Automation is a winning strategy for the CFO of the Dallas Cowboys

May 20, 2021, 9:00 AM UTC

Good morning,

Are you ready for some … data?

Many finance teams in the midst of a deluge of data are turning to automation to streamline tasks. And that’s what Tom Walker, CFO of the Dallas Cowboys Football Club, did as he oversees all of team owner Jerry Jones’ family businesses. The sports franchise is valued at $5.7 billion, according to Forbes.

To implement a cloud-based automation program, Walker and his finance team worked with Trintech, a privately held financial software firm headquartered in a Dallas suburb with just under 500 employees. The Cowboys franchise has no ownership stake in Trintech. The firm’s clients also include national companies such as CVS Health and Kroger. I asked Walker and Darren Heffernan, president at Trintech, and a former CFO at the firm, about automation and forecasting. 

As an NFL franchise, how did the onset of the coronavirus pandemic affect your digital transformation and technology adoption?

Tom Walker: First off, people think we’re a football team—we play on Sunday, we play 17 games a year, we aspire to advance far into the playoffs, and then the playoffs are over in February. Football is a 24/7 business, 365 days a year. Plus, our organization is unique in that we also have an extremely large oil and gas division, real estate division and everything else we do. We are actually over 150 different companies with roughly 600 full-time employees. There’s a lot more to it than just football, including on the finance and accounting side of the business.

Learning to do things virtually has been one of the most valuable takeaways from the pandemic—and it has really been an acceleration of the trend that was underway pre-pandemic. For my finance team, one of the things that’s been pivotal is an automated solution to make our monthly close process as efficient and streamlined as possible. We onboarded with Trintech before the pandemic, and the value of that infrastructure, especially over the last 15 months, has been critical. 

Darren Heffernan: As Tom said, the pandemic really cemented the need for digital transformation for F&A teams across the business spectrum. With the Cowboys, we started the automation process in one vertical inside of the football vertical pre-pandemic. The goals were to enhance communication during the monthly close—no one’s waiting on a task to be completed that’s already completed, or if they’re waiting, they know why they’re waiting—and make the process more efficient.

Can you share any forecasting techniques to meet the challenge of the pandemic?

Tom Walker: Forecasting is only as good as the data you are using to generate it. One of the biggest data-related challenges in many organizations is that data tends to live in silos—it comes from disparate input sources. We wanted to make our data gathering smarter, even before the pandemic, to eliminate the opportunities for errors from manual entry, to eliminate opportunities for delay and bring it all together in much a more streamlined way. 

We wanted to also be able to generate strategic insights with agility, whenever we needed to. Then the pandemic came, and those things we had put in place were no longer nice-to-haves—they were fundamental to our ability to run the business remotely through a period of constant change. 

Darren Heffernan: When financial close automation software is built to ensure accurate and on-time financial reporting, it not only provides valuable insights into the health and performance of the business but also preserves human capital, by enabling employees to focus on value-add activities as opposed to repetitive, manual processes. Our 2021 Global Financial Close Benchmark Report found that a third of respondents identified overtime and employee burnout as the collective biggest challenge companies will tackle over the next five years.

Bonus question: What’s your most memorable Cowboys game?

Tom Walker: I’ve been blessed to enjoy some amazing experiences with the Cowboys organization. It would be easy to talk about “the catch” (or not) in Green Bay. I’ll always contend that was a catch—period. But the home opener in 2020 may be my most memorable game.

See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada

Big deal

A new report by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) examines how global IT and business professionals view the benefits, risks, and adoption barriers to new tech. More than 4,500 members  of ISACA named top emerging technologies: cloud (59%); A.I. (34%); and the Internet of things (27%). Respondents also shared the frequency of evaluations of emerging tech. 

Courtesy of ISACA

Going deeper

McKinsey's May 18 report, What's next for consumers, workers, and companies in the post COVID-19 recovery, provides a perspective on topics including the future of work and productivity over the next several years. However, "the pandemic’s uneven impact on workers, consumers, and companies threatens to create a two-speed recovery that widens inequality while delivering tepid growth," according to the report. If policymakers take the opportunity to address and emerging gaps, COVID-19's disruption may offer a path to broad-based growth, the report suggests.


John Hamm was named director of finance and accounting and CFO at Cumberland Pharmaceuticals Inc., a specialty pharmaceutical company. Hamm previously served as Cumberland's director of corporate development.

Todd Spartz was named CFO at Limeade, an employee experience software company. Prior to joining Limeade, Spartz was the CFO at UserZoom.


"I feel the extreme craziness is in the rearview mirror at this point."

— Steve Loebner, director of risk management at Sherwood Lumber, on the potential end to exorbitant lumber prices indicated by a futures pull back, as told to Fortune.

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