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The Evolving CFO Role Is Helping Drive Better Results

business finance meeting

The responsibilities of the CFO have never looked more different or driven more impact.

That’s because, at a high level, most business roadmaps tend to be a function of their macro operating environment — and given the challenges of today’s landscape, CFOs are playing a more crucial role than ever before in deciding how, where and on what the investment dollars of their organization are spent.

After all, where a business spends its money tends to inform and frame up its broader strategy.

Against this backdrop, the importance of digital fluency has surged, with CFOs extending their influence beyond finance into marketing, sales and product implementations. 

In a world where technology continues to advance, savvy CFOs are embracing the evolution of the finance function from back-office bean counter and financial reporter to strategic advisor and corporate financial architect, wielding their role as investment decision-makers to capture efficiencies.

And wrestling insights out of previously siloed data in a compliant, effective manner is paramount for CFOs looking to take advantage of innovative technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI). 

See also: Airbnb’s C-Suite Shake-Up Highlights Strategic Power Shift of CFO Role

CFOsDaily Routines Increasingly Defined by Data 

Historically focused on reporting, CFOs now find themselves deeply involved in collecting, analyzing and predicting financial data.

The transforming responsibilities of the finance function have turned the department into more of a gatekeeper than it ever was in the past, and that in turn makes it critical to ensure that any data — either internal or external — being used to inform decisioning is pulled from the right sources, is accurate, clean and made available to the necessary organizational end-users.

“The job has become a little more strategic partner to the CEO,” Lisa Mogensenchief financial officer at RiskOptics told PYMNTS in December. “In this environment, rapid decision making is a must, it’s the new normal. And with that, there’s generally a level of financial have backup that is required, which is where the CFO comes in to provide support for data-driven decisions,” she explained, highlighting the increasing emphasis on cash management, customer-centric strategies, and the ever-evolving tech stack.

Mogensen’s advice for other CFOs is to “watch your investments closely, and that includes investments in people, technology and the business more generally. Now is definitely not the time for speculation…keep your eye on the ball and watch what’s happening.”

The use of modern technologies, including cloud computing, data analytics and automation, is helping finance chiefs streamline workflows and improve competitiveness by scaling processes without the subsequent need to increase headcount.

“Digital transformation has really enabled us to evolve,” PayByPhone Chief Financial Officer Nick Hamill told PYMNTS in an interview posted in January. “Embracing new technologies has allowed us to enhance our efficiency, the speed of our decision making, and really our overall competitiveness.”

“Technology-driven growth, especially artificial intelligence, especially automation, these are things that as a finance department that we can really leverage,” Hamill added, emphasizing that while digital solutions and AI tools offer benefits, the human touch and effective implementation remain crucial to success.

CFOs Must Be Technically Nimble, but Grounded in Fundamentals

The integration of cutting-edge software solutions can be invaluable to the finance seat — but only if implemented and configured correctly.

“You can’t control the geopolitical tensions, but what you can control is making your business stronger and more resilient during these times so that you come out the back of it a stronger company,” Bloomreach CFO Ninos Sarkis told PYMNTS in an interview posted in November. “…There’s a lot of relatively low-hanging fruit to make a business more efficient, more scalable and more automated.”

Savvy firms are going deep on a smaller number of investments rather than spreading resources too thin, Cedar CFO Scott Stockberger told PYMNTS. “Depending on how you integrate some of these digital tools, it’ll allow you to rebalance some of your investments and find efficiencies in ways that you haven’t been able to in the past … Tooling can be a great multiplier.”

Stockberger noted that CFOs are now playing offense rather than defense, investing in their functions and helping the rest of the business invest in theirs. As a result, CFOs are now being brought into conversations earlier and more frequently across the organization, with internal conversations involving the finance team evolving from, “Are we allowed to do this from a budget perspective,” to “Should we do this from a budget perspective?”

And with CFOs staying focused on their organization’s long-term vision, executing day-to-day decisions and ensuring they align with the company’s mission, the future continues to look bright for the finance function.