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Early in his finance career, Anders Fohlin discovered that he could ratchet up his capacity to consume information and problem-solve simply by drawing pictures.
However, what had originated more as a personal observation would eventually evolve to something more as he discovered that his visuals could serve others.
“I started to regularly draw processes on white boards and paper to make things very visual for everybody and help others to get the full picture,” explains Fohlin, whose knack for creating visuals and goal of making things more visible “for everybody” led him to begin viewing routine meetings as opportunities for visualization.
Says Fohlin: “I found that process maps and gathering people in the same room was a really good way to spark energy and collaboration and have people feel that they were important and doing something more than just shoveling coal.”
Fohlin adds that his early efforts to create greater collaboration and inclusion ended up opening the door for him to various senior finance roles and eventually led him to the CFO office at software developer Medius.
Among the guiding principles that Fohlin says have influenced his leadership style and approach over time is the notion of transparency.
Ten years ago, while a senior finance executive at NASDAQ, he participated in a series of meetings to discuss the adoption of an activity-based costing model. “We would sit around the table and go product by product to explore ways in which we could improve,” he recalls, “and this was done with representatives from all of the different functions.”
Part of the approach involved sharing numbers more widely across the organization and downward to the workforce at large.
“If each employee can see the overall picture and what aligns their daily activities with the strategy and vision of the company, then they make better decisions,” explains Fohlin, who adds that today—as a CFO—he’s still drawing pictures. –Jack Sweeney
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Guest: Anders Fohlin
Company: Medius Inc.
Headquarters: Stockholm, Sweden
Using multiple cross-related metrics to extend your lines of sight.
CFOTL: Tell us about Medius … what does it do? What is the competition like for these types of offerings?
Fohlin: Medius is a global software-to-service spend management company. We have operations in North America, in Europe, and in APAC. We manage transactions worth more than $150 billion every year in our systems, and the numbers grow quite rapidly. If you want to position us more clearly toward maybe more well-known brands, you could think of us as Coupa for the midmarket.
We improve the transparency and efficiency around source-to-pay operations. Think of this as organizational spend management: business-to-business costs, cash, and compliance. Supplier sourcing, contracting, supply management, accounts payable, and payments. In the past, procurement and accounts payable have been silo’d in most companies, but today integrating these functions in an end-to-end suite supports operational efficiency, visibility, and control. I think that these capabilities are becoming increasingly more important for organizations that need to leverage improved supply chain agility, cash flow strategies, and so forth.
What we’ve done is to build modular solutions for the cloud. Our clients can choose whether they want to run the whole source-to-pay flow in the solutions or just individual processes—such as accounts payable, automation, or sourcing—and then expand into other solutions. One of the industry analysts who made quite a thorough analysis of our solutions called us “the world’s best unknown spend management suite.” I don’t know whether that’s good or bad, but we’ll be a bit better known in the coming years. jb