Following five years of employment with Environmental Works Inc., Katie Wendt was promoted in late 2022 to chief information officer, the biggest role in her roughly 15-year professional career.
Previously a corporate systems analyst at Environmental Works, Wendt says growth at the company, which provides environmental consulting and contracting services, has been both challenging and rewarding. Its staff grew last year to over 300 – a 30% increase since 2020.
“This means that we have constantly had to rethink the way we do business, because the processes that were working for us yesterday aren’t going to be working for us tomorrow,” Wendt says, noting she manages the information technology team and collaborates with department heads to maintain the current database systems and integrate new ones when necessary. “I enjoy the challenges that come with the growth of a company, because that also means that we can constantly be innovating, building efficiencies and exploring new possibilities on how to get the work done.”
Wendt says since she doesn’t have an IT or technical background, she focuses on being a strategic partner and letting the team find the best way to execute data strategies.
“It can become quite easy in any department to get so far into the weeds of the daily actions that time flies by, and you feel that you haven’t gotten anything done,” she says. “What I can bring to the table is that global perspective: Where do we really want to see ourselves at the end of this year? What small steps do we need to take along the way to get there? I’m not going to tell the team how to do the steps, but just try to check in to make sure they are still on the path moving forward.”
Starting with Environmental Works as a general accountant in 2017, Wendt said some of her early work involved completing timesheets and expense reports. However, her responsibilities grew as Environmental Works continued to build its internal reporting, leading her to help the company’s controller complete monthly financial statements in lieu of a chief financial officer at the time. She says a particular hurdle to overcome was implementing a new enterprise resource planning software system while going through a series of CFO hires.
“Our ERP system is not only where we keep our accounting data, but also all other information related to the projects that we do,” she says, noting it also houses customer relationship management data, such as timesheets and client contact information. “So, we were changing not only how we were doing most of our daily actions, but also changing who was reviewing and making decisions based on the summary of those actions.”
Wendt says she worked with other teams in the company to implement better data collection practices, and invoice managers were added to streamline the process into the ERP system. The moves have paid off, she says.
“With their help in executing the work, we can now report project profitability on a weekly basis – instead of monthly or quarterly. Our clients are getting their invoices faster, we have been able to collect cash faster and our overall project profitability has increased,” she says.
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