Strategy Building and Collaboration to Streamline Finance
What are some of the significant challenges you observe as the CFO of one of the world's largest healthcare groups, and how do you reroute around them?
As a healthcare group, our key purpose is to protect communities throughout New Zealand, which means our people are on the frontline, risking their own health in order to provide essential healthcare. We need to ensure we are protecting our people from the risks they face daily, especially with regards to the pandemic.
Patient needs have shifted dramatically during the pandemic, and the company is refining its proposition now and in the future to respond to this shift.
We maintain open lines of communication with Government funders, helping to ensure funding is directed to where primary healthcare needs are greatest. By collaborating with the Government, it is possible for primary healthcare to play an enhanced role, something the sector is doing very well as part of the pandemic response, thereby alleviating some of the pressure on hospital care.
Could you give us an overview of a typical day in your line of work?
I am fortunate to have a broad role that encompasses Finance, M&A, Digital, Property, Investor Relations and working closely with the Board and Sub Committees. The day's activities can vary from providing leadership to my teams, executing strategy, Board reporting, exploring M&A and other commercial opportunities and some days it’s just about staying on top of the emails!
What is your approach to fostering collaboration with your team to work better?
As a leader, it is important to collaborate and not fly solo. Transformational projects require cross-functional teams, and often the best ideas come from those in the team that are closest to the work, and not necessarily from the leaders. The role of leaders should be to foster an environment where idea origination is encouraged and where teams are equipped with appropriate digital tools and support structure to be successful. It is also important that those participating in project work have their BAU workload reduced to create bandwidth for the additional work - we often start our project meetings with ‘firstly, what can we stop doing’.
Our head office operates on an open plan, with everyone easily accessible to one another, and working in cross-functional teams to execute strategy – we don’t allow red tape and processes to stifle progress towards positive business outcomes.
What aspects do you enjoy most about being the company's CFO?
I like the breadth of my role and am involved in a variety of tasks, so each day is unique, and this allows room to drive value. My team is made up of experienced individuals who are capable of achieving great outcomes, and I enjoy my role of coaching them to success.
What are some of your best practices or advice for selecting the right IT solutions to streamline company operations?
We must stay current on what patients desire because, ultimately, they will choose a healthcare provider who meets their health needs in a way that is suited to them. In recent times, it has been important to respond to these needs by rapidly establishing new digital platforms. As an example, the pandemic has accelerated the need for virtual doctors consultations, which drove healthcare providers to quickly enhance virtual platforms, online payment portals and booking engines. Our focus has been to deliver the same great clinical outcomes, whilst being adaptable to the changing needs of our patients.
"We must stay current on what patients desire because ultimately, they will choose a healthcare provider who meets their needs"
Businesses are short-staffed, which is exacerbated by the pandemic, and healthcare is no exception. Even before the pandemic, there is a growing amount of administrative work for healthcare professionals. Digital solutions have become increasingly important, for example digital tools that enhance efficiency of rostering, and solutions that streamline administrative workflow and automate some of the back-office functions.
Reducing administrative work and maximising labour efficiency frees up health practitioners' time, enabling them to focus on delivering clinical outcomes to patients.
What was the checklist for leveraging the right solution and the right partner to deliver it?
The magnitude of the desired solution determines the checklist. Sometimes the essential expertise is available in-house; for example, the company's digital and finance transformation teams produce solutions because they are fully aware of existing difficulties and can design specialised solutions to address these challenges.
Products that are purchased off the shelf for larger requirements are calibrated to meet company requirements. Several vendors are evaluated and chosen based on the extent to which the product meets our needs, implementation time, support, and cost.
Could you tell me about the current projects you're working on and how technology is helping to support them?
One of our key projects is to develop our data cubes, so financial and operational data flow into one central place. From this, Power BI dashboards help us to interrogate our information, so we can analyse performance, identify issues and opportunities and be effective business partners. This technology requires culture change to optimise its impact on the business. We are busy converting processes and meeting structures to adopt a more ‘on the fly approach’, whereby questions can be answered in meetings or as part of conversations, thereby avoiding lots of actions and follow up.
What advice would you share with other CFOs to help them improve their organisation?
Break strategy down into realistic and actionable goals, and then measure success against those goals. Making time to plan strategy once a week can make an enormous difference, and incorporating the entire team in the process can boost engagement. Embracing automation can improve processes and provide deeper insights, especially from a financial and operational standpoint.
Another piece of advice is not to be afraid to make mistakes because this enables learning and better execution. Peter Diamandis says, "the only constant is change, and the rate of change is increasing." You must ensure that your team is equipped to keep up with the rate of change.