CFOs are aggressively moving to the top of the business decision making tree in their respective organizations in 2017. Despite their past protestations, CFOs found that they were viewed as the “numbers person” in an organization. The “business people” would determine solutions to business problems and then the CFO would be brought in (frequently with the Controller tagging along) to crunch the numbers. In 2017, the CFOs have clearly said “enough”!
In a survey conducted by the consulting firm of Kaufman Hall that appeared on CFO.com, over 90% of CFOs surveyed said that in 2017 they need to do more with the financial and operational data at hand to help make critical business decisions. “CFOs want to make a bigger impact on operations across the board,” said Abe Cohen vice president of marketing at Kaufman Hall. “The data is supporting the notion that CFOs are transforming into business advisors.” Similarly, Thack Brown, global head of Business Finance at SAP said in a December 2016 interview with Forbes.com, “Finance executives will focus more on optimizing business performance and strategic activities and spend less time on compliance and basic administrative tasks. As enterprises continue to become more digital, finance will become increasingly dependent on automation and analytics to deliver real-time, clear, actionable and forward-looking insights.”
The key to this change is that the CFOs realize they will ultimately be judged by the value that they bring to the total organization. In a sense, they must be willing to insert themselves into the operations of the business and accept the risk that comes with “rebranding” themselves as business problem solvers versus “the numbers person.” To do this effectively, CFOs must be able to discuss operational issues as comfortably as they are able to discuss financial ones. It is critical to demonstrate this “operational street cred” for the CFO to be accepted by the entire management team.
Technology is one of the key factors that is allowing CFOs to make this move. The CFOs have a significant amount of operational data available to them that simply wasn’t available before—or wasn’t shared by the operational folks. The CFO who wants to remake themselves into a well-rounded problem solver has the information available to make this happen. It merely takes the effort to understand this data and the analytical ability to connect the financial and operational “dots.” Once connected, the CFO becomes a valuable problem solver able to assist with the growth and long-term success of the organization.
Will 2017 be the year that the CFO takes a similar seat at the management table with the CEO and the COO?