A toolkit for the strategic CFO

A toolkit for the strategic CFO
July 2, 2015

Finance has never been a stranger to strategy—and now the two are closer than ever before. As the role of CFO has evolved, it's become increasingly crucial for the finance department to weigh in on strategic decisions across the entire organization. A CFO’s ability to effectively tackle issues of strategy has been linked with better business performance in almost every way, according to a study from Accenture.

Most finance officers have eagerly stepped into their new, expanded role—but with so many responsibilities to juggle, they need all the help they can get. After all, CFOs play a big part in keeping their organizations a step ahead of the competition. Having the right tools can jump-start the shift toward a more strategic mindset.

Here are a few ways to simplify both internal and external processes to stay one step ahead:

Keep an eye on emerging tech trends.

Technology continues to change at an exponential rate—and taking a wait-and-see approach carries the risk of being outpaced by competitors. "Any organization that wants to grow needs to invest in digital technologies," says Christian Campagna of Accenture.

Organizations that keep up with trends develop a sense of what will and won’t work for them. By staying aware of what’s new and different, finance leaders can better spot services or features that could bring value to the organization and those that are better left on the table.

Look into technology like cloud services, accounting and reporting tools, and even social media. Do your research, and don’t hesitate to adopt products or services that will improve the way you do business. Always keep your organization’s goals in mind. Technology that comes with a lot of extras might seem more valuable, but if the bells and whistles aren’t what your organization needs, you won’t get the ROI you should.

Sharpen your skills with smart tools.

Though the CFO role has expanded, its core function is still as vital as ever. In fact, financial skills matter just as much as they have in the past—even as they begin to look a little different. “In the future … the finance function will require much more diverse types of talent—from expertise in particular geographies or industries, through the ability to communicate effectively and collaboratively across regions, to specialized knowledge of specific business processes, pricing, and trade promotion among them,” says Campagna.

Collaboration tools can help you gather opinions and gain perspective when face-to-face meetings aren’t possible by allowing teams to review documents and weigh-in—no matter where they are. With linked data, updates are made automatically across all documents and presentations to ensure that everyone is literally on the same page. By harnessing the power of the cloud, you can save time and ensure accuracy.

Outside your organization, it’s always smart to pay attention to what’s happening in the wider world of finance. Track finance trends from your mobile device, or learn from the best with continuing education online. Attend conferences to hear from your peers about how they’re achieving their goals.

Deploy small tests for big wins later.

Launching a new service or trying out a new app across your organization can be daunting. Instead, try a approach of testing out new tech in your own group and gathering feedback on what people like and don’t like.

By testing small, you can quickly eliminate things that won’t work—and get to the ones that will faster. You’ll also have better insight into what kinds of issues might arise or where workers might be resistant. The small-tests approach also allows you to collaborate with IT to find the solutions that work best for your unique culture and constraints.

Get help to stay ahead.

As CFOs begin to make a bigger impact on the direction their organizations take, it just makes sense for them to use every resource available to get the job done right. With so many tools that can benefit people and the companies they work for, a few tweaks in your approach can make technology work for you.

Mike Sellberg

About the author

Mike Sellberg is Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer at Workiva. He is the former EVP and CTO at iMed Studios and the former Divisional General Manager at Engineering Animation, Inc.