The developing role of a CFO – are you ready to step up?

14.06.2018

Today’s CFO is challenged with learning new skills and act as a trusted advisor to other board members.

With the uncertainty of Brexit and new US led Trade wars, global economic instability is affecting every aspect of supply and demand – it could be argued that CFOs face a hugely challenging few years. Yet the majority of CFOs also recognise that it is no longer enough to play their traditional role. Brian King, Enterprise Management Product Manager, CPIO, considers the role technology is playing in releasing CFOs from mundane activities to concentrate on developing an invaluable new skill set.

According to a McKinsey Global survey on the role of the CFO, finance leaders report a raft of new demands, including digitising critical business activities and managing cybersecurity, in addition to traditional finance duties.  The survey suggests that CFOs need to build skills in other areas of the business, play a more active leadership role, and rethink their usual approaches to overcoming external pressures and finding new investment opportunities.

Clearly it is impossible to extend the remit to this degree without radical change; how can a CFO still struggling to attain trusted business information and juggling multiple spreadsheets even react to the new expectations regarding business agility, let alone embrace fundamental change?

But current CFOs have extraordinary advantages over previous generations. Trends in technology delivery – not least the move away from on premise deployment and the wide availability of high quality enterprise-standard cloud applications – have transformed day to day business operations for organisations of every size. SMEs can now achieve fast, cost effective access to the latest business management technology that was traditionally the preserve of far larger companies.

With a single, integrated system that encompasses everything from customer billing and finance to logistics, eCommerce, warehousing and support, organisations have the chance to transform operations and achieve new levels of agility. Critically, CFOs now have the ability to streamline operations and automate many previously time-consuming tasks. For example, the adoption of straight through invoice processing drastically reduces the day to day overhead, with manual intervention required only for exceptions.  In addition, real time Key Performance Indicators (KPI) displayed on dashboards enable the CFO to intervene on supplier management only when problems in quality or delivery are flagged.  Essentially, by shifting the model towards business problems rather than business as usual, a CFO can become far more effective – and the business far more agile.

Indeed, with the next generation of ERP systems set to embed machine learning, the degree of manual intervention will be further reduced. Intelligent systems will learn from the decisions made by individuals in response to exceptions – such as how to respond to an incomplete delivery or the ever-increasing challenge of shipping delays – and take the required action.

Add in the deep business insight enabled by trusted, end to end operational data and the CFO is now armed with an extraordinary array of tools. Swathes of activity that would previously have demanded time and resource can now be automated, freeing up the CFO to focus on the development of new skills, on leveraging innovative technologies such as machine learning and the Internet of Things to drive incremental business value.