Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) are increasingly tasked with accomplishing more on modest budgets. They are being given new responsibilities and, as a result, need to adjust to new ways of working. At the same time, the timeline for making significant progress on transformative initiatives is also shorter than ever.
A recent CFO Research survey of 158 U.S. Chief Financial Officers, explored a variety of management and workflow-related challenges facing today’s CFO.
CFOs were asked to identify the highest priority challenges they face. The top five challenges were all connected to workflow: compliance requirements; doing more with the same or fewer resources; coping with the pressure to achieve business objectives; having the resources to get work completed (capacity); and overcoming internal roadblocks or bottlenecks.
In a climate in which spending is being cut, resource allocation issues are particularly troublesome to CFOs, the survey found. The most common problem that keeps CFOs up at night is creating and maintaining the capability for the finance department to be flexible, in particular to meet deadlines and to address process snags. Tied for the second most common issue are (1) keeping employees accountable for their work and (2) forming a strong team that can adjust to rapidly changing priorities.
To be able to accomplish much of the above, CFOs need visibility into projects, due dates, and deliverables. But the survey found that lack of such visibility is the third most common issue that prevents CFOs from getting a good night’s rest.
This lack of visibility poses risks in areas of accounting, tax, finance, and audit— risks that the required work won’t be done accurately, efficiently, and on time, raising costs and leading to other negative consequences.
Very experienced CFOs are able to work within all areas of a company to help streamline operational processes and identify potential missed deadlines or other inefficiencies that may otherwise go unnoticed.
As CFOs and their finance teams are required to get more work done with the same amount of resources, they are putting in more hours in the office and at home.
However, more than half of the CFOs also indicated that work schedules are more flexible.
Fortunately, business process solutions can help effectively manage workflow challenges. With nontraditional work environments, especially when finance team members aren’t working in the same office, solution-defined assignments and progression deadlines, for example, can promote better teamwork, boost morale, and reduce potential miscommunication when projects are handed off. The benefits for employees include clearly defined expectations with appropriate workloads at appropriate skill levels.
Digital technologies have been a great benefit to finance’s overall efficiency. But they also have changed CFOs’ roles. The survey showed that 72 percent of CFOs are spending more time on data analysis and predictive analytics than they did five years ago. This flood of data and technology presents great opportunities for finance leaders, especially as companies call on their CFOs to help mold businesses’ futures. More than ever, this evolving role of the CFO emphasizes the need for insights and analysis to help drive more powerful strategies which can increase profit margins and cash flow.
Work processes have to evolve with a greater emphasis on analytics and analysis, but at the same time, finance has to ensure that the day-to-day operational work is still high quality.
Advanced business process solutions allow CFOs to reallocate work assignments in real time to prevent workflow inefficiencies. Specific work assignments and employee progress can be compared at the project level, on a monthly basis, or minute-by-minute.
Those kinds of people analytics, when combined with effective employee training, are among the best investments organizations can make to drive increased productivity and growth. They also ensure CFOs can meet the demands of future-focused strategic initiatives.
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