Appearing in In The Black, May 2020
Finance Unleashed: Leveraging the CFO for Innovation
By Magnus Lind and Kelly Barner
Palgrave Macmillan, $80
In this era of rapidly changing financial technology and constant disruption, CFOs can often find themselves struggling to define their role. Lind and Barner, who between them have a wide range of C-level experience, provide a path forward, focusing on improved supply chain management as a means of adding value and strategic input.
They break the CFO role into the components of Customer-centricity, Process and Innovation, and unpack each to show what can be done. The middle section of the book features contributions by CFOs who have successfully re-defined their role, with an emphasis on innovative supply-chain solutions.
Moving beyond the traditional functions means a shake-up of both the finance department and the larger organisation. The CFO has to be willing to devolve some longstanding responsibilities, such as procurement, to operational branches. This is not easy but it frees the CFO team to look at the company’s value proposition more broadly, working with suppliers, other businesses, and customers. Lind and Barner provide checklists and templates to guide the way, as well as case studies to show the real-world effects. There is also an interesting survey of CFOs that shows where they are and where they think they need to go.
Cyber Security: Threats and Responses for Government and Business
By Jack Caravelli and Nigel Jones
Praeger Security, $102
This book provides a comprehensive overview of the state of play regarding cyber-threats. Caravelli and Jones note that while there are many cyber-criminals who seek to steal money the larger threat comes from agencies covertly supported by governments, with the aim of accessing national security secrets, crucial technology, and high-level data. Another goal for ‘grey’ agencies is the insertion of malware: an insidious form of plausible-deniability warfare. Caravelli and Jones look at some outstanding cases, as well as solutions and preventative measures.
Awareness of cyber-threats has grown but cyber-security has yet to be fully integrated into corporate and government operations. Caravelli and Jones identify crucial weaknesses: for example, they see the open architecture of the Internet of Things as a disaster waiting to happen.
Some of the best answers have come about through co-operative efforts by governments, businesses, and academic specialists. Designing systems for layered resilience makes sense, as does the idea of breaking crucial information into pieces and storing it behind firewalls in different locations. Caravelli and Jones review the strategies of several countries, with suggestions for the future. The concluding chapter, examining how the UK has developed a solid defence against cyber-threats, ties much of the story together.
The Experimental Leader: Be a New Kind of Boss to Cultivate an Organization of Innovators
By Melanie Parish
Page Two, $30
As an experienced management coach, Parish has heard many recently-promoted leaders speak of “imposter syndrome”, which is their fear that they do not really know how to do the job, and that the nasty secret will eventually be discovered. In this book, she offers a way forward, for both leaders at the team level and in the corner office.
The place to start is asking questions of yourself – Parish provides a list of suggestions – leading to a set of experiments. These experiments will help to define what sort of leader is required in the circumstances, how your own style can be developed, and how others can be brought along with you. Parish borrows scientific methodologies for testing hypotheses, analysing results, and determining metrics. She also looks at Japanese kata methods of questioning for continuous improvement. Experimentation leads the way to innovation and productivity gains, and if an experiment fails then it can be examined for lessons.
Parish also believes that ‘management by walking around’ is a good way to open channels for communication and feedback. Her model might not be suitable for all cases but it offers interesting food for thought and a useful avenue for more effective leadership.