The need for treasury to adopt technology in order to streamline the function and ease pressure on resources is clearly recognized. Yet, while it’s clear treasury gets this need, adoption of the latest tech-led solutions is still to truly take off.
As Timo Hämäläinen, CFO at Analyste explained in the first part of this interview, much of this is down to treasurers not being tech buyers – and the need to avoid being sucked into opting for ‘one-stop-shop’ solutions or buying from vendors ‘because that’s who we’ve always bought from’. Instead, Timo argues, treasurers should be looking to buy specific solutions for specific needs.
If going down this route, what questions can treasury departments – and IT departments supporting the process – ask to ensure they end up with a solution that’s a good fit?
“The starting point for me, is to ask the right questions and do the right research,” says Timo. “It might sound obvious, but it’s so often not the case. Of course, the vendor needs to have good references and case studies, and they need to be able to speak with the existing users. I also recommend talking to peers who have used the solution but don’t anymore. Of course, that’s not always possible, but it’s something I’ve learned from one of our customers. They asked us ‘can you give us any name who has stopped using your solution, I would like to discuss with them?’ I think that was a clever idea and I absolutely say that you should always try.
“Treasurers need to remember that they’re the experts in treasury. It sounds obvious but it’s a point that’s often forgotten in the sales process. Therefore, ask questions, probe as much as possible, draw out discussions – that way you’ll soon work out if the vendor knows what they are speaking about, so they can justify if the solution provider is expert in this area or not.”
Once a solution feels right, another obstacle to streamlining treasury can come from CFOs and other decision makers. How can treasurers get buy-in for investment in digital tools?
“I think treasurers can lean on their IT departments here, because they are used to making software buying decisions, quantifying return on investment and achieving buy-in. Working together, IT teams will know what questions to ask regarding spend. Clearly, certain spend will be easier than others – cash forecasting, for example, involves the CFO, so they might be more open to investment if they can see a problem being fixed or more accurate data being provided.”
Risk also needs to be factored in according to Timo, which can be negated by opting for solutions – typically cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) – that don’t require much, if any, upfront spend.
“If you are just paying a monthly fee to use the service, I don’t think CFOs will have any issues investing in that because the payback time is typically quite fast,” explains Timo. “Plus, the flexibility of cloud-based solutions mean they are scalable, further reducing the risk.”
Overcoming risk and fear
Talking of risk, Timo also thinks that treasurers are inherently risk averse, so they avoid taking decisions that could potentially cause problems.
“You could argue that there are more risks involved with adopting the new technology. Treasurers might fear that they’ll lose their job if they buy a solution which is unsuitable, for example. They have everything to lose and if the solution is not good, they will be blamed. There’s a fear factor involved.
“Again, solving this comes back to the vendor and ensuring the right conversations have been conducted in order to remove that fear and reduce the risk. My motto – and one that we share across Analyste – has always been that we should make the buying as easy as possible and risk free for the customers. So, I believe that you shouldn’t have very long termination periods, for example. That gives the buyer a safe feeling that if they do make a bad decision it can be fixed or replaced. Easy implementation and integration is a must in a solution too. It’s vitally important.
“Of course, the overriding goal is to get things right first time, and that’s why, as I’ve said before, treasurers need to use specialists in their field. By working with the experts, getting it right and truly transforming treasury functions is much more likely to happen each and every time. That’s certainly the ethos Analyste brings to the table.”