Q&A with Dustin Cramer, Director of Financial Planning & Analysis at AAA NCNU

What's a misconception about the finance profession? "That we are bean counters and all we do are taxes. I am an expert in numbers, not English, but math can also tell a story."

In today’s Workday Community Voices we talk to Dustin Cramer, director of financial planning & analysis at AAA Northern California, Nevada, & Utah, which provides automotive, insurance, and travel services to more than 4 million members. Cramer shares his thoughts on the power of data for future planning, the importance of telling the story behind the numbers, and advice he’d give his young self.

What data and insights are most useful to you?

We want to be America’s most trustworthy organization, absolutely famous for doing the right thing, and for me it starts with data: knowing how long members stay with us, why they stay, and why they might leave. I also want to see how our business is trending—I’m able to view our actuals live in Workday at any time to help us make important business decisions. For example, we wanted to find a way to lower the price of a membership. With Workday, we were able to see our revenue and spending trends, which helped us determine how we could adjust membership costs to deliver the best possible price.

What are the three most important aspects of your job?

Accuracy of numbers and ensuring we have integrity in the data presented. Clarity in my commentary— telling the story behind the numbers in a way that people can interpret, regardless of their skill level. Finally, it’s being responsive, both to colleagues’ questions about the business and to business change.

“One of my goals every day is to leave a meeting and provide someone further insight into something they didn’t know before.”

How do you use creativity in your role?

I am in charge of setting up all the reports for our company. It’s important that the data in those reports tell a story about the business, so I think about creative ways to take all the data from our scorecards— which indicate how our business is doing—and use Workday Composite Reporting to ensure that our monthly reporting is meaningful. This also requires me to think creatively about processes and methodologies to ensure data coming out can be produced into a report in the most efficient way possible.

What is a misconception about the finance profession?

That we are bean counters and all we do are taxes.  I am an expert in numbers, not English, but math can also tell a story. One of my goals every day is to  leave a meeting and provide someone further insight into something they didn’t know before. When I began in finance, I thought I could offer the most value by making all the decisions through my lens. What I’ve learned and didn’t expect was that I am most valuable when I am not needed, because that means everyone has the tools they need to succeed on their own. So now, I try to provide avenues for my business partners to get their own answers—through automation of reports and giving them access to their own budget versus actuals, along with finance training. For example, using Workday Composite Reporting, I am currently showing people how to work with project reports so they can understand things like budget versus actuals each month to track their spend.

What skills and qualities are required of today’s finance professional?

Communication and people skills are crucial. Finance needs to know all the major decisions being made across the organization, and that requires having conversations with people. Half of my job is trying to get data out of people’s heads that they don’t realize they have.

If you could go back in time and give yourself advice as a young professional, what would it be?

I would tell myself that it’s not about the job you have, but how hard you work at the job, because the effort you put in gives you the reward. You can positively impact your future by living in the moment, knowing you have to put in your dues, and believing good things will happen. Entitlement is the toughest thing to overcome, but know that everyone is replaceable. So bring your A game every single day.

(Learn more here about how a unified view of workforce and financial data with Workday helps AAA NCNU employees understand how the business runs, and empowers them to make better decisions.)

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