Financial AI, cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions and big data analytics tools allow CFOs to streamline processes and spend more time on strategic decision-making. But in 2020, many mid-market companies are still lagging behind on adoption.

Plenty of CFOs still spend far more time on financial stewardship than they do on strategic analysis and innovation. A 2019 survey of 236 U.S. senior finance executives conducted by CFO Research revealed how CFOs rank their organization’s capacity for innovation and their own technological skill sets:

  • 55% said their organization applied advanced analytics to enterprise innovation decisions.

  • 57% had a strategy for defining and creating a high-value finance team that could support innovation initiatives.

  • 42% either had no plan to formulate such a strategy or had plans to do so but had yet to execute them.

And in terms of skill sets…

  • Nearly nine out of 10 finance executives “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that their teams’ skill sets must evolve to drive an innovation agenda and support the related decision-making.

  • 78% said they must update their own skill set over the next year to become a key player in innovation strategies.

  • 67% of finance executives felt they needed to adapt hiring and training processes over the next year.

Today’s CFO needs to be just as strong in their technology, data, and analytics skills as they are in their financial skills and business acumen. Organizations that want to be more agile and experience transformative growth need to invest in these technologies – and CFOs should be leading the charge.

How technology helps facilitate strategic opportunities for CFOs

CEO of the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), Jeff Thomson, has some choice words for CFOs who want to drive innovation:

“As accounting and finance professionals, if we want to be known as strategic leaders within our organizations, we need to see more than dollars and numbers. Rather, it’s important we play an integral role in our organization’s innovation process, so our colleagues recognize we are more than the “no” department.”

Here are a few ways that technology can enable CFOs to make this transformative shift.

Implement new systems to streamline data

There is no shortage of financial reporting systems that can provide meaningful reports – but are you leveraging data from other facets of the company? Traditionally data from other departments such as sales, marketing, and operations have been siloed, leaving big gaps in a CFO’s analytical capabilities.

Rather than seek solutions that make the status quo more efficient, now is a good time to think outside the box and reinvent the entire data capturing/reporting/analysis workflow. This means standardizing data storage and capture across the organization to ensure data is credible, consistent, and immediate.

Legacy ERP or other financial reporting solutions automate repetitive tasks and provide a backward glance at fiscal health. Modern ERP utilizes financial AI to pull relevant, real-time company data and provide information that is key to identifying trends and opportunities.

Some CFO tasks that are transformed by being a data-agnostic business include:

  • 360 View of Accounting Data: Allows a CFO to view real-time procurement, invoicing, and cash flow simultaneously.

  • Improve Controls: Systems that include audit tracking and financial oversight to reduce financial errors and ensure the accuracy of all accounting data.

  • Financial Planning: Data from various operational components of the business provides business cases for cash management, borrowing, restructuring, equity raises etc.

  • Real-Time Compliance: ERP reporting provides an investigative interface that helps ensure tax compliance and remediate issues.

Become a strategy innovator

Dr. Ajit Kambil, global research director for the Deloitte CFO Program and creator of Deloitte’s Executive Transition Labs, stated in 2017 that “While companies vary, our research and conversations with CEOs indicate they’d like to see their CFOs spend nearly 70% of their time in [strategic] roles, and only about 30% on steward/operator duties.”

He suggests partnering with the CEO to ask six key questions to identify and act on strategic opportunities:

  1. What are the dominant constraints on the organization’s growth, and how can finance be used to push back on them?
  2. What is the dominant uncertainty facing the organization, and what can be done to navigate it?
  3. What area of spending is producing the most uncertain returns, and what can be done structurally to mitigate that uncertainty?
  4. What could disrupt us in terms of technology, a competitor’s business model or some other force?
  5. How can we efficiently scale so that our revenue increases at a faster rate than our costs?
  6. What things can we stop doing so that we can free up capital and other resources to invest in the things we should be doing more of?

With real-time insights from across the organization, CFOs can help pivot the business model and decisively pounce on competitive business opportunities.

Provide more meaningful insights to stakeholders

Along with being able to capture insights, modern financial software allows you to generate meaningful and accessible reports for stakeholders using real-time data. This allows you to make business cases faster, and utilize data to help dispel internal bias towards certain policies or practices.

Data visualization tools integrated into your ERP allow you to utilize company data to tailor reports for specific needs using templates or generate your own custom reports. This makes it easy to interpret the significance of your findings and makes your strategy more defensible – without having to manually grab data from other sources.

GCG’s CFO Consultants can implement these systems and practices, or provide training and guidance

If you’re looking to transform your business using data but aren’t sure where to start, look to Greenough Group. Our CFO consultants are available to work with you to reinvent your business’ relationship with data, or to train other executives within your organization to be digital leaders.

You can rely on the professionals at GCG to focus on overseeing your ERP system implementation while you concentrate on growing your business. We will seamlessly manage the roadmap and complex issues that arise during implementation, all at a far lower cost than hiring executives or additional staff in house. Our outsourced CFOs provide a cost-effective way for businesses to grow.

Contact us today for a free consultation, and learn how our outsourced CFO services can help take your financial oversight and planning to the next level.