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CFOs Shift from Tactical to Strategic Roles

by | Apr 28, 2016

A November 2015 Intacct CFO Perspectives Survey conducted at the company’s yearly customer conference showed that CFOs today are changing roles by spending less time immersed in tactical manual accounting processes and more time on strategic initiatives thus becoming true partners to the business as a whole.  The survey, while conducted by the ERP software provider, Intacct, considered responses from 114 CFOs or VPs of Finance at mid-size companies across a range of industry segments, including Software/Saas, Professional Services, Hospitality, Nonprofits and Healthcare.

The strategic initiatives that respondents have been involved with include risk management, improved customer satisfaction and the implementation of technologies designed to improve business sustainability in an uncertain economy by improving efficiency.

To implement these technologies, CFOs have turned to analytics and cloud-based solutions to help become strategic advisers.  The goal of the CFOs embracing these systems is to increase the efficiency of operations in order to lead them successfully through challenging economic times. For 80% of survey respondents, this analytics, together with business reporting, have become a top initiative, and for another 60%, the use of cloud-based financial systems to automate financial processes is a top priority.

For those who need more proof of the shift from tactical to strategic roles of the CFO, consider this.  Only 8% of CFOs and CFO team members are primarily engaged in closing the books every month.  For most of them, 76% in fact, less than 30% of the time at work is devoted to closing the books, and for nearly 50% of CFOs and those reporting to the, spend less than 20% of work time on closing books.  Instead, they are putting into place and maintaining technologies that make performing vital business tasks easier, with 57% of those surveyed reporting responsibilities for managing 3-5 business systems and 12% of respondents claiming to manage at least 6 business systems.  Only 11% of respondents reported that they are only responsible for their financial solution.

As a result, nearly three-quarters of CFOs consider systems integration a top investment priority over the next year and a half.  The goal?  To gain insights into operations that go beyond profit and loss numbers,using tools that grant a more nuanced understanding of performance metrics like business unit performance, customer lifetime value, and churn.  Data analytics, cloud-based systems, and mobile technologies are the other technology investment priorities for respondents over the next year and a half.

To make time for the new priorities and roles they have taken on, CFOs are eager to find ways to make accessing financial and operational data easier.  78% of respondents shared that easier access can act to keep operational costs steady, with 63% surveyed interested in using the data to turn around under-performing areas of operations.  Finally, 55% believe that the increased access to data will be a means to increased customer profitability.

The CFO’s role seems to have become aligned with the general strategy objectives of an operation, with sustainability, operational efficiency, customer satisfaction and profitability now making up the main areas of focus for the executive.

As Intacct CEO, Robert Reid expressed, “The Intacct CFO Perspectives Survey shows that CFOs are elevating their role to being a true strategic business partner to the rest of the team and their Board of Directors, which is raised from their traditional role as scorekeepers.”

Reid went on to explain that the new methods CFOs are using to approach both risk and opportunity have resulted in quicker response times to said opportunities.  This is important due to the continuous speeding up of commerce.  Utilizing cloud-based systems as well as data analytics has turned the CFO into someone who has the ability to improve not only his or her own productivity but also the productivity and value of an entire company.

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