How to reduce the time spent in finance meetings

CFOs know better than anyone that time is money. So why do they waste so much of it in meetings?

More than half of finance teams average nine or more hours each week in meetings, according to a survey of CFOs, and 25% sit through a whopping 13+ hours.

The wrong way to provide financial data

The problem is that because finance teams have access to information and metrics across the organisation, they serve as the gatekeepers to data. When you’re the information gatekeeper, you often become the information sherpa, too. In traditional organisations, this becomes a huge time suck, because finance executives have to guide their colleagues through masses of spreadsheets, addressing the confusion and doubts that proliferate in a disjointed system.

Traditionally, they’ve gathered PowerPoint slides from various departments and shoehorned them into a huge deck to present to the executive team. The slides are invariably a never-before-seen mishmash, with information taken from multiple spreadsheets, that leave attendees questioning data and trying to understand formulas. Every number is explored, and assumption is challenged, which—let’s face it—rarely makes a big difference in the final budget.

As a result of these marathon meetings, CFOs often feel trapped, spending almost all their time looking in the rear-view mirror, which leaves precious little time to focus on the road ahead. And because they waste time that should be devoted to financial strategy discussion, those meetings also waste a stomach-turning amount of money: Some $37 billion goes down the drain every year during unproductive meetings.

Cloud-based finance tools help solve problems

Transitioning to a cloud-based financial tool can immediately help plug this cash haemorrhage. With easily navigable dashboards, cloud-based finance tools provide a single source of truth that eliminates confusion and uncertainty.

When you use a cloud-based finance tool, everybody sees updated numbers ahead of time and can toggle back and forth between an original financial plan and the current version. As a result, everyone comes to the table more prepared. That eliminates the whole “How did you reach this number?” discussion that gobbles up a tremendous amount of time, and quickly elevates meeting conversation from basic explanation to higher-level financial strategy discussion.

Financial Performance Management tools also make it plain to see what was shared at previous meetings, so historical comparisons are quick and painless. As a result, financial planning meetings can be short but incredibly effective.

Together, this transparency and the creation of a single source of truth make non-finance execs far more efficient in understanding the data. This autonomy, in turn, frees up FP&A professionals to contribute higher-level strategy insight. And that’s critical, because the CFO role has transformed: Today’s finance leaders must provide forward-looking vision in addition to accurate financial forecasts. Most CFOs have seen their level of strategic influence increase as they take on concerns beyond number-crunching, an Accenture survey found.

Active planning with cloud-based finance software, then, presents a win for everyone: It’s fast, it’s easy, it’s powerful, and it accelerates decision-making by providing clear, accurate information. That lets CFOs step into their rightful role as strategic advisors—and gets everyone out of that conference room ASAP.

Find out more about how active planning can help you save time and money—and become more strategic in your financial meetings.