The primary focus for the finance department is obviously money. The primary focus for the IT department? Technology. Talk to Phil Pettinato, however, and he’ll suggest both business functions are key to developing strong customer experiences – especially if they can learn to work better together.
As the chief technology officer for Toronto-based Versapay, Pettinato has spent plenty of time serving both CFOs and CIOs. Usually it’s been finance leading the move to adopt his firm’s software, which automates processes such as accounts receivable. IT is only consulted once it’s time to ensure the technology will mesh with the organization’s tech stack. More recently, though, that dynamic is changing.
“Now you see CFO starting to at least bring CIOs in earlier,” Pettinato told 360 Magazine. “I think that IT and finance leaders can collaborate to figure out what are the benefits and value these kinds of investments can actually to bring to their customers.”
Earlier this year, Versapay published the results of a survey that backs Pettinato up. According to The Growing Need For CFO and CIO Collaboration, 45 per cent of respondents said they believed digitizing finance processes could improve CX.
Before that can happen, there are a number of barriers to be overcome. These not only included a lack of collaboration between the CFO and the CIO (which was cited by 47 per cent), but a lack of buy-in among other executive decision makers. More than half of those surveyed also said there was a lack of alignment on motivating business outcomes.
Pettinato said part of the difficulty could be attributed to the sheer pace of change organizations have been experiencing since the outbreak of COVID-19 began in early 2020.
Traditionally when a check came in for accounts receivable purposes, for example, it included a remittance. As more payments happen electronically, payments are being made without those crucial details.
“So now I’m actually receiving money, but I don’t even know what it was for,” he said. “You need technology at the front end with your customer to actually get the information into their hands. What are you billing them for? What are they paying for? You need that collaboration going between both sides – finance and IT – to get that right.”
Some of the potential CX metrics that might apply here could be what proportion of customers are making electronic payments, but that’s just the beginning. Pettinato said CIOs and CFOs could also look at the accuracy of the data and the quality of the service. In other words, are people getting paid the right amounts, and are they getting paid on time?
“Clients really do want to pay their suppliers,” he said. “They often are just stuck and can’t figure out how to make that payment, or don’t even know what they have to pay.”
On the plus side, 96 per cent of those surveyed agreed that the CFO/CIO relationship is critical to identifying future business needs. For Pettinato, that bodes well for Versapay’s efforts to accelerate digitization across finance departments.
“We’re trying to transform the whole experience between the buyer and the supplier. And I think by doing that, we’re recognizing that those old automated processes are really not creating great customer experiences,” he said. “And what we want to do is create great customer experiences so that you can count on your continued business with those customers.”
Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.