Gaylor’s other consideration was ensuring that employees were being given growth opportunities, both personally and professionally, including opportunities to build their skills. “When we really take care of our people and put customers first, a lot of the other pieces take care of themselves.”
The Importance of Digital Transformation
Reese—whose career has spanned wealth management, financial services, payments, and fintech—said he viewed the CFO role as being “the champion of value creation.” Yet for that to happen, “Finance has to move away from people-heavy transactional production activities at a low value-add, like management reporting for journal entries and variance analysis, to insight-driven, technology-enabled decision support functions.”
In practice that means having cross-departmental collaboration to create “a modern data architecture and deploy a technology roadmap that focuses on analytical and visualization tools to be able to extract and model that data and integrate it into the finance decisioning framework,” he said.
“It’s using digital technologies and data to really drive business outcomes,” he said. “And that's something that I lead here and how I think about the role we play in finance and how it is so intersected with data and technology teams.”
Reexamining internal processes at Trivago led to the discovery of potential new revenue sources, Tillman said. Specifically, the company held a unique wealth of data about the global hospitality industry, and it found that other firms were looking for tech solutions that Trivago could help with.
“What we have learned through the pandemic is that we have quite a few assets that we never leveraged in the past. We just used them for our B2C product,” Tillmann said. “We now have a whole new B2B opportunity we never thought about before, to be honest.”
At DocuSign, the past several months brought with them an unexpected internal opportunity.
“We haven’t been as good about digitizing our own systems and infrastructure,” Gaylor said, adding that the company has since ramped up investments to make sure DocuSign is using its products internally—and reaping the benefits of digitization. “We’re kind of drinking our own champagne, if you will, but also becoming a much more agile company.”
Getting Resource Reallocation Right
It’s important to understand what businesses and products have been driving total shareholder return, and think about how to optimize investments across those items, Reese said.
“You do need to set aside for long-term, next-horizon growth opportunities, but you need to be very clear on measuring the return from your different products in your different business segments and allocating your resources against that,” he said. “And it’s not just for finance; it’s for where you want to put your technology resources, where you want to put your marketing resources—for all of the investment you make, it’s being able to drive those returns and continue to produce the outcomes that we’ve had historically. That’s an ongoing process.”
Three priorities help guide how to reallocate resources at DocuSign: investing for innovation, supporting the capacity needed to best serve customers, and supporting the business from an operational standpoint, Gaylor said. And those priorities require conversations across the leadership team.
Tillmann described a robust, bottom-up planning process at Trivago, which needed more agility during the pandemic than it had normally employed. “We do our annual strategy process and then break that down into quarterly reviews,” he said, adding that reallocation is based in part on those shorter-term targets—an approach that has worked well during the recent volatility, specifically resulting in the creation of deal website Trivago Weekend.
“We thought, ‘We can’t just wait until the pandemic is over and then continue business as usual,’” he said. “But there’s an opportunity to build something that people need after this pandemic, or even in the period where we recover.”
The ESG Factor
Along with their role of assessing and managing risk, CFOs have an important role to play when it comes to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) efforts. “Understanding how companies are performing against other companies when it comes to ESG metrics is something I think we are uniquely positioned to provide,” Reese said.