Oxford Economics Research: Leading CFOs Have Become Real-Time Guides For The Entire Company

Neil Krefsky

The interim results from the latest Oxford Economics global survey of CFOs and finance executives are just in. With over 750 already interviewed – and another 750 to be interviewed in the coming weeks – one thing is crystal clear: Top CFOs are leading in the boardroom. They have become real-time guides that drive business strategy across the enterprise. But there is a big difference between leaders and laggards: The top CFOs use pioneering technology and Big Data to collaborate effectively with every function in the business and deliver the operational and strategic insights they need to be successful.

Finance has arrived

At nearly all the companies around the world responding to the survey, finance executives are involved in strategic decision-making outside finance, and over three-quarters of respondents agree that the finance function’s influence and activity is growing. The change, which has been talked about for so many years, has definitely happened and is widely accepted as a mainstream responsibility of the finance team.

Leading CFOs today are influencing major business decisions. The majority report that they have final decision-making authority or a high degree of influence over activities such as changes in the business model, entering new markets, new business partnerships, and technology investments.

And, as you would expect, optimizing risk and compliance management and optimizing working capital are closely tied as the top business goals for CFOs around the world. But, perhaps unexpectedly, driving strategic growth initiatives comes in second. Finance has truly moved from being an historic advisor to being a real-time guide.

Collaboration and data management

However, it isn’t all clear sailing. It’s clear that there is a big gap between those CFOs who are excelling at guiding their companies’ future strategy and those that are lagging behind. And the areas where this is most noticeable are collaboration and data management.

While finance departments have high levels of collaboration with risk management, compliance, internal audit, and operations, their collaborations with sales, HR, supply chain, sales, design/R&D, manufacturing, and customer services are considerably lower. However, where collaboration is occurring, two-thirds or more of respondents say it is effective.

At the same time, nearly all respondents cite increasing amounts of data as adding more complexity to the finance function, which is more than the number who point to regulatory compliance or new skill requirements.

Interestingly, those who can address the complexity of data management seem to excel at breaking down the traditional barriers and collaborating with other functions in the company.

Technology is really the only way of overcoming the challenge of data complexity and turning it into an enabling strength. This is borne out in the survey, with more than a third mentioning outdated technology as their biggest obstacle to achieving their business goals, and another third blaming lack of skills. A quarter cited manual processes.

By contrast, nearly all respondents rated Big Data, real-time analytics, and predictive analytics as being important for the finance function’s successful performance in two years’ time. In addition, training and technology were the top two activities respondents see as promoting collaboration between the finance function and other business units. And more than half are intent on providing better business analytics.

Discover what it takes to be a leader

The final research will be available in the next few weeks. By registering below for your complimentary copy, you can discover what leading finance executives have done to separate themselves from the rest of the pack and how you can become one of them.

  • Learn why improving collaboration with other functions is a priority
  • Understand where CFOs see the most room for improvement and what actions leading CFOs take
  • Learn why tech woes frustrate finance as much as regulations and budgets
  • Find out why technology is enabling finance to have a more strategic focus
  • Discover why additional data is adding more complexity to finance

Register now to get your complimentary copy and become one of the first to read the results of the full Oxford Economics survey.

Listen to Spiros Margaris from Margaris Advisory interview me about “Road to Strategic Finance: Results of the Oxford Economic Study” at SAPPHIRE NOW.

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Neil Krefsky

About Neil Krefsky

Neil Krefsky is a Senior Director of Product Marketing at SAP Finance LoB Solutions. He is responsible for the development and execution of the product marketing strategy for SAP's solutions for the Finance Line of Business including: SAP S/4HANA Finance, Financial Planning and Analysis, Accounting and Financial Close, Treasury and Financial Risk Management, Collaborative Finance Operations, Enterprise Risk and Compliance.