The Modern CFO and the Power to Grow

September 8, 2020 | 3 minute read
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By Enzo Tolino, VP of Finance, EMEA, Oracle 

In my recent posts, I’ve been tackling change, both in the business world in general and more specifically in how it’s impacting the finance function. I’ve already considered business resilience and purpose—now I’d like to look at something that is fundamental to every modern CFO: how to enhance business agility through performance and efficiency. In particular, I feel that one of the best ways of gaining true, sustainable business agility in such times of change requires efficiency and performance built in as the foundation of everything finance does.

Finance’s need for speed and flexibility

Nearly three-quarters of finance functions are under pressure to speed up, according to analyst research. This isn’t surprising as finance is the third-slowest operating corporate function, in front of only IT and legal. One of the main areas where I believe the CFO can pick up the pace is in service delivery and operational efficiency. This, I would reason, will involve a redesign in departmental structure—one that embraces a culture of business collaboration, with a cohesive shared-services strategy. 

Joining up essential data points across any business is a good place to start. This will help finance make key, insight-driven decisions that can drive value back across every part of the organisation. I think this is how modern CFOs can actively drive business efficiency forward, by supporting different business functions to maintain their autonomy while also establishing a central repository of data to ensure a single, consistent source of performance truth.

Be data-ready to perform better

I think the recent uncertainty and disruption has made it clear that business performance needs to play a strategic as well as tactical role in organisations—and I’d argue the modern CFO must be at the centre of that. Naturally, some businesses are more ready to press the proverbial accelerator than others. Whether you are having to make do with existing capabilities, able to take advantage of a small selection of new digital technologies or driving forwards with a culture of shared business services across departments—data is the critical element. 

Performance in sport is measured—number of metres travelled, speed from start to finish, agility around the pitch and so on. Why should business be any different? By increasing the focus on data and analytics across the whole business, the modern CFO will be able to clarify performance across sales, marketing and beyond. And the right level of analytics will help finance to model and plan for the future as a result.

Striking the right balance between performance and efficiency

As I already mentioned, performance and efficiency should really always be treated as part of the same approach to modern, agile business. Just as standardisation and streamlining are common parlance for most modern CFOs, so too should high-performance partnership within and across the business. I see this playing out in ways that will likely forge closer, more powerful connections between departments. 

I think there are two clear pathways to making this happen most effectively:

  • Establish a platform for your business, founded on cross-department connectivity, visibility and automation where appropriate—thus providing easier metrics for tracking efficiency and performance gains
  • Increase the visibility of data intelligence along with predictive analytics so the finance function can quickly see likely performance impacts, especially in times of change, and adapt accordingly

In many ways, driving efficiency for sustainable business performance is the final piece in the modern finance puzzle. Now, I’m not saying this is key to unlocking “business perfection,” but I do think the way in which the modern CFO can orchestrate different components of the business in a more holistic, collaborative way will do much to sustain operations and ambitions in these times of continuing uncertainty.

To discover in more detail how I see these pieces are fitting together, as well as some of the questions I think we in finance should be asking both ourselves and our wider business, take a look at my latest thinking on the modern CFO, Rebalancing the Business.

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