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How Can a CFO Become A More Strategic Business Partner? (Forbes Magazine Article)

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

More and more awareness is growing about how CFOs are becoming more strategic beyond their traditional company role. A recent article in Forbes Magazine discussed this trend and make some key points about how it’s not easy for a CFO to suddenly become “strategic:”

“In the context of the CFO role, what is strategic? It’s a CFO being able to spend time on planning and on driving impact, not on data hygiene. It’s getting to the level where the CFO has the time to recognize what the right issues are. It’s having the data to identify and understand root causes. It’s having the business intelligence sourced in financial data to take action on insights and identify opportunities or lead change.”

In general, too many businesses assume that technology and software will enable a CFO to become more strategic. However, like so many other business areas, technology is only a part of the solution.

Yes, technology and automation can definitely help to leverage the CFO’s scarce time so that he or she can free themselves from the muck of mundane data tasks. However, automation with oversight can lead to crucial quality problems and painful, expensive errors as we’ve previously pointed in out in posts about the Accounts Payable process.

The author of the Forbes article argues that:

“One reason CFOs lack the ability to drive results in today’s world is because organizations have decomposed their accounting function into individual disciplines; so no one sees the whole story. In order to get the whole story, it’s necessary to establish to a cross-functional team that looks at the end-to-end process (record to report, purchase to pay, etc.) and drives the end result. This is very difficult to do in large functional-structured teams. But this objective can be achieved through automation.

“Automation and robotics are disruptive technologies that change how services are delivered by shifting from FTE-based models into automated machine-based delivery. The shift to automation is ideal for finance and accounting processes. But many CFOs view it primarily as a cost-cutting play and miss the more strategic aspects.”

While we feel that the author may put too high an emphasis on technology automation, we agree that in our role as experienced, outsourced CFOs that it’s the combination of people + process + data = strategic impact. Read more

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