For many years, pioneering Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) have steadily extended their duties beyond the boundaries of the traditional finance and accounting function. Over this past year, an expanding set of beyond-finance activities – including those related to environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters; human capital reporting; cybersecurity; and supply chain management – have grown in importance for most CFOs. Traditional finance and accounting responsibilities remain core requirements for CFOs, even as they modify planning, analysis, forecasting and reporting processes to thrive in the cloud-based digital era. Many CFOs are refining their new and growing roles by addressing these five key areas:
1. Accessing new data to drive success – The ability of CFOs and finance groups to address their expanding priorities depends on the accuracy and completeness of the data they access, secure, govern and use. Even the most powerful, cutting-edge tools will deliver subpar insights without optimal data inputs. In addition, more of the data CFOs use to generate strategic, actionable business insights is sourced from outside of the finance and accounting department and elsewhere in the company. Many of these data producers lack expertise in disclosure controls and therefore need guidance from the CFO.
2. Developing long-term strategies for protecting and leveraging data – From a data-protection perspective, CFOs are refining their calculations of cyber risk while benchmarking their organization's data security and privacy spending and allocations. From a data-leveraging perspective, finance chiefs are creating and updating roadmaps for investments in business intelligence tools, advanced automation, and the cloud technology that serves as a foundational enabler for these advanced finance tools. These investments are designed to satisfy the need for real-time finance insights and analysis among a growing set of internal customers.
3. Applying financial expertise to ESG reporting – CFOs are mobilizing their team's financial reporting expertise to address unfolding Human Capital and ESG reporting and disclosure requirements. Leading CFOs are solidifying their role in this next-generation data collection activity while ensuring that the organization lays the groundwork to maximize the business value it derives from monitoring, managing and reporting all forms of ESG-related performance metrics.
4. Elevating and expanding forecasting – CFOs are updating forecasting and planning processes to integrate new data inputs, from new sources, so that the insights the finance organization produces are more real-time in nature and relevant to more finance customers inside and outside the organization. Traditional key performance indicators (KPIs) are being supplemented by key business indicators (KBIs) to provide sharper forecasts and viewpoints. As major new sources of political, social, technological and business volatility arise in an unsteady post-COVID era, forecasting's value to the organization continues to soar.
5. Investing in long-term talent strategies –CFOs are refining their labor model to become more flexible and gain long-term access to cutting-edge skills and innovative thinking in the face of an ongoing and persistent finance and accounting talent crunch. CFOs also are recalibrating their flexible labor models and helping other parts of the organization develop a similar approach to ensure the entire future organization can skill and scale to operate at the right size and in the right manner.
CFOs need to move quickly. They need to break down data silos once and for all, unlock predictive forecasting, collaborate purposefully across the C-suite, and take responsibility for digital strategy. If your CFO is doing these things, your business will be able to unlock rapid performance and thrive.
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