ACFO has historically been envisioned as “the chief numbers person.” But that role has expanded into areas not even imaginable 10 years ago, and those not evolving their skillsets risk being left behind. CFOs are now expected to be C-suite/board advisors, giving accurate, strategic recommendations based on a broad array of data and advanced analytics. They need mastery over technology systems and a welltrained and managed finance staff armed with skills that reflect the business’s current and future needs. In short, the CFO is not only an editor of the organization’s story, s/he must be a storyteller as well.
EVOLUTION OF THE CFO
For decades, CFOs were technical accounting experts who viewed the business through the owner’s lens. Now CFOs have a critical strategic role as the collector and interpreter of data from across the company, which means they must touch all aspects of the business – from operations to sales to production and beyond. A CFO/advisor also needs a good bedside manner and strong presence in the boardroom and with management. With skills that represent modern needs and reflect their company’s complexity and industry, today’s CFO needs talents that fall into several buckets:
STRONG PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES
Upgraded CFOs subscribe to a “get-better culture” where continuous improvement is always top of mind. They promote a collaborative and transparent culture, display emotional intelligence and are good listeners. Being able to hire, develop, train and lead talent is also a necessity in today’s marketplace. Successfully managing the finance function at the highest level is not just based on skills but is a product of the people around them.
Successful CFOs need to master the technology that makes their company and industry work. Finance and data collection are directly affected by tools like machine learning, artificial intelligence, big data and advanced analytics. A Forbes‘s article mentions that leveraging AI means “CFOs can spend more time focused on the organization’s future, analyzing potential growth strategies or proactively engaging in business development.” CFOs must also be conversant with topics such as the cloud, peer learning, communication tools and systems integration.
A good enterprise financial planning (ERP) system is a building block for getting the right data at the right time. We had a client investing a significant amount of money on a system that had issues related to implementation. The project was beyond the abilities of their prior CFO. As an advisor, we provided guidance on hiring an experienced and forward-thinking CFO and assisted them by bringing in a third party to reevaluate the ERP system implementation and in general provide more consultative input to the company. This led to better information to make decisions and helped them #BeMore as they look towards the future.