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The 2017 CFO – from number cruncher to strategic business partner

over 4 years ago by Matthew Whipp
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The role of the modern CFO is rapidly changing, due to the adoption of digital automation, data and analytics. They are spending less time each year on the historical CFO concerns of annual budgets, compliance and administration to become crucial players in board level decision making. However, according to a recent survey of CFO’s and finance professionals by consultants Kaufman Hall, there is still quite a way to go this year:

  • 90% say they need to do more with financial and operations data
  • Reporting and analysis functions must be improved to access data 
  • More than 70% say supporting decision-making is their No.1 goal
  • Less than 10% say they are “very satisfied” with performance management reporting
  • Less than 23% are very confident about their company’s ability to navigate unforeseen obstacles, due in part to out-dated financial planning and analysis tools and processes
  • More than 50% say they take over 3 months to complete the annual budget
  • Only 38% use rolling forecasts
  • 90% still rely on Excel in financial planning and budgeting

A Forbes magazine CFO interview at the end of 2016 backed up much of the above survey results. It predicted that as businesses become ever more digital, real-time analytics are the way forward this year. Spending an entire quarter on an annual budget that is immediately out of date will soon be a thing of the past. Data and analytics are considered to be a more viable guide than the budget, and as such AI, dynamic planning and simulation will come more to the fore. Preparing for unexpected political or economic changes to the market requires predictive algorithms and tools, not just an Excel spreadsheet, so a tech-minded CFO will be crucial. Technology will at the same time minimise the amount of CFO time spent on historically time-consuming transactional tasks and information gathering, enabling the 2017 CFO to concentrate more on strategic real-time advice to the c-suite.

From a recruitment perspective, finance teams below the CFO will also need to adapt. Finance professionals with tech skill sets and a broader understanding of analytics will be much sought after. Millennial talent particularly, who are well versed in the evolution of technology and adapting new skills in the wake of out-dated ones, will be the future. If your finance team needs an injection of modern thinking with some new skill sets on board, then do not hesitate to contact us.