Advice and Information for Finance Professionals

The CFO as Chief Storyteller

Guest Author

Originally published on LinkedIn

By Jenny Koehler, US Deputy Advisory Leader and US Advisory Industrial Products & Services Vertical Leader, PwC

As the keeper of your organization’s financial data, you truly are in the position to tell a story. In fact, I often equate the CFO with the role of “Chief Storyteller”—numbers do not lie, and numbers can—and should—tell a story. 

I discussed just this dynamic at the Oracle ERP Virtual Summit: Big Moves to Pivot Forward. And more importantly, how an increasingly nimble set of technologies affords CFOs the opportunity to be even better storytellers, able to more effectively and efficiently make decisions and partner with others to operate the business for the future.

In the face of rapid technological changes, and as you engage in your generational technology investments, I encourage you to anchor on three main imperatives.

1. Embrace your storyteller role

In a world that is rapidly changing and increasingly challenging to navigate, your calling as a storyteller has never been higher. You have the power to guide your organization in its strategic choices and operate as an effective business partner throughout your organization, building trust in every interaction.

The decision to embark on any digital imperative—especially in an increasingly capital constrained environment—is no small undertaking. In fact, I would argue that those investments can be generational in nature for your company’s future.

That is where your trust-based role is so vital in championing your organization to make the right choices, build the attainable case for change and strive for accountability every step of the way. 

2. On your digital journey, lead from the front

More often than not, the Office of the CFO is critical in the scope and remit of any digital undertaking—often the first, or an early, release.

Case in point: we’ve learned in our most recent survey of the business executive community that 75% of CFOs indicate they are putting more resources toward “digital” in 2021, with half of CFO respondents saying there will be a significant increase from years past. The digital investments are expected to fall in the areas of data analytics, automation, cloud and customer transformation, and—perhaps not surprisingly in a post-pandemic world—customer experience. They are assessing how digital can accelerate revenue growth in the next year. Other top areas cited for investment are cyber risk management at 69%, tax scenario planning at 63% and domestic expansion at 55%. And on the topic of risk, 67% of CFOs say policy and regulatory risks will be more pressing in the next four years. 

All told, lead your organization from the front. Getting a financial and data-rich foundation is critical. We are seeing the CFO community invest in digitizing finance processes, including automating end-to-end and in consideration of a more risk-intelligent culture, all on the backs of an enhanced enterprise data model. 

Whatever it may be, this is your chance to lead from the front and set the proper tone for your broader organization.

3. Demand a return on your investment

As Chief Storyteller, demand that investments in the digital space generate a return and drive a step-change in your organization’s ability to navigate this increasingly complex world. That may mean new capabilities that do not exist today, improving ones that already do, or even completely eliminating those capabilities and activities that do not drive enterprise value.

Whatever it may be, also demand incremental value achievement along the way. Do not place the promise of improvement at the very end. These days, there are ways to craft digital undertakings to return value incrementally to your end user communities, and frankly, it should be the norm, not the exception.

In closing, this is an exciting time—one where uncertainty and change can breed opportunity, including an elevated calling for the CFO community. So I ask you, as your organization’s Storyteller, what are you going to do to write your story? 

Watch the Oracle ERP Virtual Summit, “Big Moves to Pivot Forward” to learn more.

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