CFOs are becoming more strategic: Report

CFOs are becoming more strategic: Report

The role of the CFO has become more strategic over the last three years and is one which can drive change across the whole organisation, a new survey claims.

According to the latest research report, The CFO as Catalyst for Change, produced by Longitude Research and co-sponsored by Oracle and Accenture, 71 per cent of CFOs believe their strategic influence has increased over the last three years, while 65 per cent cited an increase in responsibility over setting and determining strategy.

In addition, 47 per cent claimed their role in business transformation efforts increased during the same timeframe. However, only one-third of respondents say they play a leading role in strategy formulation today. The result was even worse for those playing a part in strategy execution (24 per cent).

Challenges and barriers included the difficult economic environment, followed by a shortage of time and lack of integration between the finance function and other parts of the business.

“You need to strike a balance between sustaining the existing business and introducing change,” Dassault Systems senior executive vice-president and CFO, Thibault de Tersant, was quoted as saying in the report. “It’s easy to consumer too many resources on making incremental changes when in fact what is needed is deeper business transformation.”

Technology knowledge is also being recognised as a critical part of a modern CFO’s make-up, and ranked second only to industry knowledge in terms of areas where they should improve skillsets and capabilities to execute cost and growth agendas. The report also noted 84 per cent of CFOs have seen cooperation with their CIO improve over the past three years.

Disruptive technologies such as big data, cloud computing, mobile and social media are all perceived as growth enablers, and CFOs are displaying an increased interest in leveraging these in the business. Seventy-nine per cent of survey respondents saw access to information as a key driver of organisational agility, while 57 per cent viewed investments in big data and analytics as a key source of competitive advantage.

Despite this, the greatest concerns CFOs have when it comes to technology are dominated by mechanics and include maintenance, led by the cost of integration and lack of integration between systems.

The report’s authors and sponsors said this continued focus on passive IT concerns underscored the need for CFOs to shift their focus toward more technology-led innovation and growth projects.

“As CFOs see their zone of influence and responsibility expand, they can also be under increasing pressure to fuel their corporate growth engines, as was reconfirmed in this study,” said managing director of finance and enterprise performance at Accenture, Donniel Schulman.

“As the CFO agenda broadens, finance officers are leveraging back office processes, controls and analytics to provide insight and priorities for transformation. This can allow them to successfully step up and fulfil their role as agents of change.”

The CFO as Catalyst for Change survey was based on responses from 930 CFOs worldwide across both small and large organisations, followed by one-on-one interviews in each major geographic region.

Follow CFO World Australia on Twitter: @CFOworld_AU, or take part in the CFO World conversation on LinkedIn: CFO World.

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