David Johnston Shares Project Management Tips for Part-time CFOs in Biotech

Jim Cunning
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A career as a chief financial officer in biotech is demanding. When the role is moved to a part-time capacity, strict time management is necessary to ensure all finance-related objectives are met in a timely fashion with accuracy and precision. Former CFO David Johnston has years of experience in biotech and strategic financial consultation, and they have helped him develop best practices for tackling the basics and the various projects that arise in corporate finance.

Tips for project management

Assess teams and categorize efficiencies and strengths

In addition to conquering standard financial-related projects, CFOs may also find themselves serving in cross-functional teams to tackle specific problems at a company, but even with this, the CFO's contribution and insights will lean toward the financial. This can make it a bit easier to budget time and resources due to expertise. As a C-level executive, appropriate delegation to subordinates and teams within the organization is key for certain tasks. Managers in the finance department and other team members can help with time-intensive but easily accomplished tasks contributing to larger projects.

For example, a cross-functional team may need several special reports to help determine the costs and benefits of test products and services or potential product launches. Other team members are capable of gathering data, forming reports, and establishing ongoing reporting for key data. After this, all that is required is a review of the data, methodologies, and any formulas to determine accuracy prior to finalization and presentation. By knowing which team members can complete work quickly or compile extremely comprehensive reports, it becomes easier to delegate with confidence.

Form clear plans

As a part-time executive in biotech, the need for precision is a given. David Johnston relates this should extend to all areas of project management. Part-time CFOs frequently rely on their teams for certain aspects of execution. The executive sets the vision, prioritizes auditing, ensures accuracy, and assesses and manages risk and all related factors. Due to this, any plans formulated independently or attached to projects for auditing, risk analysis, etc., should be articulated with an appropriate level of detail.

A clear vision needs to be established, deliverables defined, responsibilities outlined for team members, and deadlines set. Some teams are very self-directed and more capable of pivoting and accomplishing work without consistent oversight and action-by-action review or approval. Others need more consistent feedback or an even higher degree of specificity to complete tasks. When working part-time, the best way to avoid extra catch-up work at the end of the project is to meet the needs of teams who need more oversight on the front end with even more benchmarks for projects and a more robust outline of expectations. Similarly, a check-in needs to be scheduled for more self-directed teams to ensure expectations are being met.

Use a goal mixture

As a part-time executive, carefully balancing short-term and long-term goals is also key, according to David Johnston. Short-term projects are often redundant tasks needed for financials, such as quarterly reports, audits, and regular filings. Long-term projects should include a mixture of refining processes, implementing new technologies, and any efforts to streamline or expand.


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James "Jim" Cunning is a blogger and short story writer living in beautiful Littleton, Colorado. He enjoys writing on anything from local events, news, and issues to positive developments and personalities with a broader national impact.

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