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How Smart CFOs Can Impact Organizations (in a Surprising Way)

July 18, 2017
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CFOs and budget managers are always under pressure. That's simply how it goes. For many, managing the budgeting and forecasting process is a constant cycle throughout the year. The traditional accounting duties of any organization are often enough to keep anyone's plate full.Now CFOs' roles and responsibilities become even more complex. They're looking at everything from data and IT to sales and marketing. CFOs aren't limited to just finance and accounting anymore. They're increasingly focused on strategy and operations in coordination with the numbers.These changes have helped bring about the advent of the 'smart CFO.' These are the CFOs who are willing to embrace larger roles and look to how their organizations can benefit from big data, automation, agility and strategic decision making. For many, this pivot in the CFO role to data management, distillation and strategy is the future of financial management.For those CFOs and budget managers who want to step outside traditional roles, now is the time to do it. There's endless potential for CFOs to shape and mold both business operations and strategy in the coming years.In this post I want to share what it means to be a 'smart CFO' and highlight some of the surprising areas that are ripe for potential.

The IT Department

With technology moving at such high speeds, the IT department can be a smart CFO's best friend. Too many organizations are still using outdated hardware and systems.Weak systems can lead to many problems beyond the cost of repair and updates. Some of the most common issues include poor data quality, incomplete data integration between departments and difficulties finding and updating data.None of those are insignificant items. Each can contribute to a domino effect throughout the entire organization, leaving the finance department to prepare budgets and forecasts with inaccurate information. That in turn can have a negative trickle-down effect on strategy and business decisions. No one wants to make decisions based on the wrong numbers.Today's CFO knows technology is a fundamental component of accurate information. It's therefore imperative that the CFO work closely with the IT department to implement advanced, insightful technological solutions.Over the long run, better technology will allow CFOs to create better and more advanced analyses, save costs and reduce the risks associated with bad budgets and forecasts.

The HR Department

In the traditional sense, the only interaction most CFOs had with human resources was getting the payroll numbers for the budget. Now, as with so many other things, advancements in technology is changing all that. Again  the CFO can play a vital role here.The workforce is changing as we know it. Much of that has to do with automation. Now programs, systems and software can complete tasks in a few hours that previously took employees days to do. While many see automation as a challenge, it also presents an interesting opportunity.As you know, the inflow of big data into organizations is ever increasing. Finance departments can keep in lockstep with the smart CFO looking to become a strategic partner by focusing on data analysis rather than just data collection and entry. Having employees who can synthesize, spot trends and communicate their data analysis is a strong competitive advantage.CFOs looking to get ahead should communicate with the HR department that they need employees with a particular skill set. These skills should include a comfort with technology, the ability to adapt to new trends quickly and analyze data effectively.Having people with these skills as the backbone of the finance department and key partners reporting to the CFO can help turn any business into a streamlined and agile organization.

Final Thoughts

While the traditional role of the CFO has been to stick to the business budget, times are changing. Today's smart CFO can work with other departments, particularly those outside their traditional purview, to impact organizations in a positive way.Being able to balance strategy and keeping a watchful eye on the numbers, CFOs can continuously drive the business forward. This is why CFOs are becoming increasingly important to overall strategy and key decision makers on management teams.

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