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Technology Plays Big Role in CFOs’ Daily Work Lives

Marketing Innovations International had a problem when its customer service reps had to spend time away from their phones tracking down documents for the orders being filled for promotional merchandise. So the Agoura Hills company found an inexpensive solution with a scanner to convert paper documents into digital files. But that only solved half the problem. During the production phase documents weren’t always where they were supposed to be, which added time to filling orders. A meeting between Marketing Innovations CFO Frank Mullens and the company’s information technology consultants brought about a better solution that streamlined the process and keeps the customer service reps at their phones. “Now we capture documents as they happen or are printed, making retrieval painless and very, very quick,” Mullens said. At large companies, the head of the IT department may report to the finance chief. At smaller companies lacking that department, then it can be the CFO interacting with outside consultants, such as what Mullens does at Marketing Innovations. It makes sense to have a chief financial officer or controller oversee the IT department as well as they tend to be the biggest users of technology in a company because anything having to do with finance is data intensive. Manchester Financial in Westlake Village put itself on the cutting edge with a customer relationship management system that collates a complete record of sales, revenue, and cost information and all communications with a client into a single point. Such a system has been long available to large, Fortune 500-type companies but has trickled down to mid-size and smaller companies over the past five years, said Steven Coker, the firm’s CFO involved with the implementation. What Manchester has done is to attach the system to the workflow process to keep track of each step and make each repeatable. “It’s about efficiency, accuracy and insuring each customer gets the same experience,” Coker said. Malena Cruz of the InterMedia Group of Companies is one of those CFOs to who an IT department head reports. The Encino advertising firm has entered a phase of internal software department to measure how well its direct response advertising is doing for their clients. Cruz’s role is to find the funding for the software development. She is more closely involved with the company’s automated accounting functions, put in place about 15 years ago as she took over the financial chief position from her predecessor. Working with the IT director brought with it a learning curve for Cruz, who sometimes didn’t understand all the tech talk/ “We trained each other,” Cruz said. It’s not just for-profit companies that rely on technologies to make the day go easier. Chaminade College Prepatory in Chatsworth puts a premium on tech for both students and teachers. Each student has a tablet computer and each teacher receives a laptop computer that becomes their traveling office. Janet Koller, the vice president of finance and operations, implemented a purchase order system that fits the mobility of the instructors. Online forms have replaced paper ones, and a message gets sent to person needing to give their approval, eliminating the form sitting in someone’s in box, Koller said. Working with the school’s information systems department, Koller made sure the system had a format that non-financial people could understand. “I helped them to bridge from the user to the finance department,” Koller said.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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