The CFO’s Strategy Playbook: Megatrends And Innovation

Johannes Vogel

Part 3 in the CFO Strategy Playbook series

Part 3 in this series looks at the importance of exploring and evaluating the larger trends in business and technology as an essential element of strategy planning.

As in general strategy-definition processes, functional strategies should use the current status quo as a starting point. But they should also assess megatrends that impact the industry or the company specifically, as well as innovation topics relevant to the team. By taking a position on megatrends such as “the rise of algorithms,” “knowledge economy,” “digital transformation,” or “war for talent,” the team can explore what they mean in terms of opportunities and chances for growth or differentiation. This may trigger new approaches and potentially more experimental ways to execute projects, or how to organize client-facing work or talent development and recruiting processes.

The same holds true for innovation. As innovative technologies are reaching maturity levels relevant for corporations, new opportunities (and of course, risks) open up to take advantage of these advances for better ways of running finance processes.

 Examples of innovative technologies for finance include:

  • Transactional finance processes executed by robotic process automation (RPA) tools
  • AI-powered cognitive computing, for providing analysis or decision support using advanced analytics tools
  • Data visualization programs
  • Improved ways of working together by using collaboration tools

Some of the resources for up-to-date information on technological innovation I use are the FSN website (thanks @Gary Simon), Gartner, Forrester, as well as CFO.com and BARC (German language only). See also my post, “Digital – should CFOs be bothered?” for more examples of innovation for the CFO domain.

Finance strategy requirements

The results of the review of innovation opportunities, megatrends, and the status quo are summarized in a requirements list, just as you would for a business requirements analysis in the context of IT projects. You may want to adopt a more agile format in which you summarize requirements as “user stories,” which have the advantage of being specific and user-context sensitive. The requirements are collected and categorized. Typical categories are “content,” “process,” “functional and technology,” “organizational,” and “people/culture/change.” The categorized requirements list is passed back to the stakeholders for validation and serves as the starting point of the next steps in the finance strategy development work.

Finance strategy dimensions

The core of a finance strategy should include “thrust areas” – that is, specific topical themes with specific relevance to the future development of the finance team or the company at large, as well as a vision and mission statement. This statement summarizes the core purpose and intention of the finance organization in clear language. In addition, each strategic thrust area can be further broken down by defining success factors and activities, KPIs to measure progress, tools, and methods. To complete the finance strategy, the statement should describe the future finance operating model and organization, and the changes foreseen. Finally, the to-be state summarizes how the finance team will be organized in terms of processes supported, organizational structure, and roles, as well as technologies employed.

For more on financial leadership, see The Tech-Savvy CFO: Innovate, Inform, Enable.


Johannes Vogel

About Johannes Vogel

Johannes Vogel is director of Finance & Regulatory for Finance Strategy & Digital CFO Services at BearingPoint. Johannes is an experienced professional in management consulting in the areas of finance strategy, finance process improvement, digital CFO services, and process management. He has worked with national and international clients in creating functional strategies for CFO teams preparing to support the business by creating value and business insights, while running a cost-efficient yet technologically modern organization. Other projects Johannes conducted with his clients included digital CFO assessments and benchmarking, as well as ERP and finance process implementations. Prior to consulting, Johannes worked in various finance functions of an Atlanta-based international media group. Johannes is a lecturer for a Master Program at the Universität der Künste in Berlin and likes to post on finance topics. In his time off, he enjoys playing guitar with friends and tries to spend as much time as possible with his sailing buddies somewhere off the coast of Croatia or elsewhere.