Five ways to become a ‘connected CFO’

By Andrew Hicks, CFO at Advanced

In our recent white paper, ‘The Connected CFO – a company’s secret silver bullet?’, we looked at how technology is changing the role of the CFO, freeing them from time-consuming, administrative day-to-day tasks and giving them the opportunity to drive digital transformation.

From my own experience of being a CFO at a number of different organisations, I can safely say that the role of has certainly evolved and taken on new dimensions in recent years, requiring new skills and capabilities.

However, the reality is that for the majority of businesses, the digital transformation journey is just beginning. The savvy CFO can therefore seize this opportunity to drive real change and be seen as a leader. Businesses are crying out for that connected, end-to-end view of data across departments, and CFOs are in the ideal position to deliver this.

So, what do you need to do in order to capitalise on this and become a ‘connected CFO’?

  1. Say goodbye to manual, paper-based processes

Traditionally, CFOs and their finance teams have been too bogged down by manual day-to-day tasks to spend time on higher-level, strategic activities. However, modern software solutions can automate many of the manual, paper-based processes that finance teams typically carry out, enabling organisations to become more efficient and streamlined.

Technology is also improving compliance, something that is increasing in importance as regulations multiply, as well as connecting different systems to enhance access to realtime, accurate information.

As the organisation’s budget controllers, the finance team can use this technology to make decisions that improve processes, drive efficiencies and reduce costs. So as the remit of the CFO widens and becomes more tactical, they need to ensure that their own team is operating as efficiently as possible so that they are well equipped to embrace this new way of working.

  1. Upskill yourself

If CFOs want to lead business change, they need more than just financial expertise. Technical skills will be core to the role in the coming years, as technology and finance become more closely intertwined and tasks that have traditionally sat with IT or administration teams, such as analysing big sets of data and information, fall into the realm of the CFO.

With the pace of technological change, it is essential for the CFO to understand as much as possible about digital services and the power of a connected IT infrastructure. A recent survey by CFO Research found that 93% of senior finance executives in the US believe that the CFO of the future will need a much stronger technology skill set than at present.

64% of respondents said they had taken action to upgrade their skills in the past year, while 80% said they planned to do so, showing that the vast majority recognise the importance of technology to their role. Are your IT skills up to scratch?

  1. Become a digital pioneer

CFOs are increasingly being called upon to be the digital pioneers. With the pace of technological change, it is essential for the CFO to understand as much as possible about digital services and the power of a connected IT infrastructure; certainly, if this happens, the better positioned he or she will then be to utilise innovation and new technology to drive business value. In today’s organisation, technology and finance are no longer separate. Finance departments are required to be more than just cost centres with control of a budget. With access to greater business insights, digital transformation is turning the CFO and his team into business enablers, using technologies to make decisions that improve processes, create efficiencies and reduce costs, allowing the business to remain ahead of the competition and be prepared for the future.

  1. Embrace Analytics

New technology is creating huge volumes of data across business departments that can be difficult to manage and make sense of. At the same time, as the availability of data increases, businesses and investors are becoming hungrier for information.

Although no longer stored in spreadsheets, in many organisations data is still effectively held in digital silos within each department. However, technology infrastructure innovations are helping to overcome this for forward-thinking organisations. Systems can now be integrated effectively, and cloud-based solutions are also helping to connect the various solutions required by each department. Business intelligence analytics and dashboards are helping to visualise this data and increase the availability of such information.

As people who are used to dealing with numbers and data, CFOs, sitting at the intersection between financial and operational information, are ideally placed to lead the management of this data which supports more informed management decisions and provides stakeholders with the information and insight that they are demanding.

In order to rise to this challenge, CFOs must embrace analytics technology which helps to visualise this data, interpret it and turn it into meaningful insights that can be used for forecasting, trend predictions and growth strategies to inform business decisions.

  1. Drive change across the board

The role of the CFO has historically been quite an isolated one, but with so much data at their fingertips, the CFO actually sits in a sweet spot of financial and operational information. They are therefore ideally placed to connect and integrate this data across different departments and systems, so that there is a single version of the truth, and effectively act upon this information. By doing so, they can not only elevate their own position on the board, but help to create a more collaborative, informed C-suite and consequently a more connected business.

With technology and big data playing an increasingly prominent role in the CFO’s day-to-day job, by taking the above steps to become more connected, the CFO will obtain the opportunity to elevate their own position from working in the business, to operating more strategically on the business as key strategic advisor and enabler of business change.