Finance teams are leveraging data to increase efficiency.
The future of work is here. Covid-19 accelerated mega-trends that were taking shape, like hybrid work schedules or virtual customer service. But a less discussed aspect of work is time utilization by high-skilled employees.
To find out more about this, I spoke with Efrain Rivera, the CFO of HR outsourcing firm Paychex, about how the Covid-19 pandemic has enabled remote work and leveraged data and automation to increaseemployee efficiency in finance. We also discussed the outlook for small businesses this year and beyond, and how finance leaders can help give back to their communities during a time of significant hardship.
Jeff Thomson: The Covid-19 pandemic has led to both a mass transition to remote work and substantial downsizing at many businesses. There will likely be long-term impact, even as the economy recovers. How are Paychexs products and services helping businesses navigate this accelerated future of work? What role does technology play in enabling businesses to be more remote and nimble, especially within the finance function?
Efrain Rivera: Paychex was well-prepared for the acceleration of the future of work. Years ago, we recognized a shift occurring in the workplace and invested in innovation to ensure we could meet those needs. Our Paychex Flex platform is a cloud-based SaaS solution. This, along with our 5-star mobile app and self-service functionality, allows clients and their employees to have access to our portal, along with data and reporting, from anywhere, at any time, and on any device. Some of our recent innovations, including HR Conversations and HR Connect, help clients to communicate and engage directly with their remote workforce. Finally, with more than 200 compliance experts and 600 HR professionals across the U.S., Paychex has the expertise and support needed to help clients navigate the business impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and accelerated trends in the workplace.
When thinking specifically about how technology has impacted the finance function, cloud-based technology allows companies to be nimble, providing faster and more frequent access to data across devices. Technology has also made it possible for finance professionals to analyze large amounts of data, offering insights that help businesses make strategic decisions. Using technology to automate more transactional tasks or data manipulation empowers finance professionals to spend more time on value-added work, such as analyzing the data and drawing useful insights.
Thomson: Automation and other technologies are viewed by many as job destroyers. But for the finance professional these technologies can actually liberate them to perform higher-level functions related to strategic decision-making and analysis. What role does your company play in assisting HR with redeployment of human capital?How critical is it for todays finance and accounting professionals to upskill in areas like data analytics, RPA or intelligent automation in order to stay relevant?
Rivera: At Paychex, our finance team helps to establish and track different productivity and efficiency metrics that can be used to optimize the use of human capital. We also utilize cost benefit models to evaluate scenarios. Were also focused on helping our business partners understand their organizations financial objectives and targets.
Skills in areas such as data analytics, RPA or intelligent automation are absolutely critical for todays finance professionals. Within the finance organization at Paychex, weve started to bring in analysts from outside of our functional area who have data analytics and technology automation skills. In addition to that, within our Risk group, which is part of my broader organization, we have a dedicated data science team that analyzes data and develops predictive models. Our finance and data science teams frequently partner.
Thomson: As the nature of work evolves, higher education is going to have to catch up, ensuring that students are learning the right skills for an age of software, automation and flexible employment. As a finance leader, what do you think finance and accounting programs should be emphasizing to the rising generation of professionals? What about traditional finance education is still valuable, and what is obsolete?
Paychex CFO Efrain Rivera
Rivera: Finance and accounting programs need to emphasize how to leverage data to gain insights.Every organization has data and the concept of big data is a hot topic. However, todays financial analysts need to be able to interpret the data to gain insights. Most organizations arent yet good at using big data to generate big insights. Analysts need to understand the business to know how to apply the data and leverage those insights.
When thinking about a traditional finance education, its not so much that anything is obsolete, but rather that the focus has changed. Things are moving and evolving so quickly that the timeframe in which we look at the world is much shorter its more 2-3 years out vs. the traditional 5- to 10-year outlooks.
Thomson: Paychexs client base is comprised largely of small and medium-sized businesses, and Paychex, along with IHS Markit, maintains a Small Business Employment Watch index measuring employment and pay in this sector. The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a major toll on small businesses. What are your forecasts for this sector over the coming year and beyond? What insights would you have for CFOs and other finance leaders (or owners) of small and medium-sized businesses?
Rivera: Small businesses have been surprisingly resilient during this challenging economic environment.The government stimulus has helped many small businesses hang on. The economic shock of the COVID-19 pandemic has played out differently than we have seen in prior recessions. We anticipate that small businesses will continue to recover gradually over the next several months as lockdowns ease and people return to work.
For finance leaders of small and medium-sized businesses, the past year has demonstrated just how imperative it is to have a playbook to execute on for different scenarios, including a macroeconomic shock or economic downturn.
Thomson: You serve on the board of two Rochester-based non-profit organizations, ESL Federal Credit Union, which works to economically empower upstate New York residents and Rochester Regional Health, which works to provide affordable healthcare to upstate New York residents. Can you discuss your strong connections to upstate New York and why you are passionate about economic empowerment and affordable healthcare for under-served populations? How do these volunteer roles make you a better CFO?
Rivera: I am fortunate that Paychex allows its executives to give back to the communitieswhere employees work. Western New York has immense challenges stemming from, among other things, income disparities. Western New York also has significant strengths. The organizations I serve on address those issues as part of their mission, they strive to make the community better and [they] are led by excellent leadership teams. I continually learn something new through my service and it helps to ground me and make me a better executive.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Originally posted here:
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