Mastering more than just the numbers – the new role of the CFO

By Debbie Green, VP of Applications, UKI at Oracle 

The role of Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) has become almost completely unrecognisable in the last five to ten years. CFOs now have more responsibility and a wider remit for ensuring the success of the company. According to a recent McKinsey Company report, five functions other than finance now report to most CFOs: risk, regulatory compliance, M&A, IT and digitalisation. Leading all of these distinct, yet interconnected areas doesn’t just make the CFO one of the busiest members of the C-suite, it puts a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. This is only compounded by economic uncertainty, tightening regulations and scrutiny from investors. Given all of this, there are only so many hours in the day, even for CFOs, so it is imperative that they prioritise, focus on the most important things and have the right people and tools at their disposal to make it all work. Ultimately, a CFO needs to be a true strategic leader, not just the head of the finance department.

In this new, demanding role, a CFO has to be good with more than just numbers. Today the role means getting and staying ahead of uncertainty, equipping yourself with the power to future-gaze – being able to look ahead and use foresight to plan for future scenarios. Nearly half of businesses have changed their models to become more agile and the CFO is expected to be the driving force behind that.

This new role and these added responsibilities have not been given to the CFO by chance or accident, it is thanks to their unique position at the helm of the organisation. Heads of finance are among an elite few with access to data pertaining to all parts of the business. This becomes especially important as regulations and compliance laws become stricter, resulting in different business units, even within one company, putting access to their own individual data sets on lock-down. This limits the number of people that have true oversight of all data and processes, which, without the CFO in this new position, could have a severe impact in this data driven age.

It is for this specific reason that we need to empower the CFO to do all they can to make the best use of all business information; both by having a platform from which they can easily access and understand it, and secondly, making sure they have enough time in their day to make full use of it.

It’s these pressures that are seeing CFOs turning to ERP solutions with embedded artificial intelligence (AI) for help. ERP solutions have the ability to both free up and maximise a CFOs time, helping to make the best use of the working hours available to them. This is especially helpful as many CFOs find themselves still dedicating far too much time to tasks that just keep the finance function up and running. Don’t get me wrong, requisitions, purchase orders and vendor invoicing need to happen, but these are repetitive, routine duties that can be handled by cloud-based ERP with automation that has intelligent financial management capabilities. This in turn not only frees CFOs up from doing or worrying about these tasks – but makes them more reliable as it eliminates human error. Given recent Accenture research showed finance staff spend an average of 60% and 70% of their time on tasks such as processing transactions, accounting, controlling, compliance and reporting, automation can really change the face of a CFO’s day to day. This time can instead be spent on the new, more strategic parts of their job, finding insights that empower the valuable guidance they can give the CEO and helping to drive the business forward.

Organisations relay on leaders to focus on the things that really matter, to look at the big picture, plan for the future and work to perfect the businesses strategy. They do not want the C-suite, and the CFO specifically, bogged down with mundane, yet important, tasks. By equipping CFOs and their teams with cloud-based ERP applications that empower them through automation, manual tasks can be executed quickly and easily, while also eliminating time-consuming and costly upgrades.

Imagine a world where the CFO can juggle all of these new responsibilities with ease, ensuring efficiency and maintaining the financial arm of the business all while dedicating the majority of their expertise to moving the company forward. This might sound too good to be true, but today it isn’t.