Time For Finance To Face Strange Changes

Emmanuelle Brun Neckebrock

In my last blog, The ‘Thinner,’ More Focused CFO,  I talked about the significant changes in the profession over recent years, and the increasingly strategic responsibilities of today’s CFO. In this blog, I’d like to discuss some of the characteristics and skills required for enabling your company for growth.

Growth today is typically associated with change. So in addition to keeping one eye on compliance and the other on the sometimes overused phrase of being a “partner to the business,” today’s CFO also needs to be an enabler for change. But being a change agent isn’t something that comes naturally to many people. It’s human nature, after all, to find comfort in familiarity and maintaining the status quo. It’s been said that people change for two reasons: Either they’ve learned a lot or they’ve been hurt a lot. The same could be said about companies. For most of us, the pace of innovation in our respective industries is disrupting business models and markets faster than ever before. And that puts CFOs in the hot seat.

Many of us, myself included, have assumed the de facto role of strategic volatility advisor. It’s our job to help the business embrace change, steady the boat, and in many instances find a way to run traditional business models in parallel with new ones. That’s why I wanted to use this blog to outline three requirements I’ve observed that make a tangible difference in the way you can help your business to enable change in whatever form it takes in your industry.

First, keep your outcomes front of mind. I find it useful to revisit and reevaluate outcomes every so often. For example, everyone wants an efficient back office, but the driver is no longer about cutting cost. It’s changed. Today, it’s about capturing growth opportunities and executing against them in a timely manner. In this instance, the outcome is agility and flexibility, not just efficiency.

Second, turn up with an open mind and stay informed. It sounds easy enough, but there’s a tendency to think too much about reasons why things won’t work – which of course has some inherent value. But it’s also important to give equal thought about why and how they could work and reimagine your business models in different scenarios. Make sure you regularly look at the analysis, reports, and insights that are happening in the different lines of business and in your customer base. Better yet, run some analytics that will help identify the patterns for you.

Third, put the right people, processes, and tools in place around you.  Make sure you’ve got the right type of people around you asking better questions and that they’re equipped with the necessary tools around digitization, analytics, and automation to give them (and you) better answers.

Whether it’s market disruption, acquisitions, or organic growth, change is just going to get faster and more complex. Our job as CFOs is to help the business embrace it and more importantly, enable it.

For more information on the evolution of the role of the CFO, download the CFO.com 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.