Devin Reed

Q&A Tuesday with Devin Reed: CFO Priorities in the Midst of a Pandemic

Devin Reed manages the content strategy at Gong, a platform that helps sales teams develop and deploy revenue intelligence. He’s also the host of the Reveal Podcast, which reaches an audience of revenue leaders across sales, marketing, and finance. As someone on the frontlines of the industry, Devin has been observing the fast-moving consequences of COVID-19 up close. We spoke with him about how finance executives can rise to this unprecedented occasion. 

What kinds of economic impacts are CFOs dealing with in the wake of COVID-19?

Before COVID-19 and the economic downshift that followed, CFOs were growth-minded. Now, growth is much less of a focus as they shift toward two new priorities: (1) increasing visibility into the business and (2) cutting costs wherever possible. There’s a spectrum here because not all businesses are impacted equally by COVID-19. A select few are thriving, a few more are supporting those businesses, and a lot are suffering. So if you’re on the suffering side, you’re mostly looking to cut costs, but if you’re elsewhere on the spectrum, you’re looking to adapt and even trying to capitalize on the moment when possible.

How do you see today’s disruptions evolving over the coming months and years?

I think the long-term impact is that, when this is over, some people won’t go back to work in the office. COVID-19 is showing companies that didn’t have a work-from-home policy before how feasible it really is. They may let select workers continue to work remotely or, when they go back into a growth mindset, consider hiring remote workers.

How does remote work compromise visibility for the CFO or the rest of the finance team?

From the CFO standpoint, if your revenue engine is what’s most impacted by the lack of visibility, you’re putting the company at a big risk. Likewise, heads of other departments like marketing aren’t getting the visibility they need either, which further affects revenue. You’re essentially taking the nucleus of the company and separating it out widely, leading to missed communications and potentially confusing exchanges.
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Is that because people don’t have access to the same data they have in the office?

I think so. It relates to the previous point in that if people aren’t talking, they’re probably not updating the data in the requisite systems either. As a result, those systems might not reflect as much reality as they did previously. It’s important not to blame the system itself because if you don’t leverage technology and various data platforms, the information won’t transfer from person to person and team to team.

What key data points are CFOs monitoring really closely right now?

Spending is at the top of the list. As companies eliminate all but the most necessary expenses, they will have to identify areas to cut spending and areas to roll back spending (by reducing the number of software licenses, for example). I wouldn’t call this cutting corners but, rather, looking at everything through a microscope and prioritizing your expenditures correctly.

You’ve talked about cutting costs. What could the CFO or accounting department do to also increase revenues right now?

It starts by going back to the drawing board and asking whether the priorities we had at the beginning of the year still apply. I bet you they’ve changed, or at least they should have. So if you’re still trying to grow or increase revenue, you need to realign with those objectives and evaluate what kinds of obstacles stand in the way. One of those obstacles might be the same cost-cutting measures you’re putting in place. CFOs can help strike a balance between cutting spending and preserving performance.

Is now the best time or the worst time to consider new tech investments?

I would say it’s always a good time to make new tech investments because there’s always a problem to solve, especially right now. If there’s a technology that helps a company weather COVID-19—maybe by increasing visibility for the remote workforce—and has value after things return to normal, it’s certainly worth considering even now.

How can financial data be an asset or an obstacle for companies right now?

It goes back to what I was saying about visibility. If you don’t understand where the money’s being spent, how much is coming in, and at what rate, it means you’re facing an internal crisis as well as an external crisis. So when it comes to visibility, I think being able to see internal financial performance matters more than anything else.

This interview was edited and condensed.

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Global provider of enterprise software solutions for the Office of the CFO to connect to & make sense of data in real time, driving financial intelligence across the organization.