Assuming roles outside of the finance function is of increasing importance for CFOs. From reporting tools to automation opportunities, CFOs are learning to roll with the punches with a host of new technologies coming online.
CFOs must prepare for anything the modern workplace might require, including emerging collaboration platforms and cloud-technology. Finance is a sphere that requires a great deal of specialized knowledge but is now needed for things like innovation of new business models and breaking down complex financial concepts into layman's terms. While these may not be traditional CFO priorities, they are modern ones.
Visibility is a huge priority for CFOs who are the gatekeepers to the company’s numbers. Developing a company-wide strategy to gather and analyze data is a massive undertaking made more manageable by working closely alongside business units like Information Technology. But recent surveys show that IT and the CFO might not be on the same page as Forbes reports:
“The 2018 Thales Data Threat Report showed that the IT department and the C-suite aren't on the same page. Each has different cyber security priorities. It turns out, nearly 40 percent of IT professionals don’t even think the executive teams understand the full risk of a cyber-attack. “
In an age where data breaches have affected Equifax and other previously stalwart companies, it’s essential that CFOs assemble a competent team to handle the nuances of data security and compliance. These measures of trust are crucial and any organization’s C-Suite must fully prepare against the reputational and financial fallout of a multi-million dollar data breach.
While CFOs lack a crystal ball, they have numbers-based predictions as a powerful tool. Their analytical expertise helps them see where money is slipping through the cracks or dollars are underperforming. While in previous roles their tasks may have been siloed to financial reporting or reviewing spreadsheets, they are now tapped for their prolific understanding of the economic landscape. CFOs have premonitions about market fluctuations and the stress points that a business might experience in the coming year. They are some of the first to spot market indicators triggered by natural disasters, price wars, and national security events. But beyond threat forecasting, CFOs can do much more than the traditional financial suite encompasses.
They see gaps in internal workflows or where the customer experience is dropping off. They are great innovation partners, using their product knowledge and technology expertise to tighten ship with better tech solutions for menial tasks on the operational sides of the business. In this role, CFOs act more as a data analyst, looking at multiple angles of an organization rather than the traditional notion of a senior-level accountant, crunching numbers alone behind a desk.
Being in the C-Suite hierarchy lands a CFO in the spot among other gifted communicators. It is their responsibility not only to look at the data but interpret what it means across departments in terms that the rest of the organization will understand. This is a monumental task even for a leader with strong people skills.
A successful CFO will learn the metrics that matter in all non-financial departments, knowing their performance indicators and also what it takes to measure customer satisfaction scores and conversion rates. While this might sound like a deviation from the CFO’s most crucial gift—numbers—it’s an enhancement of the skills they already bring to the table. Transformation only happens when the C-Suite leave the comfort of their areas of expertise to dive into the daily business operations.
A company is an ecosystem where everything is connected. While it might seem that a CFO isn’t pulling levers in operations or marketing or human resources, their influence is paramount to each department’s success.
In a world where we are growing increasingly connected through a constellation of travel, communication, and data, knowing how to draw out implications for a wider audience is an essential skill for a CFO. Plans for shifting into new market opportunities and navigation of existing business partnerships requires agility and connections across industries.
CFOs are getting roped into everything from technology decisions to determining data architecture for organization-wide use. This is also an area where great advancements are possible with the use of artificial intelligence to make tiny adjustments with big repercussions for automating menial tasks.
From business acumen to data-driven innovation, the CFO is a kind of roundhouse player a company uses to ensure business operations and financial decisions are sound. In addition to being a data analyst and risk assessor, CFOs are moving into more strategic roles than ever at organizations that need level-headed decision makers in markets that are rapidly changing and uncertain. Moving outside of the fixated scope they are comfortable in, CFOs are reacting more quickly and effectively to the needs of the company, creating better cohesion between business units, and a more successful environment for top talent as a result.