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6 Ways CFOs Can Evolve into Strategic Business Leaders

6 ways cfos can evolve into strategic business leaders
4 min read
John Dunican
Partner, Head of CFO Advisory Services
Published: August 3, 2017
Last Updated: April 25, 2023

Armanino’s CFO Evolution® is a set of initiatives focused on the people, processes, and technology needed to streamline the accounting function, optimize the protector role, and elevate business leadership activities—thereby enhancing the value of the CFO organization.

This framework was created to help organizations focus their time and energy on the areas that drive strategic value. Each of these core areas of responsibility requires a specific plan that includes goals, expected outcomes, and required resources.

The CFO Evolution provides a framework to migrate the CFO’s most-limited resource—time—away from task-based activities to strategic leadership initiatives.

Our most recent survey revealed six critical areas that CFOs can focus on to evolve into strategic business leaders. Here, you will find an outline of those areas and key next steps for addressing each.

1. Standardize and improve processes
More than half of CFOs say their priorities for process improvements are to become faster, to lower costs, and to provide more accurate results. The best way for CFOs to improve their business processes is by creating a culture of continuous improvement, engaging process owners, and assigning accountability for the change over time.

2. Drive improvement with technology
We found that 70 percent of best-in-class CFOs drive improvement with technology. Those who are moving forward in this area are planning for financial and accounting technology tools as part of the organization’s broader ecosystem. They also integrate finance and accounting systems with sales and operations software platforms to drive wing-to-wing improvement.

3. Provide effective KPIs
The CFOs in our survey seek to move away from historical reporting and increase the percentage of finance-produced data to create predictive analytics. While taking on the measurement of key performance indicators (KPIs) may seem daunting, it is easier to accomplish when the CFO clearly defines and prioritizes the business goals to be measured. The next step is to drive organizational change with the metrics.

4. Integrate technology
Best-in-class CFOs have integrated 75 percent of their systems, helping their organizations to scale and provide a single version of the truth in their reports. For instance, Armanino client kCura integrated its budgeting software with its ERP to enable the finance team to bring together data on actual transactions and deferred revenue. To achieve this goal, the savvy CFO needs to provide a business case for integration and rationalize a plan.

5. Provide accurate forecasting
With accurate forecasting and cash flow reporting, CFOs help their companies to better manage their operations and make the right investments in the right places. If you’re looking to improve your forecast accuracy, use consistent models that are not overly complex, involve business line leaders in the process, and assign accountability across the organization.

6. Support growth and expansion
One of our respondents told us, “When the finance department becomes more integrated with the operations side of the business, they become viewed as a business leader.” By working strategically with all departments, the CFO can ensure his or her team is aligned to the business goals and not viewed simply as a support function. This means the CFO must get outside his or her comfort zone and proactively identify, socialize, and recommend strategic investments.

We invite you to review Armanino’s annual CFO Evolution Benchmark Survey, where we ask finance leaders about their responsibilities, roles, and strategic priorities.

Workiva and Armanino
Workiva and Armanino have partnered to help joint customers improve the function of their compliance, audit, financial, and corporate performance management activities. By leveraging Armanino's CFO Evolution framework alongside data management and reporting cloud technology from Workiva, financial leaders will gain confidence in their processes, allowing them to focus time and energy on areas that drive strategic value. We give customers peace of mind by translating their needs and objectives into balanced, sustainable solutions.

About Armanino LLP
Armanino LLP ( is one of the largest independent accounting and business consulting firms in the United States. The firm provides an integrated set of audit, tax, business management, consulting and technology solutions to companies in the U.S. and globally. Armanino LLP is a strategic consulting partner with Workiva. Our deep skills with Wdesk give you industry-leading best practices in many functions. Armanino emphasizes smart technology like Wdesk, leading a cloud revolution of financial, operational, sales, and compliance tools that are transforming the way companies do business. The firm helps clients adapt and change in every stage of business from start-up through rapid growth to the sale of a company. Armanino extends its global services to more than 100 countries through its membership in Moore Stephens International Limited—one of the world's major accounting and consulting membership organizations.

CFO Evolution is a registered trademark of Armanino, LLP in the United states and other countries.

About the Author
John Dunican
John Dunican

Partner, Head of CFO Advisory Services

John Dunican is a partner and Head of CFO Advisory Services for Armanino LLP, with more than 30 years of financial, operations, and consulting experience with public and private companies. Prior to joining Armanino, he served as Chief Financial Officer for Alloptic, Inc. and Vice President, Finance and Administration, for EngineX Networks. John began his career with Touche Ross & Co.

John has extensive experience in technology, manufacturing, and distribution industries, including expertise in all financial functions, process reengineering, information systems, SEC and investor reporting, M&A, divestitures, and cost-reduction programs. He has also served as project manager for implementations of Microsoft Great Plains (GP), Oracle Business Suite, and Adaptive Insights.

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