The modern chief financial officer’s toolkit includes more than just calculators, spreadsheets and paper invoices.
In the face of ongoing macro landscape shifts, finance leaders are increasingly being called on to deploy everything they’ve got as they help their organizations strategically navigate business disruptions and unpredictability while unlocking new avenues for growth.
“The CFO has always been viewed as a strategic adviser, a provider of data insights and real-time actionable information,” Hinge Health CFO James Budge told PYMNTS as part of the executive series, “A Day in the Life of a CFO.”
“What’s different today is that the pace of the expectation around that intelligence has picked up,” said Budge.
“While the role of strategic advisor has always been there, the CFO now needs to bring insights even quicker in order to enable the company to make better decisions faster,” he added. “…The rest of the world is moving just as fast if not faster than CFOs are trying to move, and we have to keep up with that.”
In a shifting climate like today’s, adaptability and agility are paramount for organizations looking to navigate effectively through uncertain times.
Turning financial facts into strategic acts requires the ability to look beyond the numbers and interrogate the broader story and context that financial workflows are embedded in.
“Anything that happens in the macro market, we need to be able to apply that quickly and effectively in our own approach to the business,” said Budge. “It is crucial to be aware of what’s happening outside of your envelope so that you can apply it internally.”
Still, helping to move an organization forward in the best way possible is no easy task. That’s why many CFOs are increasingly pairing their unique knowledge and experience with new technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), and other digital innovations to drive success.
“Embracing digital transformation and upgrading systems is [important] for improving the speed and agility of outcomes and helping the business continue to move fast,” Budge explained.
Despite the rapidly evolving world, one thing has remained the same: CFOs are responsible for green-lighting most investments, including digital ones.
And one notable shift in the digital era is the availability of multiple point solutions that organizations can leverage. Instead of relying on a one-size-fits-all technology, organizations now have the flexibility to choose from a plethora of technologies that best suit their specific needs.
“There’s a lot of really great technology that you can bolt on to some of your core applications,” said Budge. “The nice thing here with the technology advancements and the ability of open APIs to work with all kinds of different technology is you can quickly adopt new technology as fast as possible and move with that high pace that I mentioned before.”
“I think, finance departments, if they choose to be, can be at the leading edge when it comes to embracing these new systems, new opportunities, new ways of running processes and reexploring processes that may not have been efficient in the past,” said Budge. “And AI is a huge part of that.”
“What we’re all looking for is new technologies that can help the teams we already have be more efficient,” he added. “And maybe as we grow the organization, we continue to see the economies of scale that come with that technology around how we can actually apply it in a day-to-day use case to improve efficiency… I don’t know too many CFOs out there that aren’t interested in efficiencies.”
The march of technology continues to advance, and as it progresses onward, the potential that innovations like AI have to make employees more efficient and effective in their roles is becoming increasingly apparent, he said.
“Early AI efficiencies are around things like process documentation, where you can just plug in a series of questions and out comes maybe several pages of what a revenue recognition policy might look like, or what an investment policy might look like,” said Budge. “Although you still need to have the human intelligence and experience to review what the AI has produced. But maybe 80% of the time traditionally spent is saved.”
So, what does the Hinge Health CFO see the future holding for the finance department?
“Anything that has digital or AI attached to it is seeing quantum leaps of evolution, and I think that pace is only going to continue to pick up,” Budge said. “It’s going to lead to CFOs becoming more efficient at providing better insights to the business, particularly as those tools evolve and the capacity for providing information and enhancing analysis gets better and better.”