How Can The Chief Financial Officer Increase Their Sphere Of Influence Post-Covid?

Tarek Meliti, founder of TDM Group, explains how CFOs can expand their sphere of influence in the post-pandemic world.

Across many aspects of business, the pre-pandemic rule book has been torn up and discarded as industries have been forced to navigate new challenges that demanded evolution and adaptation. As a result, many businesses are now better equipped to function effectively, despite hurdles such as remote or hybrid working, and the navigation of these challenges, which was in large part driven by the modern Chief Financial Officer (CFO).

Traditionally, CFOs were simply entrusted with ensuring company financials were all above board and ticking over smoothly. Today, with finance functions such as credit management and payroll largely automated, they have taken on new responsibilities. In order to be successful, the CFO must continue to be more engaged with tech services and their offerings than ever before. 

However, as businesses look forward to life post-pandemic, the CFO is forced to increase their influence in new ways. In their drive for further improvement, they should look for partners that allow them to successfully harness the power of technology and ultimately transform business to grow in a competitive world. 

As the effects of the pandemic begin to shrink, an opportunity presents itself for CFOs to be brave in the face of future challenges and to prioritise the following areas to ensure continued growth and success:

  1. Cloud Solutions: The pandemic signified a huge shift to cloud-based applications. Moving systems and data to the cloud provides the all-important ability to work remotely, and the flexibility to support a more widely distributed workforce. This also includes enforcing a remote working policy that can continue to support the needs of everyone, regardless of circumstance.
  2. Automation: Automating previously manual tasks such as journals, accruals, intercompany accounting, reconciliations and balance sheet certification is essential. The benefit of automation to the CFO cannot be underestimated, as streamlined processes can free up valuable time for everyone in the business to focus on areas that give real value.
  3. Streamlining workflows: Documenting processes and using technology to monitor, manage and orchestrate end-to-end activities are all effective investments for the future. 
  4. Improving analysis. Being able to access vast quantities of data and make valuable business decisions more quickly is vital to growth. The use of tools such as analytics dashboards can remove significant workload on finance teams and help identity issues that previously went unnoticed.

As it stands, many businesses are yet to fully realise the potential benefits of further investment in areas such as automation, new technology and cloud solutions.

Utilising data

Following the pandemic, the modern CFO must be able to utilise Data to provide deeper insights into a company’s operations and widen their scope of vision. Without the ability to properly capture data, analyse and understand it, it is impossible for CFOs to successfully assist in optimising their company’s business strategy.

Therefore, the modern CFO needs to be comfortable with data interpretation, possess strong analytical skills, and be able to make valuable predictions on the future of their organisation. The CFO doesn’t need to concern themselves with the implementation of new technology, they need to ensure the IT department provides them with relevant access to new solutions. 

The right technology has the potential to link all data sources throughout the organisation and produce a dashboard of actionable insights and KPIs. In turn, this allows CFOs to have insight as to what business solutions are required and drive organisations through any fast growth stages, mergers, acquisitions, expansion, or digital transformation.

Harnessing the power of new technology

Working in partnership with the business, the CFO should be well-placed to embrace technology that can best assist their organisation. Whether the technology is: blockchain-enabled verification tools to verify  a new hires’ credentials, a cloud-based credit management platform, or  the coding language that’s best for your business – CFOs must be aware of the latest, cutting-edge technologies that are being used in their sector. 

Faced with the challenges that coincide with economic recovery, it is crucial for CFOs to embrace technologies that aid the business in their day-to-day roles – particularly data-focused applications – to ensure they are making the right decisions. 

By combining the benefits of financial technologies, such as intelligence and speed, CFOs can free up their time and enhance their business strategy through the latest tech offerings. 

Streamlining financial processes with the assistance of new technology will significantly reduce risk factors such as manual error and data loss, as well as allowing CFOs a better understanding of data that makes up the business. For example, CFOs that can identify and fully utilise the latest credit management systems are likely to reduce risk of late payments, improve cash flow and save time. When managed successfully, digitalising these processes could also lead to improvements in productivity, alongside increased workforce engagement.

The initial shift to remote working was costly but necessary. According to a report by KPMG, the pandemic caused one of the biggest surges in technology investment in history, with a collective additional spend of around US$15bn a week. A further challenge facing the CFO is the need to manage a distributed workforce. As the digital transformation journey evolves, sections of the workforce prepare to shift back to office-based working, which in many cases will be part-time. 

The pressure to facilitate this new way of work will not let up and neither will the need for new and improved technology as the workforce and business continues to evolve. Ensuring the right technology is in place is vital and the challenges continue to ask questions of the CFO that have never been asked before. Therefore, a new level of expertise is required to successfully assess a business’s needs and assist its ability to grow.

Looking forward

A December 2020 survey by the London School of Business and Finance found that 45% of current CEOs and CFOs did not believe enough attention was being paid to developing the skills of the next generation. As the role changes, the skills required to be successful within it also change and this has been accelerated by the pandemic.

C-Suite professionals have learnt a lot over the past year in terms of just how much businesses rely on the services that technology offers. In the new age of work, CFOs must continue to be aware of the latest technologies on offer within their industry.

The reality is that a CFO now is expected to be a strategic business adviser, not only communicating about performance from a financial perspective but also helping drive usage of new technology and maximising profit.

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