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What Expert CFOs are Doing Now

The CFO’s role has been evolving for years, becoming more and more central to the strategic direction of the company.

According to new research, this transformation is being accelerated by the global pandemic. CFOs have increasingly moved beyond their traditional role as economic guardians of the company to become architects of business value and catalysts of digital strategies. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of the CFOs surveyed said they had the final say on the enterprise’s appropriate technology direction.

And it’s not only the pandemic that’s altering the role and responsibilities of CFOs. External change is accelerating in numerous ways: consumer expectations, data explosion, and the general pace of business, to name just a few.

These trends outpace the traditional budgetary cycle and demand that CFOs act equally fast to protect the business and create value and success that can be realized across the company. The task may sound difficult, but a small group of elite CFOs is blazing a trail for others to follow.

The research found that companies helmed by an expert CFO — defined as a leader that embodies the new strategic responsibilities of the role and can generate value at a rapid speed — have far exceeded revenue growth expectations. Accenture’s statistical modeling indicates that if other CFOs emulate leaders’ behaviors, their companies could as much as double Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization (EBITDA) over three years.

The overarching differentiator for this group of top CFOs is the advantage they hold over their peers when using technology and data to meet the role’s evolving requirements. Here’s how.

1. Economic Guardianship

Top CFOs are using digital transformation, the cloud, and predictive analytics to execute their traditional role as economic guardians of the enterprise. Research discovered that:

  • 21 percent of CFOs use operational data to identify new value and 20 percent include macroeconomic data in their forecasts.

  • 43 percent of CFOs have used advanced financial modeling in the past two years to identify future risks and opportunities.

  • 23 percent are using the cloud to provide new insights, and 16 percent are using the cloud to identify new sources of value.

This small group of CFOs has become “sensors at the edge” of the company, gathering data through business-unit level financial planning and analysis (FP&A) sources to unify diverse data streams in the cloud and run artificial intelligence-based models in real-time to make sense of what they collect.

2. Business Value Architects

As CFOs become the second-in-command on strategic issues, they must deepen their collaborative relationships across the C-suite. The survey found that:

  • 86 percent of CFOs have increased the frequency and scope of collaboration with C-suite partners, leveraging their visibility, analytics, and access to data and company risk insights.

  • 88 percent of CFOs have introduced new metrics to better leverage finance’s collaboration and influence on the enterprise.

That’s excellent news, but once again, top CFOs go even further. This group combines cloud-based process-mining solutions, enterprise resource planning, and other source systems with AI-based models to visualize end-to-end value chains and business processes. This allows them to uncover friction that can result in errors, deviations, and value leakage.

3. Digital Strategy Catalysts

To drive speed, CFOs need to champion digital transformation across the enterprise. Our research identified three main areas of focus for leaders:

  • Business models: 41 percent of CFOs have been driving new business models, and 40 percent are revising strategy holistically.

  • Security: 28 percent of finance professionals are engaged in managing risk through data security to a meaningful degree.

  • Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG): a staggering 68 percent of survey respondents said that finance takes ultimate responsibility for ESG performance within their company.

Across all of these areas cloud adoption is key — whether that’s for advanced analytics for strategy insights or tools to enhance security.

CFOs need to move fast. 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.

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 identify opportunity and navigate the economic landscape, 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.

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