CIO Perspective: How The Digital Transformation Is Changing The Role Of The CFO

Michael Golz

The digital economy is dramatically expanding the role of every C-suite member. As technology continues to permeate job functions regardless of title, it enables a much more collaborative and strategic approach in the boardroom. Data analytics is not solely the domain of IT anymore, but rather penetrates every aspect of the business.

When it comes to the finance function, the influence of technology has redefined the roles and responsibilities of today’s CFOs. Finance executives can no longer wait for monthly or even yearly figures in order to make financial projections. These decisions need to be made in days or sometimes even a matter of hours, and CFOs are expected to have analytics at the ready to support recommendations and company strategy.

Digitization of finance: the modern data-driven CFO

A recent survey by SAP found that a majority of finance professionals believe they will be taking on more responsibility in the coming years, with IT being one of the top areas where CFOs increasingly see their role expanding. CFOs today are more tech-savvy and engaged with how IT can power business decisions. Truly successful CFOs aren’t just reporting the figures; they are embracing their role as a strategic visionary and wingman to the CEO, driving the value of company investments. The types of insights required for high-level decision-making cannot be realized without technology. Integrated, real-time business processes are critical in finance and to the overall enterprise.

Gone are the days of living and dying by the spreadsheet. CFOs are turning to technology solutions that can help them be agile and dive deeper into forecasting and decision-making. This  transition is largely being driven by a renewed sense of expectations from other members of the C-suite as well as key stakeholders. Real-time insights are now a boardroom requirement for enterprises to be successful. However, CFOs must go beyond reporting on the data and offer analysis that can help guide business strategy, facilitate informed financial decisions, and ultimately drive action in the business.

Finance and IT: better together

The finance-IT relationship used to be “order-taker,” where IT would receive requirements from finance, and reciprocate tools and insights that they can pass along for informed business decisions. However, finance and IT are more linked now than ever before. IT is enabling the digitization of the finance function so that CFOs and their teams can be much more self-sufficient. Collaboration is needed on both sides in order to remove latency from disconnected process steps and complex reporting, moving towards real-time insights and simplified processes.

As noted earlier, finance executives today are more tech-savvy, and technology solutions are becoming increasingly accessible to the everyday business user. With this, we are putting data insight back where it truly belongs – in the hands of business decision-makers. Furthermore, by breaking up antiquated processes, there is more room for overlap and teamwork when it comes to shaping overall strategy for both finance and IT.

As the digitization of finance continues to evolve the role of the CFO, and the C-suite more generally, companies that will be truly successful are those that embrace the digital economy and empower their executives to take advantage of data-driven insights to inform business strategy.

For more on digital transformation in financial management, see Here’s What Every CFO Needs The Boardroom To Understand.

Michael Golz

About Michael Golz

Michael Golz is senior vice president and CIO Americas at SAP. He frequently speaks to customers about IT’s first-hand experiences with SAP solutions in the areas of digital transformation, digital core, cloud, business networks, and leading-edge technologies overall. Previously, Mr. Golz was senior vice president of Application Services with worldwide responsibility for SAP's internal business applications and external platforms, covering the entire spectrum of SAP solutions for SAP’s employees. Prior to joining SAP, he led the Information Management organization at OTTO Group in Cologne, Germany. Mr. Golz holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Information Technology from European Business School in Germany.