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Next Generation CFO: The Enabler of Strategic Change

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

From supply chain innovation to the introduction of advanced in-store customer experiences, today’s retail sector (both traditional and e-commerce) looks radically different to the industry of a decade ago. This is especially true within the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley.

One of the most profound and far-reaching results of these changes, and the technologies that have enabled them, has been an explosion in the volume of data. With so much data now available to retailers, the challenge is to understand which is most critical to strategic innovation, the bottom line and new value creation. By extension, this is also equally true for wholesalers, distributors, and other key parties throughout the extended supply chain.

This is where the skilled CFO (Chief Financial Officer), an established expert in understanding and managing large amounts of data, is becoming more influential and strategically minded than ever before. Some might say that we are, in effect, entering a new era in business, where value is the new economy, data its currency and the CFO its champion.

Accenture’s research of more than 700 CFOs and senior financial executives – which included more than 80 in the retail sector – highlights CFOs’ unique ability to drive their businesses forward through their keen understanding of data and digital technologies. For example, eighty percent of surveyed CFOs believe they are best-placed to identify new value and drive business transformation across their organization.

In addition, 84 percent of CFOs are targeting new areas of value across the broader business ecosystem by analyzing and considering partner, supplier and customer data.

Taking the lead on operational efficiency, CFOs become strategic enablers of business success. They drive change, making their companies more responsive, relevant and profitable.

With so many new technologies emerging, retailers have a significant opportunity to improve operational efficiencies, gain an edge over their competition and harness consumer insight from the vast quantity of data and insights generated. CFOs are well positioned to champion these decisions and determine what the business needs on a short and long-term basis.

According to the recent research, 77 percent of CFOs are taking an active role in driving operational transformation across their organizations, with 74 percent leading the adoption of digital technologies.

These technologies have the power to improve business performance and customer experience. Deciding which technologies to invest in, and sequencing their implementation effectively, is a business-defining responsibility. Increasingly, it is the CFO – rather than the CTO (Chief Technology Officer) or CDO (Chief Data Officer) – who is making the decisions.

As technology pervades retail, accurately using data to understand consumers is extremely complex but vital. This is the only way to anticipate their changing requirements, satisfy expectations and ultimately earn their loyalty.

With this in mind, the surveyed CFOs understand that creating “one version of the truth” about customers through data, is critical to understanding preferences and delivering on them. As a result, these retailers will be able to deliver the seamless end-to-end experience that consumers are increasingly expecting of their retailers.

As the data authority in their organizations, the research suggests that CFOs are focusing on digital transformation through integration of front-end investments and back office tools and systems, which will enable better access to data. They are also using their background in data to support colleagues in deriving stronger insight from analytics, with 89 percent believing finance is better equipped than other departments to derive value from these investments.

It is clear that the scope of today’s CFO extends far beyond the managing of financial risk and performance that is still carried out by accountants in the back office: 79 percent of CFOs believe their activities are far removed from the tasks performed by their wider finance function.

Artificial intelligence and automation continue to free up capacity and resource, giving CFOs the bandwidth they need to focus on value creation. Today, the priority is for financial chiefs to consider the talent that is necessary to future-proof their finance teams with non-traditional but vital skills such as data storytelling.

This is reflective of a broader trend across retail functions, as highlighted in Accenture’s Future Workforce report, that future teams need a more diverse range of skills to succeed rather than excelling in one competency.

What will the retailer of the future look like, and how will the CFO make it a reality? While many organizations are balancing traditional finance tasks with newer, more strategic and analytical responsibilities, a distinct few are paving the way for the next generation of retail operations.

For finance teams, this is empowering a new wave of talent to move away from transactional and repetitive tasks towards more value-adding activities. In so doing, they are enabling the business to unlock the opportunities of the future.

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 implement new technologies, improve operational processes, improve cash flow, 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 in the San Francisco Bay Area grow more quickly and efficiently while improving sales & profit growth. Contact us to learn more.

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