The “Thinner,” More Focused CFO

Emmanuelle Brun Neckebrock

As CFOs, our role is undergoing unprecedented change. The legacy of our profession has traditionally been almost exclusively about process and financial control, with significant time spent reporting on historical numbers. For most of us, that role is almost unrecognizable today.

In fact, the majority of modern CFOs are no longer accountable for the same areas we were even just a few years ago. Accounting and cash collection, for example, are now handled by specialist teams in many large companies. Instead, we now find ourselves responsible for the orchestration of the people accountable for these respective tasks, while we act as the representatives to governmental bodies and auditors. By coordinating the many specialist components of the finance department, we have a “thinner,” more focused role.

Your own core areas might be slightly different, depending on the size of your organization, but I’m guessing they are not that far apart from mine. Technology has moved the goal posts in many markets, along with digitalization, which has redefined process and automation in its wake. Unlike our predecessors (or even our former selves, for that matter), we now have the unprecedented opportunity to help shape and drive the adoption of new business models as never before, and navigate the company through uncharted market disruption.

For me, that means ensuring an agile and flexible approach to the way customers consume our products and manage new business models, such as cloud and SaaS, with more traditional payment structures.

Advances in technology aren’t just streamlining processes; they’re also pulling CFOs closer than ever to the customer – something I’m also seeing first-hand. This requires both good communication skills with key customers and partners, as well as collaboration systems and skills with colleagues.

I think we will continue to see even more of a focus on high-level strategy and commercial leadership from CFOs as our job requirements continue to evolve. Regardless of where you are in your own professional evolution, it’s important to realize that you are not just a custodian of corporate assets and financial information. You are uniquely placed to help your business – and that of your customers – embrace change, translate numbers into opportunity, and become a steward for the company.

For more information on the evolution of the role of the CFO, download the report Thriving in the Digital Economy: Four Reasons Why Finance Is Excited About the Future.

Emmanuelle Brun Neckebrock

About Emmanuelle Brun Neckebrock

Emmanuelle Brun Neckebrock is CFO of SAP France. With more than 20 years’ experience, she is responsible for the coordination of SAP activities in France linked to acquisition and integration. She has recently taken over the responsibility of developing the healthcare sector within SAP France with a mission of actively promoting digital transformation in healthcare. Emmanuelle holds a degree in Finance from HEC Paris. Her blogs discuss the strategic challenges and topical issues facing CFOs.