By Karen Bernstein

All chief financial officers worth their salt know that they need to invoke the standard methods of controlling costs, linking operating milestones with financial planning, and that the best way to keep spending down is to just say no. But smart companies also find innovative ways to cut corners without sacrificing programs, for savings that can range from thousands to millions of dollars.

Paying attention to both kinds of savings early on can help companies avoid painful cuts into the meat of their programs later. "The intangible costs of bad planning and executing at an organization are enormous," said Donald Hawthorne, CFO at BioCircuits Corp. "I've been at companies where there have been reductions in force and they inevitably cut the wrong amount and the wrong parts. It's not through lack of good intentions - it's just hard. The result is that morale sinks and the first people to leave are the best because they can find new jobs. It can become a downward spiral."

Asset management

Hawthorne predicted that the CFO's role in planning and implementation will become increasingly important.