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Leading the Technological Wave

By Denise Dettingmeijer, CFO, Randstad North America [AMS:RAND]

Denise Dettingmeijer, CFO, Randstad North America [AMS:RAND]

Current Role of a CFO

I have always had IT report to me as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). It was an eye-opening transition for me as CFO of Randstad, when figuring out how to place the business, company and external functions around an IT strategy that warranted the CIO role as a peer to the rest of the C-suite. Given the nature of Randstad’s business, the criticality of systems in our everyday customer and talent processes in the overall digital era. In the CFO role, it’s all about balancing what is needed to ensure the business stays compliant with regulations and internal control requirements while also applying the flexibility to provide insights and analytics while adapting as the world changes.

Latest Advancements in Technology

Randstad deployed robotics internally around 18 months ago, programming them to make processes more efficient and flexible for people in accounting and reconciliation. Robotics systems have helped reduce routine, day-to-day tasks in order to free up people for analytical work.

Another change we’re seeing is the role Big Data plays in enabling us to look at predictions and anticipate how we can deliver different services to our customers. Especially around financial planning and analysis, (FP&A) which drive business growth—we can look at the ROI of all these digital systems and whether or not they add value to our business.

"Robotics systems are being programmed to help reduce the routine, day-to-day tasks in order to free up people for more analytical work"

When we adopted robotics, for me it felt leading edge, new and exciting. Now it’s table stakes. Robotics themselves are not going to transform businesses, but automation can enable people to transform their organizations by freeing them up to focus on strategy and innovation rather than routine work.

Above all, ensuring your technology investments—whether in place or new—deliver to their full potential comes down to the people operating them. Behind effective integrated systems are people who know how to use the technology, identify shortcomings and make recommendations on what to do next.

Finding New Technology and Partners

Over the next few months, we’re planning to make our robotics deployment the most robust that it can be before we can move on to other technology possibilities like blockchain.

When we do decide to invest in new tools and technology, we go to external shows and read articles on the latest and greatest tools coming down the pipeline. The key is choosing those that will provide the best ROI, not only in terms of financial and time savings, but in reinvesting in more value add areas. That’s how we decided to adopt robotics.

Ultimately, selecting a partnership and deploying the technology was a risk we took. There was no blueprint available for how it should work, so we helped develop one to pass our learnings to our other operating companies. Now the industry is learning about robotics from each other, but we’re looking ahead to the next big thing—what’s going to be the right investment to make next?

Creating the Work Culture

When considering my personal leadership strategy, I don’t just brace and accept change, I desire change. In the current world, Randstad has gone through many changes—we have deployed lean leadership, which applies thinking and efficiencies around the people side of the processes as much as for the IT systems. On a recent panel with fellow CFOs, some commented that the finance world doesn’t lead change and the industry tends to like the status quo. Not so for Randstad. Randstad, is moving fast. We’re in a culture of continuous movement, not just to gain efficiencies and save money, but to keep up with and ahead of the pace of the world.

Advice for Aspiring CFOs

Knowing the numbers is important, but being a great CFO is about embracing the company and really understanding the mechanics of the organization. You can’t be an effective CFO if you don’t understand where the business has been and where it’s going. My advice is to remain curious about your field as well as trends in your broader industry: be a forever learner. It isn’t enough to be an expert in your silo, no matter which part of the C-suite you’re in.  

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