Cities on the Brink

Municipal finance chiefs are fighting to keep their troubled cities solvent. Sometimes it’s a losing battle.

Prior to its incorporation in 1850, Stockton, Calif., was known as Fat City, and later Mudville. Prophetically, its financial fortunes followed this progression in names from boom to bust. Stockton filed for bankruptcy in 2012, and until Detroit went bankrupt earlier this year, it had the dubious distinction of being the largest city in the country to seek Chapter 9 protection. The cities are two of 12 other municipalities that have petitioned for bankruptcy protection since 2008, among them Jefferson County, Alabama; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and Vallejo, California. Eight of these filings occurred in the last three years.


May the Field Be with You

Cloud-based applications are pushing out planning and forecasting to workers in the farthest reaches of the company.

Simplifying the decision-making process is a fundamental goal for CFOs, given the competitive necessities of agility and speed. Unfortunately, many traditional planning, budgeting and forecasting systems see the business world as local and linear, not global and cooperative, frustrating this imperative.

Finish reading at:

Failing—to Win

Make no mistake about it; no one likes to make a mistake. But admitting one’s failure and learning from it often provides for greater success in future. That’s the message from several CEOs who made well-informed decisions backed by solid research and due diligence that nonetheless failed miserably. Sure, their pride took a punch, but they came away from the knockdown tougher and smarter for the next round.

-See more at:

All Together Now

The convergence of social, mobile and cloud technologies —“SoMoClo”— is changing the way companies work.


No, it’s not the latest trendy neighborhood in New York City. “SoMoClo” is shorthand for a phenomenon that will have a lasting impact on business intelligence: the convergence of social media, mobile technologies and a cloud IT infrastructure.

Read the rest of the article at


Lessons Learned: Before You Sign Off on a New Technology System, Who Will Support It?

Sit half a dozen chief financial officers from large organizations in a room. Ask them to take a deep breath, then say these words: “ERP implementation.” Now run for cover.

Despite the backbone utility of enterprise resource planning systems, which seamlessly facilitate the flow of internal and external information between business functions, the significant process changes required are a headache in the making. Add to this the eye-popping costs and the risk of a security breach and it is no wonder why more than one CFO has lost his or her job in the post-implementation dustup.

Read the rest of the article at

Still Not Working

CFO logoConfronted with shrinking revenue during the Great Recession, many U.S. companies made what seemed to be lasting improvements in their management of working capital. But today it appears that the improvements were simply a short-term fix.

That conclusion can be drawn from the findings of the latest working capital survey by REL Consulting. For the second straight year, REL’s annual survey of 1,000 large public U.S. companies reveals a pronounced lack of sustained working capital improvement.

Read the rest of the article at CFO. 

Healing the CFO-CIO Rift

Not long ago, CFOs and CIOs were a breed apart. The former thought and talked in the language of dollars and cents; the latter thought and talked in bits and bytes. A conversation between the two was like a bad “speed dating” encounter.

This is a bit of an exaggeration, but clearly the relationship between these two senior executive leaders was uncomfortable at best. Flash forward to today, and something has changed. For one thing, more CIOs now report up to CFO, rather than to Chief Executive. This has put some pressure on the two roles to smooth out their differences.

But, something else also is afoot. The advent of mobile business apps integrated to back end ERP systems or cloud-based finance, CRM and HRMS systems is altering the IT paradigm and, by extension, transforming the role of the CIO. No longer do companies want CIOs to focus exclusively on managing IT–implementing, maintaining and upgrading expensive on-premises systems, in addition to making them better, cheaper and faster. They want the CIO to be a strategy innovator.

Just like the CFO a generation ago moved from the back office to the front office, CIOs are being invited to grab a seat there, as well. At this strategy table the conversation is flowing—how can we take full advantage of business apps and mange the related risks, where best can we deploy our scant IT resources for marketing purposes, and is there a tool that can make demand forecasting more robust to improve planning?

Dollars and cents and bits and bytes are giving way to strategic discussions predicated on driving profitable business growth.

This is a best-case scenario, of course. And it requires that CIOs and CFOs simply get along better. Each must find ways of speaking the same language—CFOs getting in touch with their inner CIO and vice versa.

Interestingly, the complex technology and sophisticated finance that initially separated these two leaders due to their numbing nuances have been made simpler by, of all things, technology. Ten years from now, who knows? CFOs and CIOs—those strange bedfellows—just might be best pals.

Appraising Performance Appraisals

Providing employees with consistent, effective feedback is what often distinguishes good from great CEOs. Appraisals may, in fact, be a CEO’s most potent tool in aligning people and improving effectiveness. So why do most CEOs hate doing it and why is it done so poorly by so many of us?

We broke the process down and spoke with top-performing CEOs and companies of various sizes, including two of Chief Executive magazine’s CEOs of the Year, to help you improve your appraisal process and become an effective coach.

Read the rest of the article at


Weathering the Weather (CFO)

CFO logoIn the face of extreme weather and natural disasters, companies are reengineering their supply chains for added reliability.

Since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, catastrophes like the massive floods in Thailand and Pakistan, a prolonged drought in the Southwestern United States, and the one-two punch of hurricanes Irene and Sandy seem to be occurring with more frequency, with expensive consequences for many companies.

Read the rest of the article at CFO. 

Mobile Devices Offer Business On the Go, But the Risks Bear Mention

It’s astonishing when you think about all we accomplish today with a device half the size of a pack of playing cards. If you’re an intrepid person like me, you’re probably using your smartphone to do something that would have been absurd a decade ago—depositing checks into your checking account, transferring money from one account to another, and wondering just how the magical device will deliver cash in future. It already buys me coffee at Starbucks.

Mobile banking is just one of many business apps populating the tiny landscape of our smartphones and tablets. I use an app that organizes my reimbursable business expenses, snapping photos of my tax receipts and dinner bills. In the background, a genie attends to the clerical stuff I used to attend do with a half-inch thick wad of paper receipts. I am thus more personally productive.

Today, more than half of the 100 largest banks in the US offer mobile banking, and roughly 19 million US households use the service. The enhanced efficiency of mobile banking is evident in the 2,500 branches that banks closed last year, and an expected decline in the number of branches from 93,000 to 80,000 within the next decade. Other businesses have latched onto the ease and operational cost efficiencies of offering clients the ability to pay them using a mobile device.

We operate in the BYOD era, in which our companies want us to use the same device we text our teenagers on for business purposes—so long as IT is made aware and, even better, centrally manages this use. There are many reasons why IT and business unit leaders must be cognizant of these activities—the varied risks they produce. Offsetting this robust organizational effectiveness is the need to protect all that customer data and proprietary business information flying through the airwaves.  Serious privacy and security risks must be addressed since these devices are susceptible to being lost or stolen. Companies also must ensure their mobile solutions are secure from identity theft, viruses, malware and data transmission vulnerabilities, and comply with myriad federal and state regulations.

Certainly, anyone with a mobile device would be hard-pressed not to take advantage of the remarkable convenience of reviewing savings and checking account balances, depositing checks and transferring funds via their smartphones. And companies would lose competitive position if they did not continue to discover other new and innovative business apps. The goal is to seize these opportunities while managing the related risks.