The Future CFO’s Path to Becoming a Strategic Leader
The office of finance used to be a separate and siloed affair. While creative and operational teams progressed with their projects, the finance team carried on, silently supporting the businesslike scaffolding. But when the world turned virtual during the pandemic, and companies needed to find new ways of making revenue, CFOs stepped into the spotlight, helping companies grow and scale successfully.
The changing role of finance means that now the office of the CFO needs to act more as a strategy room for other organizational stakeholders. CFOs are shifting from a supportive, number-focused role to one that uses strategic capabilities to assess and form business models and adopt new technologies.
Now that this shift has occurred, what skills and leadership qualities are essential for CFOs to add to their repertoires? How can they navigate teams through the new demands of the financial space?
How Can CFOs Turn Their Skills Toward Strategy?
As the finance department changes and you take more of a strategic role, you don’t have to rethink your expertise and completely retrain yourself for the position. Instead, it should be possible for CFO learning to involve repurposing traditional CFO job duties and turning them into strategic capabilities.
1. Lead the Way With Data
Data is the finance department’s superpower and is a critical component of the changing role of the CFO.
Data helps drive C-suite collaboration by grounding ideas and decision-making in real-world information, making them more likely to succeed. CFOs have rapid access to valuable information, empowering them to incorporate historical context and present statistics to assess risk and react to the market. The future CFO will use their data skills to pinpoint gaps where growth could happen, forming a data-based bridge between the work of the operational team and the financial department.
2. Ensure Company Success With Collaboration
Over the years, finance professionals have not been required to be good interdepartmental collaborators. However, collaboration is crucial as CFOs emerge from their back-office roles and evolve into valued strategists.
Modern finance leaders work closely with their office peers to broaden their connections and expand their thinking around the changing role of finance. When considering how to be a successful CFO in today’s landscape, you’ll need to practice and strengthen your collaboration skills:
- Ease friction
- Set common goals
- Create pro-collaboration environments and channels
- Make sure everyone’s voice is heard
3. Technology Brings It All Together
According to a McKinsey study, companies that make minor, incremental modifications are less likely to grow. Companies thriving in this post-pandemic world embrace robust upgrades to their workflow processes. Successful finance leaders leverage technology—automation, data analytics, and integration tools—to bring together data, operations, and creative work.
What Does the Future CFO Look Like?
Strategic CFOs need to become not only financial leaders but also digital leaders. They need to utilize data, technology, and emotional intelligence (EQ) to collaborate with the whole team and help grow the business successfully.
The road to an evolved CFO role won’t be easy, however. While some forward-thinking organizations already imagine the CFO of the future, others are trying to keep hold of the traditional aspects of the role.
According to research by Gartner, while 93% of financial leaders align on their financial vision, only 39% of leaders said they expected digital transformation to add value to the finance department, and even fewer expected tangible benefits to the business. This could simply mean that we’ve got more ways to go when it comes to accepting and adopting finance technologies. If finance leaders don’t embrace digital transformation, their whole team might miss out on growth opportunities for the business and themselves.
The changing role of the CFO benefits the entire organization. It’s not just hardcore digital skills that enable the finance department to make a change; it’s also the soft skills that come with increased collaboration and communication across departments. Developing a high EQ will be as important as jumping into a new software stack.