Want To Be A CFO? You’ll Need More Than An Accounting Degree

Chris Grundy

If you’ve reached a position as prestigious as CFO, you must be finished with formal education, right?

Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. As the technological landscape has evolved with in-memory technology, visualization, plus the ability to integrate forecasting and planning with the ERP system, CFOs must use of a whole new set of tools.

Panelists at a recent SAP Game-Changers radiocast, John Steele, principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and head of the U.S. SAP finance transformation practice at Deloitte; David Dixon, partner principal at TruQua Enterprises; and Henner Schliebs, head of finance audience marketing at SAP, discussed the need to adapt to a rapidly evolving role and what characteristics define a successful CFO.

SAP's current range of mobile solutions for Finance

Fulfill the many purposes of CFO

Being CFO is now a balancing act that requires tending to the traditional post of information steward and business advisor while heralding a new vision for the finance department.

According to Steele, finance is the “Rome” of a business – all roads lead to it. Every other department relies on information held by the CFO. And as finance moves further toward the back end of an organization, CFOs need a greater handle on technology so they can drive analytics in a highly mobile and social world.

Dixon adds that this critical role has reached a tipping point – you can’t just crunch numbers and expect to get the job done. If the office of the CFO can’t step up and fulfill all the organization’s needs, it will have to start sharing leadership space. This new trend is on the rise with positions such as chief information officer and other digital executives gaining in popularity.

Ideally, less is more in global leadership. It’s easier to unify an organization under one solid viewpoint. That’s where the idea of continuing education arises. Steele says, “The CFO really should think about learning more about the technology. If the CFO can rely on the CFO team to get a little bit deeper and educate the CFO, I think that’s beneficial.”

Master a technology-driven finance function

One of the key topics is data security. Schliebs explains the double-edged sword that comes with bringing a world of information to the masses: “We need to make sure that we bring the people to data, that we go away from the area of bringing data to the people, but have the service arrangement.”

He also suggests that one of the CFO’s top priorities is guaranteeing a single source of truth. Instead of spending half of planning and analysis time wondering where data came from and if it’s reliable, you can get down to brass tacks and truly run in real time.

Imagine the CFO of the future

Dixon asserts that it’s paramount for a CFO to keep up with what’s happening in technology and the market – and that means going outside the four walls of the company. Schliebs takes this idea a step further, saying that the CFO is evolving into the true leader of an organization.

Essentially, we’re moving from a CPA-type CFO to an MBA-type CFO. More than chief bean counters, they need to be business managers who can lead and inspire an entire organization. To learn more about the characteristics and market forces that are shaping the role of CFO, listen to the full radiocast.

For more insight on the changing role of top management in today’s evolving workplace, see The CIO’s Role in Corporate Training.


Chris Grundy

About Chris Grundy

Chris Grundy is the Director of Product Marketing at SAP. His specialties include lead generation, product management, business analytic and marketing management.