The role of the CFO has steadily evolved due to several factors, such as the advent of new technology and the accelerated pace of modern businesses that have transformed growth trajectories. To remain competitive in such a landscape, today’s corporate leaders are turning to the CFO for better financial insight to help them make more well-informed decisions. In order to deliver that insight and embrace their new leadership role, an increasing number of CFOs are turning to modern financial technology to create a culture of analytics.
Leveraging modern tools is just one of the things that today’s best CFOs do better than the rest across all industries, from manufacturing, to retail, to higher education. Here’s a quick look at 10 specific strategies that today’s top finance chiefs have mastered, according to several of today’s top-performing CFOs.
They effectively balance cost control with growth.
Today’s best CFOs have a proven ability to do more with less, and to effectively control cost without disrupting business growth. Blurb COO (and former CFO) Gene Domecus is a prime example of a finance leader who has maintained such a balance. The company was expanding internationally when he joined Blurb as CFO in August of 2012. The responsibility to control cost during that expansion process fell on his shoulders.
“Going international was a very smart decision, but there were logistics and delivery complexities that I needed to point out …We needed transparency into the financials that highlighted the P&L country by country.”
They are part of a small, core group that truly runs the business.
“There’s a really big difference between a good CFO and a great CFO,” said Ian Tyler, CEO of Balfour Beatty. “One of the corporate myths is that CEOs run companies. They don’t. Within any company there is a small group of people who ultimately make the decisions, and to be part of that team is a question of reality, not status. As a CFO, you first and foremost have to be resolving the balances in the business.”
They lead the charge in adopting new processes and tools.
As a company evolves, tools and processes must evolve with it. And although some functions may resist change, CFOs must lead this charge so that their organizations don’t wait until it’s too late. That includes asking the right questions about how to bring the most strategic value to their business.
They effectively use dashboards to provide a “Big Picture” view of financial data, and a granular view of operational data.
The best CFOs know that dashboards can go beyond high-level metrics to provide insights into operational and tactical information. They understand that manually processing data from disparate reports is inefficient. Instead, they’re using dashboards that are more intuitive so that executives can better monitor and communicate data.
They’re always armed with the right information.
Inaccurate data can be a huge blow to your credibility as a CFO. The top finance chiefs fully understand this, and they make sure to stay consistently up-to-date with accurate business performance data.
They have multiple points of view.
Great CFOs know that it’s important to have visibility into the entire organization, not just the finance function. They then use that unique business perspective to look at a problem from many points of view, to find the best possible resolution.
They’re confident, and they’re great communicators.
“What really matters is having the experience and the confidence to distill down in simple words how you think you can make a business better or how a company can be made better,” said James Cheesewright, CFO, Eurostar. “If you are able to present that, it’s an enormously powerful position.”
They stay focused on what matters.
Great CFOs aren’t bogged down with administrative tasks. Instead, they focus on understanding and improving the business as a whole.
They use modern business intelligence technology.
“There’s a lot of pressure on the organization to take in raw data and to turn it into useful information in a timeframe that suits the business,” said David White, Senior Research Analyst, Aberdeen Group. “There’s tremendous pressure on these operational managers to respond faster, and the best CFOs recognize that old-fashioned business intelligence is just not intuitive enough.”
They are fully invested in the business’ success.
The best CFOs don’t just help to run the business. They become true partners who are fully invested in its success. As fully-invested partners, they are able to maintain focus on their most revenue-generating responsibilities.
Our CFO Indicator Q4 2016 report reveals that while 85% of CFOs say their teams have direct access to the financial and operational data needed to generate accurate reports, it is the non-value-added tasks—like data gathering, verifying accuracy, and formatting reports—that take time away from the strategic analysis desired by top management and other stakeholders. Most CFOs also cite data integration as the biggest technology hurdle to gaining actionable reporting information, given the increasing need to report on both financial and operational data typically housed in disparate, unconnected systems. Read our other CFO Indicator reports here.