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The Modern CFO: How this role is evolving


The Modern CFO: How this role is evolving
December 22, 2014

Technology is transforming the way we work. From associates on the ground to C-level executives, nearly every function in the organization is markedly different from what it was ten years ago. And while everyone has seen job descriptions change, perhaps no position has shifted more dramatically than that of the CFO.

Today’s CFOs face big challenges.

The future of this role is more important than ever before, as it reaches beyond finance manager and into that of decision-maker, CEO supporter, and IT collaborator. But as the reality changes, perception hasn’t been as fast to catch up. Around the world, CFOs are seeing a separation between their titles—and what their jobs actually entail. According to an Ernst & Young study, 66 percent of CFOs don’t think their titles accurately capture the diversity of their duties.

At Workiva, we’ve been thinking a lot about today’s CFOs. This marks the first in our modern CFO blog series about the issues CFOs face and how the role is moving far beyond its original dimensions. Today, we look at the big picture. What does CFO stand for now?

C is for Collaboration
As modern CFOs grow into their changing roles, the impact can be seen across the C-level. Inspired by the leadership CFOs are showing, chief innovation officers are stepping up too, bringing their knowledge of technology—and how to market it—to the table.

Collaboration across departments is imperative to telling a company’s complete story, and it's the only way to assure future success. The amount of information needed to adopt, manage, and market new technology must come from every part of the C-level suite—and that includes CFOs. With their in-depth knowledge of how to balance spend and risk, CFOs can help to shape a thriving, innovative organization and encourage a workplace culture that is connected, responsive, and up to date.

F is for Flux
Modern CFOs aren't solely concerned with numbers and quarterly reports anymore. Rather, they are actively involved in carving a path for their company’s future success. This means combining financials with IT, social, mobile, analytics, and technology—a move that allows them to make educated and well-rounded decisions for their organizations.

CFOs can help moderate the flow of ideas from the ground up, weighing them against both their own industry knowledge and that of other executives. They act both as an expert advisor to the CEO and a trusted ally to workers. With their ability to communicate across the organization, along with a deep understanding of everyday operations, CFOs are able to bring people and ideas together in new and profitable ways.

O is for Opportunity
Embracing the role of the modern CFO comes with many benefits. CFOs have more tools than ever to help chart risks and identify opportunities for their organization. When CFOs are able to realize their full potential, new opportunities come up, including:

  • Deeper relationships, both internal and external
  • Opportunities for innovation
  • Improving internal operations
  • Saving money across an organization

CFOs who understand and embrace these new capabilities are in greater demand than ever before. As the CFO role continues to change, we expect to see great things as this new crop of forward-thinking leaders steps into the spotlight.

We look forward to continuing to explore how CFOs are adapting to the new mandates set before them. Stay tuned.

Mike Rost
Vice President of Partnership and Alliance

About the Author

Mike Rost is a key contributor to product strategy at Workiva and works with business leaders in the areas of financial reporting and compliance. With more than 25 years of experience assisting organizations using technology to optimize business processes, Mike has an extensive background in finance and accounting, corporate performance management, and GRC technology. Mike was a founding member of XBRL International with involvement in the XBRL initiative dating back to 1999. He has also been active in industry associations, including the Open Compliance and Ethics Group (OCEG) and the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA). Mike has a bachelor's degree in economics and an MBA in marketing and finance from the University of Minnesota.

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