Ethan Carlson, co-host of the CFO Thought Leader Podcast, tackles our questions concerning CPM strategies and the best practices organizations are adopting to advance their performance goals.
Join us as Ethan Carlson, CEO of Carlson Management Consulting, once more answers our questions to supply you with answers and a new mindset designed to help empower your finance organization to look ahead.
The following is an edited abstract from CFO Thought Leader’s “Ask Ethan” podcast featuring Ethan Carlson, CEO, Carlson Management Consulting, and Jack Sweeney, co-host of CFO Thought Leader.
CFOTL The topic that we want to explore with you in this episode is corporate performance management (CPM), and it’s fair to say that CPM may mean different things to different organizations. But what do you see as sort of becoming the widely adopted notion of CPM among Carlson’s corporate accounts today?
Ethan Corporate performance management is a hot topic, obviously, and the definition has evolved over time. Historically, the finance function viewed corporate performance management as running a budget process, running a forecast process on the financials, perhaps the P&L results of their organization and tracking variances against that. Over time, this has really shifted as the role of the CFO and the role of finance has shifted to being a more engaged role, something that’s looked to be more a leader on both strategy as well as just accountability for financial results. We’re seeing more and more companies that are forward-thinking, really taking an enterprise-like focus and thinking about corporate performance management not just managing financial results, but managing a wide range of KPIs, including both financial and nonfinancial metrics. Really making sure that the financials and measures that they’re tracking align with their company strategy and that they’re doing it in a really holistic view across all elements of the business, whether financial, internal, employee growth, customer satisfaction issues, things of that nature. Really taking a much wider view of the organization. and we’re finding that organizations that do this are really delivering a lot of value to their companies.
CFOTL What is typically the catalyst for one of these initiatives, for a CPM initiative?
Ethan It’s interesting. It can take a couple of forms. Usually in some scenarios, it’s high growth. If an organization goes through a period of high growth, there’s a lot of change in their organization, old processes and approaches to challenges don’t really work anymore, and then they start to feel the pain and inefficient processes and people are really focusing their time on manual activities that don’t drive a lot of value. Sometimes it’s a compelling event, a big forecast miss or unforeseen circumstances that resulted in a downturn in business that could have been seen if they had been doing things differently but weren’t. This then prompts an organizational to look at things differently. Another catalyst is new leadership. If you are a new CFO in an organization or a new executive, oftentimes you’re going to challenge the status quo, and we find that being the new person in an organization is often the catalyst to create great change. There are those opportunities and there are other scenarios, but those tend to be the major drivers.
CFOTL When they launch one of these initiatives, what’s the goal that they’re hoping to achieve?
Ethan The overarching goal of any CPM process and initiative is to put valuable, actionable information in a timely manner into the hands of business leaders who are making key decisions. To create transparency and visibility throughout the organization for those key measures. This is the overarching theme and usually what people are looking to accomplish.