The Dilemma of the “Modern” CFO

5/9/19 12:13 PM / by Marc Meyer

Marc Meyer

 ggOver the last 5 years, the role of the Chief Financial Officer has drastically changed as have the expectations and demands from stakeholders and CEOs. Bookkeeping and financial reporting have become a given as far as outputs from a Finance Organization. In 2019, CFOs are increasingly tasked with providing consumer insights and using financial data to propose actionable strategies for cost-cutting and growth-enablement. Clearly this is not your traditional CFO that we all have come to think of.

Here at Auxis, we have learned that CFOs and Senior Finance Executives in every industry are feeling the pressure to optimize their back offices and join the new wave of Digital Transformation and finance trends that are sweeping the Fortune 1000 and yet, they are hesitating to jump on board for a number of reasons with the most pressing reason being an inundation of information with no clear place to start or an actionable roadmap. 

Caveat: we are living in a time where unemployment rates in finance functions are at an all-time low and innovation available to middle market organizations is increasingly accessible.  

So here’s the conundrum- most “larger” finance organizations are already using creative means to circumvent FTE (full-time employee) limits placed by their organizations such as temp staffing, consulting firms, outsourcing and/or contingent worker status but now, suddenly, even “attractive employers” are having trouble finding skills like Business Intelligence and Tech Development to keep up with the big boys.

How then, does a finance leader bridge the expectation gap between classic cost-cutting targets and modern efficiency optimization in a rising competitive climate?

The answer is as simple as any self-help book implies. One must identify the problem. Thus, it is no longer acceptable for an organization to be blind to its operational weak link or inefficiencies. It has been shown that digitization efforts are often halted by the inconsistency of an organization’s strategic alignment. It has also been shown, that middle market organizations have been at a disadvantage when considering finance optimization tools like outsourcing, BI implementation or automation efforts because of budget restraints or cookie-cutter consulting approaches delaying efficiency realization.

 The changing “profile” of the Modern CFO.

That profile, is all about battling the buzzwords like RPA, AI and BI in a climate where stores are closing, ad margins are shrinking, and digitization is encroaching on the way business has been done since the last wave of Finance Transformation trends.  Not only has technology advanced for back office optimization, the way consumers engage with businesses has also exponentially changed as seen by the rise of digital marketing spend. It has proven comforting to approach these optimization buzzwords the way one approaches a financial advisor or a new doctor- lay out all the current state facts and map out the process to achieve “peak performance.”

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Given the nature of the financial beast that a CFO is tasked with managing , it is advisable to allow a neutral, third party, to assess the quick wins and cost-cutting opportunities and provide data points catered to the nature of said beast. It is optimal when this is in alignment with the future growth strategy of the organization. But it wouldn't be a stretch to say that some in the c-suite may have consulting fatigue. How many more vendors can you take blowing up your inbox for a chance to “optimize your back office” and allow you to gain the promised “focus” of the outsourcing fad of the 90’s?

How many consulting assessments are bought and not implemented? How many “new technologies” can one entertain? How many times can you hear that if your organization is not undergoing a digital transformation, you risk being left behind? 

The most valuable part in our opinion, after hearing the internal dilemma and hesitation halting the adoption of these new Finance Optimization trends from CFOs and Sr. Finance Leaders all year, is that the assessment defines the most logical sequencing for a “Transformation Roadmap” with minimal impact to the budget allocation for digitization. In other words, there IS a world where a Finance Leader can fund their own Finance Transformation journey with strategically allocated timing and optimization improvements.

In closing, there is no doubt that today’s finance department needs a new kind of CFO to rise to the occasion. For finance leaders, it is only by embracing an ongoing digital business model and mindset that their agenda of growth and organizational protection will be fulfilled. When it feels overwhelming to evoke operational and cultural change in response to Finance Transformation pressures, our clients have found value in a business partner that truly understands their pain points, a clearly-identified starting point and the subsequent roadmap an opportunity assessment provides. With those mechanisms in place, the truly “Modern CFO” can devote time to the things that matter most; driving the company towards profitability, and refocusing on their core competencies.

 

Marc Meyer

Written by

Marc Meyer

Senior Content Strategist