XU: Castaway has been around the industry now for 12 years. Tell us what’s new with you and the team?
MF: Our biggest news has been the recent release of Castaway Cloud. We’ve been working hard on this for a long time and we’re very proud of the result. At the same time, we’re transitioning the Castaway business to a cloud company. It’s a very different way of thinking and I’m loving the energy the team is bringing to the challenge.
XU: Oh wow, that’s big news. It must have taken something to build a cloud software product during the last 2 years of a global pandemic. What did you have to overcome?
MF: It helped that my team has always been good at collaboration. We had the tools and means for everyone to work in their homes. Like most people, we had to sharpen our communication skills over video calls. The engineering team remained very productive. We’ve had people on the customer working hybrid for years, so our customer success, consulting and sales teams didn’t miss a beat.
I love face to face meetings with customers and partners around the world, so not being able to travel has been a challenge for me. We also had to revisit how we recruit new team members, which is an ongoing challenge for everyone, I’m sure.
XU: Someone told me you don’t believe in budgeting. Excuse me, but is this true?
MF: Ha, yes it’s true. It does get me in trouble with the traditionalists, but I think the old ways of budgeting kill businesses. One-year at a time, one scenario, no updates, with a forward view that shortens as the year goes on … it makes the business short sighted. Rolling forecasting all the way for me!
XU: What is your vision for those involved in the planning process in businesses? Where do you see this headed in 5 years’ time?
MF: Planning and FP&A more broadly is entering a golden age. The world is only becoming more uncertain. We can’t predict the future, but the businesses who prepare better for uncertainty will achieve the greatest success. It sounds counterintuitive, but planning as a process is much more valuable in uncertain times.
The shift to digital means we have more information than ever at our fingertips. The challenge is turning that data into insight. The last 5 years have seen some fantastic planning tools come onto the market. My hope is these tools encourages many more businesses to engage deeply in planning, forecasting and business modeling.
XU: I understand you ride your bicycle more kilometers than you drive your car each year. Tell us about this...
MF: Yes, I ride over 10,000 km per year. That’s a lot of hours on the bike, but it helps reach my goal of seeing 200 sunrises every year. I’ve always loved getting out on the bike. There’s some stunning scenery around if you slow life down enough to notice. It keeps me fit and I find that makes me more productive at work.
I ride to support our chosen charity, Tour de Cure Australia. We raise funds for cancer research and help to raise the awareness of cancer prevention and importance of research in communities and schools. This cause is important to me and my team and we welcome anyone who wants to join us.
XU: So, no pressure, Michael? You’ve set yourself goals to improve financial disciplines in the SMEs of the world and find a cure for cancer? If you have any spare time to squeeze in some leisure, will you share with us how you would spend a day off?
MF: I love to spend time with my adult children and I’ve recently become a grandfather for the first time, which fills me with joy. I enjoy watching sport and aside from road cycling, I enjoy mountain biking, skiing, swimming and yoga for fitness. I have a wide range of interests, so I guess it depends where I am in the world and what I have access to. I love art, theatre, good music, a decent red wine. I relax at home by cooking on the BBQ, chasing our dogs around the garden and working on my next book.