team to
implement single sign-on (SSO), multi-factor authentication, advanced threat protection, and a password
manager app. So, when people log in at work, they
have secure access to all of the applications they need
without having to login to each separately. We've saved
everyone across the company including sales, product
development, and customer support a few minutes a day,
depending on how many applications they use.

applications' data together and report it in real-time
without time-consuming workarounds.

4. MICROSOFT TEAMS

We recently replaced some legacy scheduling and chat
apps with Microsoft Teams because it's easier to use
one tool that keeps an auditable log of communications
and is integrated with Outlook. When setting up a meeting in Outlook, one click can make it a Teams meeting,
populating the conference call and video information
in the invitation that's sent. This one feature alone this
saves me at least a minute per meeting that I used to
spend copying and pasting dial-in and screen-sharing
information. I average at least 20 self-scheduled meetings
a week, so that adds up.

5. SCHEDULING APPS

As a former Army officer, I'd say Excel is to finance what
the entrenching tool is to an infantryman's survival
gear-it's that important. Just like the E-tool, Excel is
an essential part of our finance "gear". After Nvoicepay
joined FLEETCOR Technologies, a leading global business payments company, we saved countless hours
using pivot table and other Excel functionality to map
Nvoicepay's results into revised formats for uploading
into new GL and finance tools. That's critical because as
a division of a fast-growing public company, results need
to be reported within five working days after close, and
the rest-of-year forecast is due right after. My finance
team and I cannot afford to spend hours recasting and
remodeling things manually.

I also use certain group scheduling apps and Outlook to
confirm attendee availability and support backwards/
reverse planning. Reverse planning is starting with my
end goal and working backwards from there to develop
a plan of action. This is a project and time management
discipline I've carried over from my military days. Using
the recurrence feature in Outlook, with one step I can set
up regular one-on-ones and projects in a series, then add
objectives, agenda, and materials to the meeting invites
to make both the planning process and meeting more
efficient. At the end of the week, I review the schedule
for the next couple of weeks and adjust to give my teammates advance notice of schedule changes. I also add
some contingency time so if one meeting runs over, other
peoples' schedules are not adversely impacted. Using
others' time efficiently is always appreciated!

3. DATABASE REPORTING TOOLS

6. ONENOTE

2. EXCEL

As with Excel, Nvoicepay utilizes cloud-based tools to
dynamically pull information from many varying sources
to build reports that are up to date and accurate. We
leverage Office 365 and many of its included tools to
accomplish these tasks. Tools like Power BI ties Excel to
our databases, and online APIs allow us to bring disparate

I used to fill about one paper notebook every month with
handwritten notes. Now I use OneNote, which is part of
the Microsoft 365 Suite. It allows me to use my smart
phone to access and organize all my meeting notes,
attachments, and action items. This probably saves
at least half an hour per week that I would have spent

By John Ewert

searching for information. OneNote's draw functionality
for touch screens and the native file attachment functionality takes me away from the paper that I used to
carry around for days. An infantryman going the distance
prefers to travel light and find key gear quickly. OneNote
does this for me.

7. PAYMENTS AUTOMATION

As an Nvoicepay team member, this may sound like
a shameless plug, but one of the reasons I joined this
team is that the value of Nvoicepay's electronic payments solution was immediately evident to me. I use
this cloud-based payment platform to review and sign
off on our weekly payments in five minutes. Given the
number of items that are usually on this list, doing it
the old-fashioned way-checking remittance details,
validating prior approvals, and physically approving
paper checks and ACH payments-would easily take
half an hour. This service saves my team even more time
because payments are sent electronically with confirmed
processing dates for quicker reconciliation. Payment error
rates are significantly reduced. If our vendors' payment
information changes, Nvoicepay automatically updates
this for my AP team. Both my accounting team and I are
glad to have this time back each week.
The beauty of working in technology companies, as
I have for my entire business career, is that you usually
have your finger on the pulse of new software-based
tools and how people are using them. By adopting some
of these productivity tools, I get a lot more done today
than I did when I started my finance career over 20 years
ago. Of course, work always somehow expands to fill
the time available, but I find I'm able to do more of the
strategic work demanded of CFOs today because I'm
spending less time typing in passwords, copy/pasting
meeting details, searching through paper notes, and
approving paper checks. And best of all, I'm able to carve
out a little time to occasionally play flag football with my
daughters at lunchtime and coach their lacrosse team
after school. ■
John Ewert is the CFO of Nvoicepay and has 20 years
of management and executive experience in leading
finance, accounting, facilities, legal, operations, investor
relations, and IT resources. Most recently, he served as
CFO and COO of Elemental Technologies. Ewert has also
held executive positions with Palo Alto Networks, Inc.,
Oracle Corporation, Sun Microsystems, PwC as well as
served in U.S. Army & U.S. Army National Guard.

NOVEMBER 2019 ■

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CPA Practice Advisor

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CPA Practice Advisor

From the Editor: The Land of the Free
How to Get Started with Client Accounting Services
Crafting a Strategic CAS Plan
From the Trenches: Do Your Best Tax
2019 Product Review: Sales & Use Tax Systems
Marketing Your Firm: Marketing to the Home Care Nursing Industry
Marketing Your Firm: Your Bedside Manner: 3 Steps to Improve Client Trust
2019 Product Review: Hosting Service Providers
A Year in the Life of a Payroll Accountant: The Pros & Cons of Temp vs. Seasonal Workers
A Year in the Life of a Payroll Accountant: 6 Retirement Tips for Generation X
The ProAdvisor Spotlight: Newest Features in QuickBooks Online Advanced Speed Workflow
Guest Column: 7 Productivity Hacks for the Strategic CFO
The Staffing & HR Advisor: You May Be Overlooking Top Performers When Hiring
The Millennial Advisor: The Problem with Price
The Leadership Advisor: The Change We Can Control
AICPA News
Bridging the Gap: 3 Small Steps Toward Transformation
Special Feature: The Unseen Talent Pool
CPA Practice Advisor - 1
CPA Practice Advisor - 2
CPA Practice Advisor - 3
CPA Practice Advisor - From the Editor: The Land of the Free
CPA Practice Advisor - How to Get Started with Client Accounting Services
CPA Practice Advisor - Crafting a Strategic CAS Plan
CPA Practice Advisor - 7
CPA Practice Advisor - From the Trenches: Do Your Best Tax
CPA Practice Advisor - 9
CPA Practice Advisor - 2019 Product Review: Sales & Use Tax Systems
CPA Practice Advisor - 11
CPA Practice Advisor - 12
CPA Practice Advisor - 13
CPA Practice Advisor - Marketing Your Firm: Marketing to the Home Care Nursing Industry
CPA Practice Advisor - Marketing Your Firm: Your Bedside Manner: 3 Steps to Improve Client Trust
CPA Practice Advisor - 2019 Product Review: Hosting Service Providers
CPA Practice Advisor - 17
CPA Practice Advisor - A Year in the Life of a Payroll Accountant: The Pros & Cons of Temp vs. Seasonal Workers
CPA Practice Advisor - A Year in the Life of a Payroll Accountant: 6 Retirement Tips for Generation X
CPA Practice Advisor - The ProAdvisor Spotlight: Newest Features in QuickBooks Online Advanced Speed Workflow
CPA Practice Advisor - Guest Column: 7 Productivity Hacks for the Strategic CFO
CPA Practice Advisor - The Staffing & HR Advisor: You May Be Overlooking Top Performers When Hiring
CPA Practice Advisor - The Millennial Advisor: The Problem with Price
CPA Practice Advisor - The Leadership Advisor: The Change We Can Control
CPA Practice Advisor - AICPA News
CPA Practice Advisor - Bridging the Gap: 3 Small Steps Toward Transformation
CPA Practice Advisor - Special Feature: The Unseen Talent Pool
CPA Practice Advisor - 28
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