Requires a Steady Hand
Updating accounting technology is not a job for the CFO
By Ben Saunders
One of the byproducts of an increasingly competitive landscape and the con- tinuing rise in mortgage origination costs is the demand for timely, granular
reporting. More often than not, older technologies or
off-the-shelf financial solutions struggle to produce
these reports efficiently.
It is possible to pull information out of generic or
legacy accounting programs and use complicated
Excel worksheets to run the numbers, but there can
be a lot of problems with this approach, not the least
of which is that it often takes too much time and effort.
When a mortgage company is trying to determine
which originators to keep, promote or let go, for example, the accounting department must be able to drill
down to the branch level and even down to the level
of individual originators. Most legacy software can’t
do this effectively, which is why many companies are
switching to new systems.
This is where many mortgage companies face a
problem. Software implementation is an involved process and putting the wrong people at the helm as a
company navigates through it can lead to problems.
Perhaps the worst person to put in charge of your next
new accounting-software implementation is your
chief financial officer, or CFO.
Why the boss shouldn’t lead
On the surface, this may seem like a ridiculous thing
to suggest. The CFO runs the finance department and
in almost every case makes the decision on which
accounting software the company should implement.
Why then would we expect the financial leader to step
aside when it comes time to implement? There actually are several reasons.
At the top of the list is that there simply isn’t time.
CFOs are professional executives who understand time
management and are dedicated to prioritizing what’s
most important. Unfortunately, there are a great many
things that are “most important” to this executive.
CFOs are constantly pulled in many different directions, and although the best of them find a little bit of
themselves to spread across all of their priorities, that’s
not enough to ensure a successful software implementation. To achieve that end, consistency is key.
In successful software implementations, weekly
status-update calls are used to help everyone stay
on track. If the project leader is not present during
these calls, the project begins to break down. This is
true even when working with leading companies and
deploying the best people to the project. The leader
must be consistently present and involved.
Another reason why CFOs aren’t the best choice is
their lack of day-to-day involvement with the accounting department’s software and processes. Most CFOs
analyze reports that have been generated by their
teams and make decisions based on those reported
results. They are not down in the trenches posting
transactions or pulling data into spreadsheets.
Why CFOs should not lead
n Too many competing priorities. CFOs simply don’t
have the time to manage an extended
software implementation project.
n Limited day-to-day experience. The implemen-
tation team needs to understand the issues
with the old system that need fixing.
n Lack of accountability. It is difficult for outside
vendors to push a CFO to meet external
Key Points Continued on Page 160 >>
Ben Saunders is the deployment manager at Bestborn
Business Solutions, creators of the mortgage accounting solution, Loan Vision. Saunders has overseen successful implementations within the organization since the solution’s launch
in 2013. Reach Saunders at firstname.lastname@example.org or
(724) 216-5266 ext. 215.
The overriding goal for software implementation
is to ensure the new tool allows accounting-department personnel to continue to work as effectively as they have previously, while eliminating
manual workarounds forced on them by their old
accounting software. The additional functions the
new software brings should be as simple as pressing
a button or two, but to get to that point, it’s essential
to understand as many details as possible about what
the accounting department is doing today. CFOs often
just don’t know.
Accounting software is not as complex or involved
to implement as loan origination software, but failing
to set up the configuration correctly can still reduce
the benefits the new users will receive. Consequently,
the software-implementation team wants to understand how the accounting staff approaches their tasks,
whether that be initiating a data import from the company’s payroll provider, sending branch-level financial
results to branch managers, or anything else they do
during the course of their working day.
The third reason the CFO doesn’t make a good project lead has to do with accountability. Sure, CFOs are
accountable to their CEOs. They are not accountable
to third-party software developers, however. That
relationship works the other way. This can make it difficult for a software provider to ensure the work on the
client side gets done on schedule.
The software-implementation team provides as
much support as it can, but there are still tasks to
complete, decisions that must be made, meetings