In today's world, it is more important than ever that the CFO serve as a leader and a change agent for the company.
To accomplish all that is asked of them, today's CFOs need to build a financial team that supports the skill sets needed to fulfill finance's role as a key member of the management team.
Supporting the informational needs of the business, today's CFO needs to be the driving force in ensuring the technology employed by the organization supports the flow of timely, usable information to all company stakeholders.
The CFO needs to build a finance organization that can partner with other parts of the organization as consultant and adviser as major business decisions are made. This might involve marketing issues, expanding or contracting a business unit or deciding whether certain capital investments should be made.
Skills Needed in Today's Environment
Team members who are knowledgeable in the traditional areas of finance are critical to a finance organization.
This means knowledge of tax and compliance issues, management accounting, financial planning, etc. Highly qualified talent in these areas is a “basic" starting point in building a strong team.
Beyond the basics, the finance organization needs to be a driver in implementing new technology to better manage financial and business information used throughout the organization.
In their Q3 2017 survey, the accounting firm Deloitte found that CFOs feel rising pressure to leverage new technology, such as cloud computing, robotic process automation and various analytical tools, to improve the performance of their organizations.
Hiring financial talent that can help lead the organization forward in implementing these and other technologies will continue to be a top priority for CFOs.
Scarcity of Talent
There is a global shortage of talent in many disciplines, including finance. To maximize their team's talent, and build the type of finance organization that enables finance to lead business improvement and decision making within the company, CFOs must intertwine top talent with cutting edge technology solutions.
Technology offers CFOs a means to make the most of their team's talents and skills via applications that allow employees both to work more efficiently and to access the data they need remotely.
There are numerous tools that allow mobile access via smart phones. This can increase productivity and allow for more flexible work arrangements desired by many employees.
These arrangements require robust security procedures and tools to ensure the company's data is not compromised.
Defining the Benefits of Technology
Technology is certainly a buzzword today, but like any business initiative, CFOs need to define the benefits of moving toward new technology platforms.
One benefit of upgraded technology is automation of many routine, mundane tasks that inherently fall within the scope of the finance organization. Ideally, automation can take much of the manual effort out of a job without loss of financial control.
Given the need for finance to be a full partner in providing critical information for strategic business decisions, as well as guiding ongoing operational initiatives, freeing up time for key members of the finance team to focus their energies on other tasks can be a key benefit of many of today's robust financial technology platforms.
While it's sometimes hard to quantify, the benefits can be quite real. The CFO will need to demonstrate these benefits to the CEO and other leaders in the organization to gain their approval.
Managing the Integration of Technology
Technology and increased access to data are great, but new technology needs to be integrated into the business in a way that provides the timely, usable financial and operational data needed to drive business decisions.
Increasingly, the integration of technology through the fabric of the company is a top priority of CFOs.
A good CFO is always a change agent.
The integration of technology into their own organization might arguably be the most important task of today's CFO.
According to Charles Holley, retired CFO of Walmart and now a Senior Adviser to Deloitte, CEOs rely on their CFO to be strong, independent advisers to the company and expect them to:
- Build strong relationships with other leaders within the company and understand the company's business strategy.
- Get the important issues in front of the CEO.
- Be independent, yet supportive.
- Challenge the rest of the business.
- Do the basics needed to maintain financial control within the organization.
- Build a strong solid financial team full of high performers and potential future leaders.
- Offer solutions instead of just pointing out problems.
This description fits the role of CFOs as a driver of business technology. It also highlights the need for CFOs to attract and retain the best people within their group to move integration forward, and to help the CFO drive the use of this data as a key decision-making tool.
Technology and data are just features. They don't become tools without the right people managing them to make better, more informed business decisions.
The CFO who can manage this process and assemble the right talent to implement the integration of technology throughout their company is an asset to any organization.
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