The Evolving Role of the CFO: Going Beyond the Finance Function


Taking on and adapting to new roles outside of the finance function is of increasing importance for savvy Chief Financial Officers (CFOs). From data reporting tools to automation opportunities, CFOs are learning to work with the host of new technologies coming online.

CFOs must now prepare for anything the modern workplace might require, including emerging collaboration platforms and cloud-technology. Finance is an area of expertise that requires a great deal of specialized knowledge, but is now needed for things like innovation of new business models and breaking down complex financial concepts into layman's terms for increased understanding.

Good visibility for data is a huge priority for CFOs who are the gatekeepers to the company’s numbers. Developing a company-wide strategy to gather data for analysis is a massive undertaking made more manageable by working closely alongside business units like Information Technology. But recent surveys show that the IT department and the CFO might not be on the same page as Forbes reports:

“The 2018 Thales Data Threat Report showed that the IT department and the C-suite aren't on the same page. Each has different cyber security priorities. It turns out, nearly 40 percent of IT professionals don’t even think the executive teams understand the full risk of a cyber-attack.“

In an age where data breaches have affected Equifax and other previously stalwart companies, it is essential that CFOs assemble a competent team to handle the nuances of data security and compliance. These measures of trust are crucial, and any organization’s C-Suite must fully prepare against the reputational and financial fallout of a multi-million dollar data breach. Small companies as well as middle-market companies are probably at even greater risk due to fewer security safeguards.

While seasoned CFOs cannot truly predict the future, they are able to make numbers-based predictions through expert interpretation that can come close. Their analytical expertise helps CFOs see where cash is being lost or where company dollars are underperforming. While in previous roles their tasks may have been more limited to data analysis and financial reporting, they are now tapped for their prolific understanding of the entire economic landscape. CFOs have insight into market fluctuations and stress points that a business might experience in the coming year and beyond. CFOs are among the first to spot market indicators triggered by natural disasters, price wars, and national security events. But beyond threat forecasting, CFOs can do much more than the traditional financial suite encompasses.

CFOs see gaps in internal company workflows or where the customer experience is dropping off or lacking entirely. CFOs are fantastic innovation partners, using their extensive product knowledge and technology expertise to tighten ship with better technology solutions for everyday tasks on the operational sides of the business.

Being in the C-Suite hierarchy lands a CFO a spot among other gifted communicators. It is their responsibility not only to look at the data but accurately interpret what it means across multiple departments in terms that the rest of the organization will understand. This is a monumental task even for a leader with strong expertise and communication skills.

A successful CFO learns the metrics that matter in all non-financial departments, knowing their key performance indicators (KPIs) and also what it takes to measure customer satisfaction scores and conversion rates. While this might sound like a deviation from a CFO’s most crucial talent—financial analysis and strategy—it’s an enhancement of the skills they already bring to the table. Transformation within a company only happens when the C-Suite leave the comfort of their areas of expertise to dive into the daily business operations entirely.

A company is an ecosystem where everything is connected. From operations, to marketing and human resources, a CFOs influence is paramount to each department’s success.

In a world where we are growing increasingly connected through a system of travel, communication, and data, knowing how to draw out implications for a wider audience is an essential skill for a CFO. Plans for shifting into new market opportunities and the navigation of existing business partnerships requires a great deal of agility and connections across industries.

CFOs are getting pulled into everything from technology decisions to determining data architecture for organization-wide use.

From business acumen to data-driven innovation and strategy, the CFO is a kind of person a company uses to ensure all business operations and financial decisions are sound. In addition to being a data analyst and risk assessor, CFOs are moving into more strategic roles than ever at organizations that need experienced, level-headed decision makers in markets that are rapidly changing and uncertain. Moving outside of the fixated scope they are comfortable in, CFOs are reacting more quickly and effectively to the needs of the company, creating better cohesion between business units, and a more successful business environment as a result.

If you are a business owner or CEO within the San Francisco Bay Area or Silicon Valley, in need of an experienced part-time CFO to help your company improve cash flow, business process design, accounting and billing process management, as well as profit margins, our highly skilled outsourced CFO services provide direct access to high-quality expertise in a cost-effective manner.

CFO Growth Advisors (CGA) specializes in unique and highly effective growth strategies that are tailored to help companies grow more quickly and efficiently while improving sales & profit growth. Contact us to learn more.

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