Prioritizing The CFO’s To-Do List For 2017

Richard McLean

It’s that time of year when we start making plans for the new year. As I speak with fellow CFOs across industries and regions, some common themes emerge as top priorities on our to-do lists for 2017. What is top of mind for your finance organization? Please read through the topics below and see how your list compares.

The ongoing transformation of finance

As in 2016, the ever-evolving role of finance will continue to be a priority. Finance will continue to move away from strictly operational tasks to fulfill a more strategic role within the organization, just at an accelerated pace in 2017. Maintaining momentum in this transformation requires a finance culture of operational excellence and customer-centricity. It requires an environment that encourages your people to be true partners and transformation agents within the business. Establishing this culture calls for an investment in continuous education to enable finance employees to learn new methodologies and techniques that drive growth and help them identify solutions to real business challenges.

Digital technology as an enabler

CFOs are asked to help guide strategic investment decisions to keep the business fresh and moving forward. Therefore, CFOs must be vigilant about investing in digital technologies that enable innovation. Having good systems in place, sound information, and a real-time view of the world helps minimize risk and uncertainty as finance fulfills the strategic adviser role. In addition, digital technologies can enable an increased scope of shared services and centers of expertise to drive process efficiencies through increased automation and simplification.

New regulatory changes

Considering the upcoming convergence of three major IFRS standards – IFRS 15, IFRS 16, and IFRS 9 – compliance is a top priority among CFOs. With IFRS 15 coming into effect on 1 January 2018, corporate finance departments need to begin acting now to ensure that they are prepared for the transition. In Asia, we are seeing a high volume of intra- and inter-regional trade and economic activities, making it crucial for CFOs to implement robust and compliant systems sooner rather than later. The right tools will enable finance to automate and simplify reporting processes.

Managing risk

The digital economy is creating an environment where new business models can spring up quite quickly. Such agility presents opportunities as well as threats for businesses. When CFOs are analyzing the general risk landscape, they must do so with an understanding of the company’s vulnerabilities, what its competitors are doing, and what new business models might be on the horizon. When expanding into new regions, pursuing cross-border trade, or entering new markets, businesses need to be especially vigilant. In other regions, there are many regulatory regimes and differing attitudes towards risk and compliance. As stewards of the company’s capital, CFOs need to perform due diligence with extra care in expanded trade environments.

Ongoing disruption of evolving workplace culture

There is a wealth of young, diverse talent coming into the finance profession. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of good people, and they are ambitious. To compete for the best talent, companies need to offer a modern working environment. Millennials tend to have a common expectation that their employer will provide them with a flexible workplace, including technology and tools that are mobile- and user-friendly. To be perceived as an employer of choice among younger job candidates, employment policies need to be quite progressive, inclusive, and family- and equality-focused.

On the flip side of that, of course, is creating opportunities for finance professionals to stay relevant. Companies do well by providing continuous learning to enable valued employees to stay current with changing work responsibilities. There is an increased need for business partnering skills, which are quite different from technical and functional skills that finance professionals have historically been trained in. People need to continuously re-skill themselves to future-proof their careers.

What are your priorities?

I welcome your feedback on what your priorities are for 2017. Feel free to share your views in the comments section below to start the discussion. In the meantime, for more insight on many of these topics and other priorities facing the finance organization, please see my blog series on the Digitalist Magazine.

CFO Research surveyed 1,500+ finance professionals to find out how their careers are changing in the digital economy. Read the research Thriving in the Digital Economy: The Innovative Finance Function to discover nine trends shaping the future of financial management.

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Richard McLean

About Richard McLean

Richard McLean, regional CFO for SAP Asia Pacific Japan, oversees all key finance and administrative functions for field and regional headquarters, supporting more than 18,000 employees. He has more than 20 years of experience in senior finance roles with leading global companies across a range of industries, including financial services, investment banking, automotive, and IT. He joined SAP in 2008.