Kevin Appleby is joined by, VP of professional services at Board International, Karlo Bustos to discuss the resurgent CFO and how the CFO can be the strategic adviser.
What is the resurgent CFO about?
The resurgent CFO is a white paper that looks at empowering finance leaders for change.
The research was undertaken to examine a hypothesis. To understand how finance leaders globally work through data and how they use this data to empower decision making. How do they transform their organisation and become more of a leader, In short can better information make the CFO a superhero?
The research survey was compiled from 600 finance leaders with 20 questions around 5 key areas. These were around: strategy in the role of finance in a time of change; performance management and reporting; organisation and change management; people and talent and data.
This is saying the CFO is moving away from the more operational side of the role and focus more on the strategic area. What is driving that?
In everyone’s journey map there is a maturity curve. In finance (and operations, IT, HR, marketing), at the start, there is a focus on standardising processes. You can then be an efficiency driver of identifying those standardised processes and knowing how many you need to do and which is viable for the business.
Then you look at how you are taking some of these efficiencies and gaining more insights into the information you’re gathering. Ultimately reaching being a leader and being adaptable and agile.
Over the last 18 months, there has been a lot of change in strategy and business model. Did the person with the numbers get more involved than normal?
This would have been the ideal situation. The office of finance should have true seat at the table. This should not just be as a scorekeeper, but as an enabler of more insightful decisions. Organisations doing well were the ones who listened to that person. The ones who were pro-active willingly transformed which enabled the business to set a true strategy. Those individuals had a seat at the table but their voices were also heard, and better decisions were made due to the data they represented.
Should the CFO look after non-financial data as well as financial?
Finance leaders are looking to expand their capability. This is the capability to draw out insights, and use data as a driver. That ethos can expand into HR, operations… Some finance leaders are there just to draw a dashboard and not to provide any guidance. The finance leader who is willing to come out and be a catalyst is being successful in personal and organisational perspectives. This is a resurgent CFO.
The change starts with you, be transformative. Be more of a decision-maker across your organisation.
Is there anything stopping the CFO from being a strategic adviser?
The acceleration of change will vary. Some will find it drastic because of its reactive nature. Some will have a more proactive nature and will make the right type of changes that are needed in the process and in the people.
People, process and technology are the three pillars. You want to be looking at reducing inefficient processes with this transformation. You don’t have to do something big and drastic to transform. This could simply be a method of delivery our monthly reports.
Use data to support and drive insights. Asking the right questions is important as you want to clearly know what you are trying to solve, this gives you a direction which is important. Technology is an important catalyst to that transformation and you have to be able to manipulate that data.
In the survey, 89% of finance leaders know they need to make a specific choice on whether to automate that process or move on. If you stay on the sidelines for too long, someone else will stand up and be that resurgent CFO. You should be that leader. Use the data access tools to manage and improve over time. Almost 90% of finance leaders believe they need to automate their finance function but only a third feel like they need transformation to do so. This shows us that people are aware of the problem but don’t want to acknowledge it.
Correlation between the tech side and the people side
Finance leaders want and need more time to become part of the strategic side. Many from the survey shared that they still spend time fixing the basics. Do the introspective look and see where you can take the low-hanging fruit and be that winner no matter the size of the success.
You want to find a way to automate the process and make reporting more forward-looking so the focus is more on goals. This gives you an opportunity to start doing multi-functional analysis. Have these conversations about growth and how this will be beneficial for the whole organisation.
Should CFOs push for bigger finance function budget?
It’s an important investment. 47% of people in the survey are confident their team can take on the demand of capturing valuable insights and create data sets that lead to better decision making. 92% also know they need to be more forward-thinking.
You need to spend money to invest money. You invest in the raw materials to make it a finished product. It is the same with services and from a transformation standpoint.
To enable this transformation you have to look at it collaboratively. It is not just an investment in finance. You don’t want it to be just finance asking for a larger budget, but show how this will allow the COO, CSO, CEO etc to become more efficient too.
Imposter syndrome being a big concern
It is a self-diagnosed issue that finance leaders put themselves in. Finance is the central hub for data and information to pass through. About 90% agreed it was time to change the way they were perceived. You should see yourself as the scorekeeper, not the imposter. This should be when you want to change how you are perceived rather than just being a scorekeeper and reporting results, you should become a performance driver. You want to identify options that are backed by data.
If you see something, say something. It’s right for you to ask because you are a central repository of insight. Change the mindset from imposter to decision-maker.
Three main points to be a resurgent CFO
1/ Aligning finance with operations is a critical must-have. You can’t work in a silo.
2/ Integrating FP&A with every aspect of the business, not just finance. It is not just the budget repository. Build a bottom-up approach that is insightful.
3/ To become a strategic advisor, you have to invest in future-proofing your business. From a people and tech standpoint. Buy something that will last for 15-20 years from now. Reassess your current tech landscape, processes and people and find the fundamental gaps.
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