Why modern finance must learn to use “Land and Expand” tactics to convince the board

9th June 2016

FSN’s latest research into the Future of the Finance function confirms beyond doubt that CFOs are in a difficult place.  They want to innovate, create value, pay more attention to people and process improvement yet they are trapped by the twin perils of a lack of time and an unsympathetic board.  In fact, 75% of senior finance professionals believe CFOs will play a greater role in innovation but two thirds say they have too little time.

So how can CFOs break out of this trap and convince their colleagues to invest in internal process improvement?  




One method that some CFOs are adopting is to use what I call “Land and Expand” tactics, i.e. they demonstrate the value of process change through a small high profile initiative that is guaranteed to make an impression and build out from there.  And very often they turn to a cloud-based approach because they can get it done quickly and show success almost before anyone else has noticed!  Here is how it works.

Choose your pilot carefully

Work with a business unit or division that is up for change and has a clear need together with a wiling and senior enough process champion. 

Don’t be over-ambitious – choose a ‘safe’ SaaS-based application

The key to getting this off the ground is to choose a modest project that is manageable and will deliver results in a short time-frame.  That rules out adapting an existing legacy system because on-premise systems are usually difficult and expensive to change…besides which you are trying to demonstrate a break-through or step change in process improvement. 

Cloud based systems have the advantage that you can buy a monthly subscription on a credit card (avoiding heavy-duty CAPEX approval), you avoid all of the complications of commissioning hardware and software and you can be up and running very quickly.

But choose the application carefully, perhaps a simplified budgeting or time & expenses application.  You wouldn’t attempt this with a cloud-based ERP system.

Get it right and you create excitement

Good news travels fast.  Back in the nineties when planning, budgeting and forecasting systems were first becoming deployable on a large scale I used to recommend putting an application into a division or subsidiary almost as a proof of concept.  Of course you have to be confident that it is a good fit and that the application will deliver the results you are looking for but it worked wonders.  No sooner had a system gone live in one unit and there was a clamour from other business units that wanted to improve their process and save time. You had “landed” in the first unit and were now “expanding” into subsequent units…. but this time with the full approval and support of previously reluctant board members.

Do it before somebody else does

Don’t let frustration build up.  Increasingly, autonomous business units that are disenchanted with the old tools that they are forced to work with will take matters into their own hands.  They will acquire their own cloud-based systems because it is cheap and easy, and more importantly, you will have lost the opportunity to standardise on one approach. 

Why does it work?

Sean Fox, Head of FP&A, Speciality Food Ingredients, Tate & Lyle and an active member of the FSN Modern Finance forum put it this way in a recent post. “I think a big part of the problem is that Boards in general and many CEO s in particular are not very IT literate and don't themselves understand the issues.  My experience is that telling people doesn't work - you need to show them the benefits.”

I agree with Sean.  Sometimes CFOs just have to lead by example and show people how to do it if they want to effect change.  “Land and Expand” may help you.

What do you think?  Join in the debate in the Modern Finance Forum 

By Gary Simon, BSc, FCA, FBCS, CITP

A "Top 10" PowerProfile “Most viewed LinkedIn leaders UK” 

CEO of FSN and leader of The Modern Finance Function Group on Linkedin with 46,000 members.