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The CFO role continues to evolve. CFOs used to be considered fairly powerless scorekeepers or merely chief bean counters, but today the role has taken on more responsibility as well as prominence.
Of course, any CFO will tell you that the old role is not unimportant, and it has not gone away. The expansion of the CFO into strategy, decision-making, and even IT oversight creates a capacity problem. How can the CFO meet all the new responsibilities without neglecting the old? Technology can assist in a number of ways.
Before we dive into how technology can assist CFOs in their expanding job functions, let’s look at what some of those expanding job functions are. Depending on where your organization is in its digital transformation, you may have already taken on some of these. If not, this overview will give you insight into what may be added to your plate in the coming months and years.
The CFO has traditionally focused on finance and accounting, and these responsibilities remain both significant and important. New areas of responsibility are developing, though, including these.
The CFO role has an increasing responsibility for overseeing technology decisions and spending, along with the CIO. The entirety of the business is dependent on technology, and good choices in this area lead to dynamic transformation. Bad choices can have catastrophic results.
CFO and finance responsibilities are evolving from sole focus on the past (compliance and reporting) to include a future focus. CFOs are partnering with managers around the company to improve operations, and they often work with the CEO and the board to help plan company strategy.
Financial data and analytics have helped in this aspect of transformation. Another team may be responsible for analytics, but when it comes to the financial aspect of analysis, the CFO and finance team are an essential part.
Partnering with CEO
Today, CFOs partner with CEOs to develop strategy more frequently than they did in years past. While the roles remain distinct, the line is more blurry than it used to be, and the level of partnership and collaboration is much greater.
Partnering with Division Leaders
It’s more frequent than it’s ever been for the CFO to partner with division leaders or line-of-business leaders. These leaders necessarily have other focuses than finance, and they may need or seek guidance from the CFO. This guidance is sometimes finance-related and other times more generally related to business vision. The CFO also plays a role in teaching division leaders to accept financial guidance from the finance group.
Savvy CFOs will leverage technology to assist them in their expanding capacities. Here are a few technologies empowering CFOs and finance teams.
Big Data and Analytics
Data is more powerful than it’s ever been, and CFOs will benefit from technology solutions in this area. Powerful customer data can drive major insights into financial trends as well as business trends. Use analytics to make better-informed predictions on the future of sales. You can often get a better picture of what the customer wants by analytics than you can by traditional means like focus groups or customer surveys. These are powerful tools that can solve many problems and speed up many tasks for the CFO and the finance team.
Embrace the Cloud
Cloud-based apps can lower IT infrastructure spending as well as the need for maintenance. Many if not all the major IT applications needed by the finance team are available in cloud format, including ERP and CRM systems as well as planning and reporting systems.
Using cloud-based applications and systems allows your company to expand without having to consider infrastructure improvement. With the cloud, you’ve outsourced the infrastructure completely.
Finance leaders and CFOs are sometimes wary of the cloud, and this is understandable. Cloud-based services have had their fair share of highly publicized leaks and breaches. These have led some to question whether the cloud is really the right solution for sensitive data, whether financial or privacy-related.
The answer to this concern is twofold. First, the track record of these cloud apps is astoundingly good. Second, take a step back and review the landscape. Do you really trust that your in-house IT or infosec team is as skilled in protecting you from an internal breach as the team at a cloud service is? Your business is broad, and IT infosec is only one small component. For the cloud service, it’s nearly everything. One breach and they’d be out of business.
While mobile technologies are most visible on the sales force and other customer-facing services (like your website), mobile can improve the quality of life for the CFO and finance teams, too. Selecting cloud apps that allow for mobile access gives additional flexibility to where and how work is done and data is displayed.
This is just the surface of what technology can do to empower CFOs in their expanding roles. For more, or for help implementing solutions, contact us today.