CFOs are increasingly becoming movers and shakers of the corporate landscape, and 2017 will likely see that trend escalating. They and their departments are emerging as a resource for pinpointing growth opportunities, predicting outcomes, reducing costs while improving services, and flexibly adapting processes to changing needs.
According to a survey prepared by CFO Research in collaboration with SAP, Thriving in the Digital Economy: The Innovative Finance Function, finance leaders are embracing these changes, anticipating a bright and expansive future for themselves and the next generation of finance professionals. And they look forward to making it happen.
4 ways CFOs can jump-start a promising future for finance
The survey of over 1,500 finance leaders identified key strategies to lock in a more prominent role for finance in the evolving digital economy while providing greater job satisfaction at all levels. Here are the top four.
1. Actively expand the role of finance
There is a new model for high-performing finance teams, and with it comes a mandate to expand and adapt in a variety of ways. Most notably, finance professionals must:
- Take on a greater role of value creation in all aspects of the business
- Evaluate the myriad technology providers and their potential to partner in the transformation of the finance function and the business as a whole
- Increase involvement in strategy development and execution
- Develop into a true “business partner of choice,” as one respondent termed it
2. Leverage digitization
Managers want immediate, accurate, real-time information from finance. Digitization and other advanced technologies give the finance team the means to deliver on these demands across functions and across locations. Advanced technology allows finance to predict better, react faster, and deal more accurately with uncertainties. Technology enables the finance team to respond with more flexibility and help the company adapt more quickly to changes in the marketplace.
By realizing that digitization is all about using technology to transform business models and develop innovative revenue opportunities, the CFO is taking a giant step towards a more promising future. According to one finance executive, “technology will allow us to have a different role, more like a strategist than a bean counter.”
3. Communicate and collaborate
Finance professionals are being called upon to go well beyond the conventional accounting, auditing, and regulation functions. Internal departments are looking to them for fast, accurate information to facilitate decision-making both departmentally and organizationally. To deliver, finance teams must collaborate with key players across the company to better understand differing needs.
Therefore, establishing relationships, rather than merely reacting to requests, is a growing necessity for finance professionals. A controller of a worldwide organization quoted in the report believes that finance professionals “cannot be isolated in their company. You have to be linked to what happens everywhere.”
4. Extend the use of advanced analytics throughout the organization
In an ever-more complex business environment, the influence of finance will continue to shift from tracking numbers to unpacking the meaning behind them. As a result, developing advanced information-processing capabilities is crucial. Currently, advanced analytics are focused mainly on analysis/decision support and forecasting. But that doesn’t go far enough.
Survey respondents see great financial benefits from the increased use of advanced analytics in virtually any part of the organization including production, operations, pricing, sales, risk management, human capital management, and IT management.
As 2017 unfolds, so will opportunities for finance leaders and their teams to be front and center in shaping corporate success amidst a continually evolving business environment. Forward-looking CFOs are likely to have a very rewarding year.
Read the report: Thriving in the Digital Economy: The Innovative Finance Function.