CFO Role Evolving to Corporate Strategist and Change Agent, Finds Study

The Chief Financial Officer role is becoming more strategic and influential, finds a study that revealed that the CFO’s overall level of strategic influence has increased over the past three years (71 percent of respondents), with 65 percent of respondents citing an increase in responsibility over setting and determining strategy, and 47 percent indicate that their role in business transformation efforts increased.

Although the CFO role’s strategic influence has increased, only one third (34 percent) of those surveyed play a leading role in strategy formulation and an even smaller proportion play a leading role in strategy execution (24 percent of respondents). The challenging economic environment was identified as the biggest barrier (37 percent of respondents), followed by a shortage of time (35 percent of respondents) and the lack of integration between the finance function and other parts of the business (31 percent of respondents).

While the top priorities for CFOs during the past three years have been profitability, cost management, cash flow and working capital, CFOs recognize that cost levers may become less effective in the future.

CFOs ranked technology knowledge second only to industry knowledge when asked where they could improve their skills and capabilities to execute on their cost and growth agendas. Eighty-four percent of CFOs responding also noted that cooperation with their CIOs increased during the past three years, another indicator that technology is a key imperative for the finance suite.

The findings from the joint study underscored the increased importance CFOs place on becoming more involved in understanding and leveraging disruptive technologies, such as big data, cloud computing, mobile and social media as growth enablers. Seventy-nine percent of respondents viewed access to information as a key driver of organizational agility, while 57 percent of respondents viewed investments in big data and analytics as a key source of competitive advantage.

When asked about which aspects of their company’s technology causes them the greatest concern, survey respondents pointed to the cost of maintenance, the cost of integration and the lack of integration between systems as their top three concerns, followed by data quality and integration.

According to the study, this continued focus on passive IT concerns underscores the need for CFOs to shift their focus toward more technology-led innovation and growth projects to help them realize their strategic, operational and professional objectives.