From being a boring back-office function performing tasks like book-keeping, reconciliations and preparing tax computations not so long ago, to being involved in deciding enterprise operational and commercial strategies currently is a long distance covered by the corporate finance function in factually not so long a time. Leading this charge of course are the CFOs at their helm and the force behind this radical transformation has undoubtedly been technology.
The stereotype around CFO’s role being confined to that of a custodian and controller has been resoundingly shattered and the contributions of CFO is reaching far and wide across the organization into strategic planning, risk management, corporate governance, sustainability, technology adoption so on and so forth. Every nook and cranny of an organization wants to tap into the numeracy and analytical skills of the CFO. And CFOs are happy to oblige with their data-driven expertise and analytical insights.
Technology is definitely not new to the finance function either. CFOs have been early beneficiaries of efficiency, accuracy and spend avoidance through leveraging technology by outsourcing payroll management, accounts payable (A/P), accounts receivable (A/R), general ledger (G/L) reporting etc. for decades now and it is this first-hand experience in finance technology that organizations are looking to draw from. CFO’s well regarded “cautiously optimistic” approach to business initiatives fits well with the approach contemporary technology adoption calls out for.
Over the last few years, there have been dedicated efforts to integrate cutting edge technology even more intensively within the CFO’s workflow. The new-age CFO is therefore creating new real-time, collaborative and analytical capabilities using cloud-based and mobile-friendly financial planning, budgeting, forecasting and analytical systems available in both Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) models.
What such continued exposure to the technology environment results in is the openness towards proposals around “best-of-breed” technologies and very often, the best judges for them. They are constantly exploring new technology-based operating models and want to explore and investigate hosting platforms that make them more agile and responsive.
Therefore, the increasing confidence in suggesting cloud services for TCO reduction, or answering how monetization of OLTP and OLAP systems can be enabled using data models, or proposing embedded analytics for quicker mobile-friendly dashboards. Not surprisingly, they are also becoming vocal technology evangelists for a cause.
They know the benefits of IT & Analytics because they have implemented it within their own functions. Based on ever changing business needs, the financial applications landscape too is exposed to continuous disruption. It is imperative that CFOs understand the technological implications as well and are prepared for rapid re-configuration to maintain industry and domain relevance.
A recent global study of over a thousand CFOs and senior finance executives found approximately 80% saying they were meeting or exceeding the organization’s expectations around real-time analytics for decision making. Given that the next generation financial organizations look to be on course, the onus is now on “next-gen CFOs” to be drivers for enterprise wide technology evangelization.