Kevin Appleby – GrowCFO – 2023 Finance & Tech Predictions – Is a Continuous Close Possible?

Kevin Appleby – GrowCFO – 2023 Finance & Tech Predictions – Is a Continuous Close Possible?

Episode #012 - Where we learn from Kevin Appleby – COO and Podcast host at GrowCFO and host of ‘The next 100 Days’ Podcast – What is GrowCFO, and why you should join for free, how to think about software assessments, Kevin’s finance predictions for 2023, whether we’ll ever see a continuous close, dealing with transformation, ChatGPT and much much more.

Kevin started his career as an auditor for BDO before working for businesses like ICI, PwC, Mouchel and EDF Energy. Kevin's goal is now to help finance teams and CFOs thrive by sharing insight through his podcasts and growing the GrowCFO network.

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[00:00:00] Kevin: And that's one place where our GrowCFO, slack community, is incredibly useful. We've got a channel within that Slack group that is all about tech finance.

And because the market's tougher, finance leaders will be spending more time on non-finance activities, it's the whole company that matters. It's not just running the finance function. Finance has gotta be serving the overall business.

[00:00:25] Adam: Do you think we'll ever get to the point where we can close continuously?


[00:00:29] Adam: Hello and welcome to Tech for Finance, where we help finance professionals leverage technology to level up their lives. I'm your host, Adam Shilton, and in this episode we're chatting with Kevin Appleby, who's the COO of GrowCFO, as well as the host of the GrowCFO podcast. He's also the co-creator of the Next 100 Days podcast.

Kevin started his career as an auditor for BDO before working for businesses like ICI, PWC, Mouchel and EDF Energy. And now Kevin's goal is to help finance teams and CFOs thrive by showing insight through his podcasts and growing the GrowCFO network.

Before we start, if you like what you're here today, please remember to subscribe to Tech for Finance on your favourite podcast platform, and on YouTube. And for more content, head over to tech for

Thanks for coming on the show today, Kevin.

[00:01:21] Kevin: Pleasure, Adam. Good to catch up. Yes. I know. We, we did a, an episode a little while ago where you appeared as a guest on my podcast, and we talked about the, the finance world, the tech coming out, coming along for the finance world in general, and apps that were gonna be good in 2023.

But I think we're gonna flip it around today and talk about what we're seeing as the, the trend in 2023 from GrowCFO's point of view. So it's, it's gonna be interesting.

What is GrowCFO?

[00:01:46] Adam: Yes, absolutely. And yeah, thanks for returning the favour, so for those that don't know, for, so for the listeners that aren't familiar with GrowCFO, can you just spend a couple of minutes talking about what it is, why they should check it out?

So just, just a bit of context for us, if that's okay, Kevin?

[00:02:05] Kevin: Okay. What is GrowCFO Exactly? Well, GrowCFO is very difficult to pigeonhole us. We, our mission is we want to be famous for helping finance leaders and their teams. So finance leaders, we're talking about existing CFOs, aspiring CFOs, cuz there are a lot of people that need a finance function that wouldn't yet regard themselves as a CFO and their teams.

We want to be the go-to think tank for the CFO profession. And actively impact a million senior finance leaders. Now that's, that's a pretty big ambition. So what do we do in practice at the moment? Well, we've got a learning and development platform, we give mentoring to people, and we provide support for finance leaders to develop their teams.

So at the top level, we've got the CFO competency framework where you can go and assess your skills and your competencies. As a CFO, we identify 45 different skills that we expect a CFO to have, and a finance leader. Whether you yet to become a CFO or you've been one for a long time, you can go in there.

You can self-assess your skills and you can rank yourself against your peers. We give you a report that benchmarks you in each of the 45 against people that are like you sitting behind. There's a load of training courses. There's a, there are nine competencies, so there are nine modules inside each competency are five skills, so there are five topics in each of our modules going into detail about, in total nine fives, 45, going into detail about the 45 skills.

So you can pretty much fill up your personal development just from our platform in a year. It's way more than you'd ever need to cover off your CPD requirements. But as well as that, we've got future CFO program where we realize there are a lot of folk who aspire to be a CFO, but would like some help to kind of get through the barriers to get there.

So the CFO program takes you through nine modules and as well. So pointing out the, the skills and competencies you need to develop, we start talking about things like developing your brand, getting ready to act at board level, how to blueprint your finance team. How to deal with your first 90 days when you land that first CFO job.

So big program there and you know, a lot of finance leaders that we've been working with actually say “Great. Thanks for helping my personal development.”

“We're coming out of lockdown. We've, we've been working from home a lot over the past year, two years, one of the things that's gone by the buy has been training.

Can you help me develop my finance team please?”

So hearing that at the beginning of last year, we put together CFO Finance teams, which again is, an online training module, and it's, I think it's now 11 modules directed, not at the, not at the finance leader, but at the next level down the organization, helping some of the basic finance things around planning, budgeting, taking costs out, running projects, financial modelling, but also some of the soft skills around communication, developing relationships and so on.

So it's fairly comprehensive training for finance teams. So that's the main angle that Grow CFO is into at the moment.

Besides that for our members, we've got a very active Slack community. So one of the things that we do as a network is really promote people to be able to talk to each other, and help 'em solve each other's problems. Typical things that will come up in Slack are, oh, we're thinking about opening a new office in…

Or there one this morning, “We're employing a member of staff who is, who's resident in Norway. We're a UK company. Should we be creating a Norwegian company to employ him or is that a bad idea?”

So there's a long discussion then ended up about that one and various advice was given from, by, by people that were quite close to doing that because the, the beauty of that Slack group is that there are 4 or 500 people in there, and it's…

We started off as a UK organization, but very quickly, we've got as many members now outside the UK, as in the UK, and we are growing very, very quickly in the Middle East and the United States right now. Certainly see, in the course of 2023, the, the US membership will have, will have overtaken the UK membership by a large.

[00:07:05] Adam: Okay. And is that, is that Slack community, is it an open community?

[00:07:12] Kevin: It's open to anybody who has joined GrowCFO. Okay. Now GrowCFO, we've got two levels. There are, there's a free membership and if you're a free member, you can get into the Slack community. If you want to get into the learning and development material, take part in the training courses.

Well that's, that's part of premium membership.

GrowCFO transformation training

[00:07:30] Adam: And, and coming back to that training, you said that there's, there's sort of 45, 45 skills within that framework. You and I are obviously tech advocates, Kevin. So within those skillsets, is it still sort of more traditional, soft versus hard?

You know, maybe a bit of business partnering, maybe a bit of, as you said, you know, budgeting and financial modelling, or are there skills within those frameworks that are aligned more with, how to tackle digital transformation?

[00:08:09] Kevin: Yes. You know, there are, and I, I'd say there are things in there that are more specifically about how do you handle business change, right?

Digital, virtually every transformation these days will be a digital transformation, but the problems. How, how do you get this to work for your business? Go well beyond how do I implement the tech? And it's, it's the change bit that people find difficult. So yeah, there's, there's loads of stuff in there around change.

There's loads of stuff in there about modernizing your finance function and so on. But another thing that we do actually. Usually once and sometimes twice a week, we, we run Zoom workshops for members. And free or premium members can turn up, but it's called future finance function, future looking, function, looking all of the time at what's going on in the finance function.

It's mostly tech oriented, and it's talking about if this is your problem, how do you approach it? More often than not, we get an expert in a particular area into there. We were talking about before Christmas about, ‘What the steps you should go through into implementing an ERP system’ We had another session that was, okay, “How do you go through a system or an app selection exercise?”

What should you look for? How should you run a procurement? Things like that. I did a whole series on. Business change in the finance function. How would you run a change program? We've gone in and looked at automation in detail. We've gone in, looked at month end close in detail and how you can improve it.

And all of these things have got tech behind them and we, we even went into… There were three se sessions about cryptocurrency, blockchain, and open banking that we did as a series, about 12 months ago. It's a huge, huge back catalog of things that we've covered in the Zoom sessions.

[00:10:08] Adam: Are they pre-recorded where you can go and see previous webinars?

[00:10:26] Kevin: Yes, if you're a member, you can get to the whole back catalog of recordings.

[00:10:21] Adam: Fine. So it'd be great if you could send me some of those links after the fact. Cause I can put them in the show notes.

[00:10:26] Kevin: Absolutely. Absolutely.

How to think about software assessments

[00:10:27] Adam: They’ll all be in the show notes.

And just going back on to, so the, there's two subjects that you mentioned there.

So one was specifically ERP. One was, it sounded like just a bit more of a generic, “How do we go about assessment? ” When we're looking at new digital tools, I guess, are there any sort of titbits that you can, you can give people sort of any sort of key takeaways from those sessions that were, you know, here's a couple of recommendations.

If you are at the point where you're going through a selection process.

[00:10:58] Kevin: I think that the thing to do if you're going through a selection process is start asking other people what they're using. Ask them realistically for what's good and what's bad about it. Go to places like Gartner where you've got reviews on things.

The difficult thing at the moment that I, I think is very difficult for a lot of finance leaders is that they recognize the problem. They might see the marketing from one or two products that apparently solve the problem. And quite often the products that are best suit. To what they need might not be immediately visible.

So I think the first tip is make sure you do your research. Find out what's around. And you know, from a simple brochure or demo, I don't think you can form a very good opinion. Ask people about their experiences. Yeah. And that, that's one place where our GrowCFO, slack community, is incredibly useful.

We've got a, we've got a channel within that, that Slack group that is all about tech finance.

[00:12:08] Adam: Right. No, very, very interesting. We can put, put that in the show notes as well. So, yeah. And I think you're did right, because when you look at the stats of how people buy, They do the majority of their research before they'll even pick up the phone or send an inquiry to, to one of these different solutions, right?

Now, there is also, as you've alluded to, a lot of smoke and mirrors, especially if you've got an incredibly good marketing team and maybe not quite as good development team that's building the solution in the background. See what I mean? So, you can only research so far, as you say, with the collateral and with the, the bright shiny lights and all, you know, all, all that sort of stuff.

A resource that I often recommend as well as the Gartner, cuz obviously you've got the Gartner Magic Quadrant, haven't you? And all of those sorts of assessments that, that they do, you know, based on leadership presence in the marketplace and that sort of thing. I often recommend G2 to people. Have you heard of G2?

[00:13:09] Kevin: Yes, absolutely. Yes.

[00:13:11] Adam: The, the thing I like about G2 and, and I'd be a bit, don't hang your hat on the awards that the providers get on G2, you are, you're quite often seeing G2, and I think it's just previously referred to as G2 Crowd, I think, but yeah, you see all of these like, Leader 2022 or Leader Winter 2022, and that doesn't really mean much.

What I tend to recommend is find a solution, go into the reviews. And then you've got some filters on the review, so you've got most recent and most useful or whatever G2 thinks will be most useful. So I'd, I'd not just use that basic, most useful filter. I'd definitely go in to see what's the most recent feedback of people that are doing this now.

And then see whether you can do similar said when you're buying something on Amazon. Right. You know, just cuz something on Amazon's got, you know, four and a half stars across 3000 reviews doesn't necessarily mean that it's for you.

So you want to get a combination of those five star reviews, but you also wanna have a look at those one star reviews.

Yeah. So that's, that's what G2 is good for. But as you say, also, if you do know anybody that you can actually speak to that is using these applications to get those experiences, then that works better as well. And then when you do get, get into discussions with your supplier, you can say, right.

“Thanks for that. We've had the demo. Can I speak to some of your customers?”

[00:14:34] Kevin: Yeah. The other thing that I'd say is in certain areas there are experts in the field who will have published material. One that springs to mind is the whole FP&A area, and somebody I think you've had in your podcast, he's been on mine and we've had him in for at least one future finance function Zoom sessions is Paul Barnhurst, the FP&A Guy.

And Paul produces an extensive guide on all of the various FP&A tools that are in the marketplace. Now, if you are after a tool in a particular area, you know, look for, is there a guide available? Is there an expert available who's giving an independent view on what's out there?

[00:15:19] Adam: Yes. And that's the key, isn't it? It's independent. I'm not associated with these companies. I'm not getting a kickback, you know, I'm doing this because I want to provide insight and guidance is the key there.

[00:15:34] Kevin: And also I'd say talk to the supplier of your core finance system as well.

Our future finance functions, we use an associate of as Chris Treadwell to run them. Now, Chris, in his day job works for a Aqilla who are an ERP provider. All of the time Aqilla are being asked by clients, can I integrate with this? Can I integrate with that? And somebody like Chris therefore builds up a very, very good idea of the art of the possible.

And has a good, broad overview of the alternatives for doing particular things.

People like that are really worth talking to. So if you've got a friendly, I would say salesperson, I'd say customer relationship manager with your, with your finance system provider, you know, go, go quiz them on what you’d like to use.

[00:16:37] Adam: Yeah. It's all about asking good questions at the end of the day, isn't it? Thanks for that, Kevin.

[00:16:44] Kevin: Marketing people will normally, or salespeople will normally tell you, “Oh, of course our solution does that.” I should mention as well, Adam, that on our website on the insights page, there is a finance systems survey report in 2020.

On 2021. We asked a lot of the finance leaders in our community tell to tell us about their finance systems and what they thought about them. So there's some very interesting insights in that document. It doesn't cover everything in tech. It's more addressing the core accounting system than the various apps you might use these days.

But it's a great place to start getting, getting people's opinion.

Finance predictions for 2023

[00:17:27] Adam: Interesting. And staying on the subject of your insights page there, we talked about it before we started recording. Predictions for this year. So right at the bottom of your predictions page. There's a few there.

So, so ‘Impact of tough market conditions’, ‘Why finance leaders need to spend more time on non-finance activities’, ‘Why finance leaders must focus on people’ So there's quite a lot there. Do, do you wanna unpick that a little bit and take…

[00:17:57] Kevin: Yeah, and your original question to me for coming on the podcast, Adam, was well, Can you help give an insight on what finance leaders should be looking out for in 2023?

And what are the tech things that are happening? But, and the end of last year, we surveyed the community and we asked a lot of people what was going on in 2023. So what we got back was a mixture of general things as well as tech things. Okay. I think you've got to understand what's going on in general, before you can answer the what's happening in tech.

Now clearly we know there are tough market conditions. Okay. So we are seeing a talk of recession overall, less economic growth. And the interesting thing, nearly all finance leaders, if you ask them, their companies are still going for high growth numbers.

It's gonna be a tough year. We've got inflation, so keeping a handle on your costs becomes very important, though, again, a lot of finance leaders say growing revenue is more important than trying to keep a handle on the costs still, which is very interesting, but funding is gonna be a big one.

We've gone through some years where funding was in abundance. Investors were looking for all sorts of things. Now there's gonna be the change. Funding's gonna be a lot tougher to get a hold of. And I've got a podcast coming out in a couple of weeks where we're talking about the funding situation and what the marketplace looks like.

Now we know that investors are gonna be looking for much more rigor. They're gonna be more risk averse. They're gonna be looking for very, very strong business cases to invest. So the, the level of funding isn't gonna be round there. I think potentially we're gonna see a fallout in the FinTech world because there's a, there are a lot of FinTech companies out there.

A lot of them are gonna come up for their next funding round. And where maybe two years ago that funding round could be quite easy. There might be more challenges, in fact, as we speak, and this will, this will probably be a few weeks old by the time this podcast issued, I recorded a podcast with the CFO of a German bank, Christoph Iwaniez, who ended up having before Christmas to wind the bank up.

Basically they, they got to the position they needed to go and raise more funds, and they found that they, for one reason or another, the funds weren't there in the market. And the experience that he goes through, the practical steps to winding up a Bitcoin bank, they're very, very interesting, but they're all managing people type problems rather than the tech itself.

So bear that in mind.

And now, because the market's tougher, finance leaders will be spending more time on non-finance activities, it's the whole company that matters. It's not just running the finance function. Finance has gotta be serving the overall business. So I would say if then, if you're not doing it already, I'd expect you to be as a finance leader.

Equally equal, time spent between finance and non-finance activity.

Which means you've gotta have the right team of people behind you. So you need to be focusing much more on your people in your team, giving them more responsibility, developing them, giving them the freedom to do the things that they need to do, enabling them. And some of that enablement might be tech.

Again, if you are gonna spend more time on non-finance activities, there are probably implications on the information that you. Again, comes back to tech. You're probably gonna try to get yourself out of some operational aspects of the business. So there could be some aspects of automation in there. So you can see the background that we think we're gonna see in 2023 around the general conditions.

Okay, so what does that mean? Probably another trend that I need to po point out before we go into the tech itself. Sustainability and ESG reporting, have been a big topic last year. They're gonna be an even bigger topic this year. Okay. We're gonna see lots more companies try to work out how to do that, that type of reporting.

It's not pure finance reporting. And it's another reason that the finance lead who is probably gonna end up as responsible for doing most of it because the reporting disciplines, sit in finance. The finance lead is gonna have to be more involved in the whole business to pick up the right data and so on.

So something else, I think we're gonna see some tools coming to the market that are gonna help people with ESG. In GrowCFO itself, what we're looking at the moment, is… Can we put a toolkit together around a competency framework to help people with some of the things that they're doing.

So again, we're gonna be using digital technology to, to help people with things like, risk registers, blueprinting, their finance function segment, their revenues and so on. There aren't really a good comprehensive set of tools out there at the moment to help finance leaders do some of that stuff.

So we're gonna be looking in there, watch this space. That may be an announcement.

ESG, Data Governance & Month-end Close

[00:23:49] Adam: And I, I haven't found… I have done a little bit of research because ESG is becoming more and more of a focus, but I haven't successfully found any platforms that are, well, shall we say, spending enough marketing for me to be able to find them in the ESG space.

I know with the likes of SAP, for example, in the roadmap, there are plans to start building in some of those environmental responsibility metrics, but a lot of the times they're still not quite here yet. So I think there's a bit of a gap in the market if people aren't doing it already, to start offering tools that make that specific piece easier, because it's gonna take a while for the mainstream finance applications to, to catch up, I think.

[00:24:35] Kevin: I think that's absolutely right. Yes. But other things that we're seeing, data governance, we we're seeing as being a big area. There's more and more and more data.

There's greater need to make sure your data's secure, greater need to make sure you're following the appropriate privacy rules and so on. But then the, it comes to there’s so much data, what's useful versus what's not useful. And have you got a single version of the truth? So we're, we're seeing it's extension of things we've already got, but it's becoming bigger.

But on top of that, we think that it's gonna become more and more common for a data scientist role within the finance team.

Not, not strictly speaking, new apps, but new skills in the team, bringing something different into pull. More of that non-finance plus finance data into reporting to be able to give better insights and so on. But now we know tech is evolving very, very fast, and the problem is that tech is evolving fast in the finance function.

So there's a whole people piece here around the finance function, catching up with what the tech can do. Finance can go through step changes. Technology, you know, it's way, way faster than that. It's exponential, so we've gotta keep on top of it. One of the areas that we actually still see across a lot of member organizations is the speed a month end close.

And you can probably… We did a survey before Christmas asking people how long it took them to close the books. And there was a romp of people that said, oh, about five days. And then another romp of people that said, oh, it's about 10 days. So for 50% of companies, there's a challenge there. Can you get from 10 days to 5?

And even the ones at five are probably saying, well, how do I make it four? How do I make it three? Because what I wanna be doing in the rest of my month is actually making sense of the data. I don't want the data to come out in a monthly reporting so far after month end that it's historic, that it's history.

I want something there that's actually current that tells a real state of the business. So all of that is part of finance moving to become much more of a business reporting function. So we are going to see a lot more things around month end close.

I think we've certainly looked in future finance functions, a couple of solutions that help you with month end close, but that's an area still in terms of tech, in terms of apps and so on.

Anything that can help take a day outta that process is gonna be in big demand.

Will we ever see a continuous close?

[00:27:50] Adam: Do you think we'll ever get to the point where we can close continuously?

[00:27:56] Kevin: Interesting one and I, back in my PWC days and we're talking now, gosh, this is virtually 20 years ago, Adam. I was working for the analytics business and we roughly had two parts. One part was dealing with fast close. The other part of the business was talking about planning, budgeting and forecasting.

Now, fast close back then 2003, we were talking about Cisco systems cuz they'd already done the virtual close, and we were helping organizations to try and get more and more to that virtual closed position. Now, the fact that we're saying 20 years on this is still a difficult problem, says that it might happen, it might never happen.

Now there's a lot to be sorted out, and it's about data quality. It's about checking errors. It's about, I think the thing that probably will help us get to this more than anything else is artificial intelligence. It's the bits of software that could spot the errors in the data. It's the bits that get things corrected before you get to month end.

Certainly a fairly common process in in finance will be, “Oh, we've put a trial balance together, or we've put a draft, draft P&L together for the month. Does it look right? Oh, that number looks a bit odd. We better go back and investigate that.”So I think that is something that certainly takes time. And the month then takes you far longer to correct errors and gets stuff right in the first place.

[00:29:34] Adam: For me, it comes back to that point that you mentioned about non-finance activities and the interaction between departments. Because I predict. Not too long, the data accuracy piece, the speed of reporting, all of those sorts of things, we won't even think about them because systems will enable us to, to get it right first time.

And going back to your point there about AI, you know, there are already systems. We mentioned them in our discussion about, providers that are able to do stuff like outlier detection. You know, any mainstream provider now that's building software on a public infrastructure where they have access to a massive amount of data is gonna be able to build in these, these clever AI machine learning algorithms.

So that's the piece that I'm sure is gonna become quicker, but, and maybe an industry example is better there. So yeah, a SaaS company, right, where everything's quite… Especially if it's low value, you know, software licensing whereby you know what your customers are paying. Yes, there's maybe the opportunity to upsell, but more often than not, somebody signs up to a contract and it's X amount per user per month.

Right? That's the sort of stuff where you can get speed of information quite quickly. You're able to quickly calculate what your overheads are because you know how much pay developers are, you know how much you pay your sales team and all that sort of stuff. In other industries, however, let's imagine that you are construction, or you are a complex project service business. The problem there doesn't become the speed of the close. It becomes the speed of the transfer of data between different departments.

I'm waiting for you on your time sheet information. And it's that piece that I think is gonna be the main difficulty.

It's not that we don't have the tools to speed it up, it's the fact that there's always gonna be a conflict. Within departments that don't necessarily understand the world of the other departments. Yeah, and that's where you are referencing there, that, you know, that's where those business partnering skills come into their own, because you need to bring everybody on board.

[00:31:44] Kevin: And I think of a particular example a few years ago in my career as I did a project to do the financial transformation on a coal fire power station, and one of the issues there was that the maintenance spend was out of control.

“Oh, the power station's broken. We've gotta fix this quick. Let's get somebody in to do it now.”

They'd get the person in and start the fixing. Yes, from a safety point of view, they'd raise the appropriate, minimal paperwork from a financial point of view.

“Oh, we'll get around the purchase order next week.”

Work's been done. They haven't even raised the purchase order for it…

And that an extreme, but… And it is where business partnering comes into its own. And one of the big things we did on the power station that worked really well, we did some commercial training with the maintenance people. One of, one of muggins here's jobs was to train 200 blue collar workers in commercial awareness.

And we, we also took the finance team and trained them in business partnering and how to guide and sit next to the maintenance managers and find out what was really happening.

And we also introduced zero-based budgeting, and we introduced a system whereby we only gave them a phased budget release so that we knew early when they were running outta money.

One of the problems that the station was outta control is you didn't know you'd overspent. Until well after the event, and you couldn't tell the holding company or the French parent that they’d blown the budget until well after it had been blown.

So it is a lot of the problems, Adam don't come down to tech. They come down to people talking to each other. And doing the right things at the right time.

Dealing with transformation & change

[00:33:45] Adam: Is this a big business problem? Using that example there? I, I was having a discussion recently, and I mean, I used the SaaS example there for month-end close. You know the complexity doesn't warrant a lengthy close in that instance.

But I think the reason, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the reason why these sorts of discussions about digital transformation and so on have gone on for so long is because, the people in the process are that embedded within large businesses, it's an almost impossible task to transform.

Yeah. Cause you're almost having to unpick to start again in some instances.

[00:34:28] Kevin: Well, that's why actually in future finance functions, we went into a big series on change. Right. Because you're right, it's not the tech, it's about the culture in the organisation. You’ve as well as putting the new tech solution in, you've gotta change behaviors.

You've gotta make, get people to think in a different way, do things in a different way. And yep. At the start of any discussion on change, I ask people to do a very simple thing. I ask you to do it now. Fold your arms.

Now Adam, fold them the opposite way.

How's that feel?

[00:35:16] Adam: Horrible.

[00:35:18] Kevin: Exactly. Now you know everything you need to do know about business change. I've asked you to do a very simple thing, which is simply instead of right arm over left, you've got left arm over, right? It feels incredibly uncomfortable, and the first thing you want to do is change back to the way you were doing it before.

That is your entire problem around business change. Now you can have the greatest tech in the world. People will feel incredibly uncomfortable using it. The old tech that you just replaced, you will have people who knew it inside out. You'll, you'll probably have people in the organization, not necessarily at senior levels, who are the experts in using that old tech.

They will feel disenfranchised. Feel as though they're kind of outta a job because their expertise position’s being removed. You know, and people go through quite a bad experience to start off with where they feel whatever the change is, where it's a tech change, where there's an organisational structure change, they feel uncomfortable, they feel disenfranchised.

And your job as a finance. In the, in a finance transformation to get them working with the new system to get them realising that things aren't just different, they're better and can solve some problems. And there's a lot to it anyway,

[00:36:40] Adam: It’s so difficult, cuz I mean, using that unfolding example, you're speaking to a feeling rather than something logical.

And it's gonna take quite a lot for somebody to convince me that sitting with my arms crossed to another way is better for me than sitting in the way that I've always sat. So it's definitely a skill to, to speak to that.

[00:37:08] Kevin: So we we're going back to where we started.

We talked about the capability framework, a competency framework rather, and the capability to manage ss a big one. And, you are saying, well, to what extent is this traditional versus digital transformation skills? The problems that we're addressing, those ones about people and getting to do the right stuff at the right time are the same problems that we've always had, and they're very, very precious skills when you've got them.

So I think, you know, we've probably covered that, the ninth prediction as we started talking about beyond fast close, can we get at a data, AI, things like that.

We're seeing one of the trends to be the evolution of the financial controller role, where there's gonna be much more help and support from tech coming in.

But you say if we want faster close, if we want to go towards that virtual close. The digital tech might be there, but it's about changing hearts and minds of people.

Have I stunned you into silence, Adam?

[00:38:32] Adam: No. Pensive, I think is the word to use there.

[00:38:39] Kevin: It’s probably a very good point to wrap up the discussion actually.

ChatGPT & Jasper

[00:38:45] Adam: Coming up to three UK time.

No, it's been, it's been great. Kevin, something to put on your radar though.

Was having this discussion recently. Have you heard of ChatGPT?

[00:38:56] Kevin: No.

[00:38:57] Adam: Right. You need to get on that. So, and, and this will become more and more well known, but it, it comes back to that skills piece and the, the evolution of people.

So last year, I think it was last November, a company called OpenAI. Launched, essentially the best way to describe it, it's a chatbot, but they programmed it with almost endless data, historical texts, websites. They, they basically got it to, to scrape a vast amount of data only up until the end of 2021.

But they've made it available for free to the public. Whereby you can speak to a bot that will respond to you in natural language, but it is very intelligent.

So they've banned it in schools now because kids are using it to write essays for them. So you can say to it, write me an article on, you know, the evolution of dinosaurs in the cretaceous period or something like that.

And it will do it for you, but you can also interact with it after it's given that initial response. So you can say, convert that into a story. Yes. You know, or, or talk to me as though I'm watching a Shakespearean play.

[00:40:15] Kevin: I will go and have a look at that. We're actually using something very similar called Jasper.

[00:40:20] Adam: Jasper. And that's the big thing because we're now into the concept of ethics. Because is it ethical to have a bot generate a load of content automatically for you? Does that give you an unfair advantage? But the reason that I mention it is when we come to skills, you know, obviously in the finance community, we all love Excel, right?

And I saw a YouTube video and I’ll put it in the show notes, and it's actually coming out in, in the newsletter to tomorrow. This, this will come out after the newsletter's gone out, but you'll be able to find it at Tech for Finance in the newsletters section. But it's a YouTube video with somebody asking ChatGPT how to build quite a complex formula to populate data in Excel.

So actually we're getting to the point now where people don't need Excel skills anymore. Because all they'll need to do is open a spreadsheet and ask something like “ChatGPT, how do I build this?” And it'll give them basically the code to build it. It'll write macros, it'll write code, you know, all of those sorts of things.

So it's gonna be very interesting to see the way that that evolves because Microsoft are poised to invest. I can't remember the figure, something like 10 billion in OpenAI. They've already got a partnership there. But if that comes off, what we'll see is, you can already in PwoerBI. Do a Q&A in the data set.

So you can go in and ask PowerBI “Show me my forecast for this department over the next 12 months”or something like that, assing the data's there, right?

Power BI will provide that response. And it's similar concept, but if we imagined that instead of being in something like PowerBI, you log into a Word document or an Excel docent or even into.

And you decide, right? Well actually I know what the end result is, but I've no idea how to get there. You've got your little chatbot comes up in the corner and you just ask the chatbot, you know, “Write me the code for this, or build me the Excel formula for this.”You know, or in Word, structure a piece that needs to be used for new, financial controller onboarding, for example.

You know, to have that power for it to do 80% of the work for you, I think is gonna be a bit of a game changer and the people are scared about it.

You know, I'm not scared about it in the current sense because I think there's only so much similar content you can regurgitate. You know, knowledge is knowledge. There's only so many times you can repeat it.

I think where it's gonna get really interesting is when it's built in alongside these other applications that we're seeing already, because that's really gonna accelerate. Yeah. And it all relates to that skillset that…

[00:42:54] Kevin: And before Christmas, I put a podcast out with one of our mentors, Susanna, and we were talking about NLP and why NLP was useful for the finance leader.

And hang on, I've gotta write some show notes for this podcast. We've got a lot of things where we went off on tangents in the episode, right? I need three simple paragraphs here to explain what NLP is and why it's useful. I went into Jasper, ask Jasper, oh, “Please write me a blog post about NLP and why it's useful to the finance leader.”

It gave me about six paragraphs. It gave me a bit too much actually. And, but then it was, rather than me sitting there with writers block trying to write sentence one. I was trying then to condense six paragraphs into probably about the right amount of text to use. Absolutely. Game changer.

[00:43:38] Adam: Yeah, and it's, it's more than likely that Jasper will use something like OpenAI in the background.

But as I say, OpenAI or it's Chat [dot [] OpenAI or something like that. I'll put that in the show notes, but login for free and start asking it questions. You’ll be amazed honestly.

Okay Kevin, conscious of time now. So, where can people find out more about you? More about GrowCFO?

Find out more about Kevin & GrowCFO

[00:44:04] Kevin: Okay,, there's a load of things on the website. In fact, the insights pages I've been talking about, you can find the nine insights for this year. There you can find the GrowCFO Show podcast. There you can find all sorts of blog posts and all sorts of things. You can find me on LinkedIn, just look for Kevin Appleby.

Probably, you can put link to that in the show notes if you want, Adam.

[00:44:34] Adam: Yeah. Perfect. So yeah, that’ll go there.

That's it, those are the two best routes.

Excellent. Well, really appreciate having you on the show, Kevin. It's been good to have a catch up. It has, it's been excellent. And then yeah, let me know once you've had a look at ChatGPT cause I’d quite like to nerd out with you about that at some point as well.

[00:44:50] Kevin: Ah, definitely, the sort of nerd I am, I'm off to look, well, it’ll be done like literally in a minute as we finish this call, I'm recording an episode of the next a hundred Days podcast , but after that I will be off to nerd out on OpenAI .

[00:45:03] Adam: Yeah. Perfect. Alright, Kevin, well have a good afternoon. Enjoy your podcast.

[00:45:06] Kevin: I'll speak to you bit later. You take care. Cheers. Bye-Bye.


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