Over the past 10 years, the role of the CFO has clearly evolved from that of a back-office scorekeeper to that of strategic business partner and beyond.
That includes representing the organization with customers, partners, and other external stakeholders. What’s driving these changes? What new skill sets does this require? Are we asking too much of CFOs? This was the topic of a recent article published by Insight Magazine, including comments by Host Analytics own CFO Ian Charles, and others.
Are We Asking Too Much of CFOs?
The article ponders the question – “Is pushing and pulling CFOs away from focusing only on mission-critical finance functions in the best interest of the business world? Or, perhaps it doesn’t matter—right or wrong, this is the new norm.”
One of the factors cited as accelerating this endless evolution of the CFO is the increasing reliance on technology and data in driving decision-making.
Ian Charles commented, “Today’s CFOs have access to information about the details of resource consumption and the efficiency of invested capital that empowers them to be more proactive, and also more concerned about the entire spectrum of company performance and not just financial results. It’s expected that today’s CFO will deliver strategic, data-driven guidance and apply critical thinking to decisions across the organization.”
“This oversight of all aspects of the organization has turned today’s CFO into a strategic partner for the CEO and not just a bean counter,” Charles continues. “Now the CEO is empowered with a valuable partner who is armed with data that allows for accurate, quick, and insightful business decisions.”
The truly successful CFOs, however, will be those who embrace these expectations and continue to evolve, both personally and professionally, to meet them.
Are Today’s CFOs Mission Ready?
The article also explores the question of how one can truly prepare to be a CFO, given these expanded responsibilities. One of the key steps recommended is actively building relationships across functions, such as with customer service, engineering, and marketing. Building these relationships will help the CFO have a better understanding of the business across many dimensions. Of course, a successful CFO must also have a solid foundation in accounting and finance.
“Those who aspire to the position definitely need to pay their dues in accounting and finance first,” Charles suggests. “Work for an accounting firm; work in investment banking; work for large companies, small companies, and even go the route of an entrepreneur if you can.”
The key point? Managing your career to get as much experience as possible is what’s needed first. Because today’s CFOs have oversight and influence over the entire organization, they must have a broad background that spans functions as well as industries.
“Experience in a career can sometimes be referred to as scar tissue. Sometimes scars can be seen, and sometimes they can’t. The important takeaway is that scar tissue often teaches you what not to do as much as it teaches you what to do,” Charles says. “But remember, it takes a passion to build, grow, and preserve the value of a business.”To learn more, read the full text of the article here