As the leader of a company, CEOs make a fundamentally large portion of corporate decisions, including management, operations, and sales development. In order to do that effectively, they need to have the best, updated forecasting resources to make sound decisions and be confident in the outcomes.
This is vital throughout corporate growth, and the demands for automation, data analytics, and forecasting are more prominent now than ever before due to the current economic events taking place. Because of this, it is time for Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) to make some drastic changes in financial planning and analysis systems to get accurate data to provide it for CEOs.
CEOs need timely data that is accurate, viable, and trustworthy at all times. This gives them the ability to make the correct choices that will better the company overall and help it thrive. When the data they are working from is outdated and inaccurate due to lack of automation, everyone associated with the business suffers. The critical areas which are the leading cause of concern include:
A recent Bain & Co. survey of nearly 800 executives worldwide found the share of companies scaling up automation technologies will at least double in 2020, and the fallout from the coronavirus will likely accelerate this adoption. These technologies include low code automation, optical character recognition (OCR), robotic process automation (RPA), and conversational artificial intelligence (AI). If CFOs are able to implement these financial planning and analysis software systems for their companies, CEOs will be able to run their companies more optimally.
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is the integrated management of primary business processes, using real-time data that is mediated by software and technology. CFOs’ understanding of enterprise resource planning is now a necessity, not something that is a bonus anymore. CEOs require CFOs to have expertise in this area of business, and that need will only continue to grow, especially post-pandemic.
President and CFO Search Practice Managing Partner of Cowen Partners Executive Search, Shawn Cole, stated, “While CFOs with ERP experience have been in demand for a long time, ERP experience is now a prerequisite, not unlike an accounting or finance degree. Many of the CFOs we place are inheriting ERP selection and implementation initiatives at their new companies.”
Mr. Cole says the days of using excel as an ERP solution are over, due to advancements in automation, data analytics, and forecasting. With this new technology, many of the ERP solutions implemented five years ago are already dated, meaning the gap between CFOs with and without ERP experience is widening.
Though these alterations from original operations to utilizing new software can sound daunting, it does not have to be that way. There are already many financial resources and software platforms that can help CFOs integrate ERP solutions for CEOs to feel comfortable relying on. For example, performance management and business analytics consulting firms help companies make better decisions by modernizing their financial planning and analysis. In today’s environment, using data will be critical to future success.
Another route that CFOs can look into are software solutions such as OneStream. Their software simplifies the complex factors, ensuring a user-friendly unified financial experience, all while CEOs obtain the diverse range of vital financial information they need to run their business. Going this route will allow global organizations to migrate away from Excel spreadsheets and legacy CPM platforms for improved process management, planning, and reconciliations.
As it stands today, it is apparent that 2020 budgeting and forecasting must be completely redone, which is no longer feasible without automation, data analytics, and forecasting. CEOs need real-time projections to prepare for an evolving business environment, sometimes weekly, and CFOs are responsible for meeting this requirement.
With ERP solutions being at the forefront of innovation and filling in the gaps, CFOs need to adapt to this to give CEOs the most accurate data to perform their roles adequately. This is a mutual relationship between the two parties, and if CFOs do their best at meeting the required needs for CEOs, then the future of corporate business will transform into a much more viable stance then if limited action is taken to remediate the current detrimental issues in corporate management and decision making.
The role of the chief financial officer (CFO) has evolved a lot over the years. In addition to the financial responsibilities of a company, many CFOs are now handling technology transformation, outsourcing personnel, and talent management, among other business needs. Given the diverse role a CFO can play within a company, it can be difficult to put together your ideal CFO’s profile.
Naturally, the CFO role varies by company, but it can be helpful to have a general profile pinpointing the top characteristics of the CFO you need.
Below are four types of CFO profiles, each with different competencies and areas of expertise. Understanding how each of these roles works within a company can help you determine which CFO profile is best for your business.
The financial guru CFO has years of experience with different roles related to financial functions within a company. This typically includes duties such as financial planning and analysis, auditing and compliance, treasury, financial reporting, and controlling. The financial guru is often an internal hire, frequently a Controller or Chief Accounting Officer prior, and comes with a comprehensive understanding of the company as a whole. You can expect the financial guru to have an advanced accounting degree, CPA, and to excel at standardizing procedures.
This particular profile is generally suited for businesses with inefficient financial departments or early-stage businesses that are scaling up and need to strengthen their financial functions.
The jack-of-all-trades CFO typically has a broad range of experience and has often worked outside the company with exposure to multiple businesses. Other areas where these CFOs have worked include marketing, general management, and operations. Management and communication skills are often prioritized in this profile over more technical skills. The jack-of-all-trades CFO can be found both internally and externally and is hired at a company where personal influence is highly valued and required for results.
Achievement leader CFOs are known for transforming businesses to create results. They modify financial functions and other processes within an organization to promote cost management and the use of metrics. Achievement leaders also focus on standardizing data and systems to enhance efficiency and performance within an organization.
The CFO with this profile is generally an outside hire with previous CFO or accounting experience. This type of CFO is beneficial for companies looking for exacting analytics and striving for aggressive growth.
The change agent CFO is best suited for industries that experience a lot of disruptions. This type of CFO is an outside hire and has a background working in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and has an extensive external network of resources as well as exceptional strategic insight. Businesses undergoing mergers and acquisitions as well as PE companies looking to revamp portfolio businesses are a good fit for this CFO profile. In many of these cases, the companies experience a considerable reshaping of the business as well as adjustments in resource allocation so a CFO who has experience with this type of disturbance can make the transition run more smoothly.
These profiles are not perfect. One may not cover exactly what you need in a CFO, but it is a place to start when shaping the role for your company. Use these profiles to determine the characteristics and general skill set of a CFO that will help your company grow the most. When searching for a new CFO, it is also a good idea to evaluate your current corporate strategy.
Below are a few questions you should ask yourself as you start looking for your next CFO.
Your CFO profile should reflect the structure and performance of your company. Knowledge of the industry is highly valuable when selecting your CFO, as is choosing someone whose characteristics fit the company’s strategic plan. CFO candidates will have financial expertise and management skills, but you need to determine where else your company’s CFO can be useful. For instance, if your company is pursuing an M&A strategy, then a CFO candidate experienced with mergers and acquisitions as well as proven strategic insight would be the best fit.
Hiring a new CFO is an opportunity to fill some of the skill gaps on your management team. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the CEO and other leading board members to determine what expertise would benefit the team. A leadership team with a diverse skillset allows team members to lean on each other and build on one another’s strengths. Select a CFO who will shore up any weaknesses in your team.
It is important to determine how capable your financial functions currently are. If your company is currently struggling to efficiently manage basic financial functions such as accurate data and systems compliance, then you need to focus on a CFO with a financial guru-type profile. If your basic financial processes are not going well, then your first order of business needs to be strengthening this area above all else.
It is a good idea to look at potential internal candidates to promote to CFO who have significant financial experience as well as a proven record of results. Of course, if your financial functions are running smoothly, then you can consider candidates with other qualifications such as more management experience and strategic insight.
Finding the right CFO for your company requires a lot of consideration concerning the right characteristics as well as the needs of the business. As you determine the right CFO profile for your company, remember how the CFO position has evolved over the years and adapt your profile to best fit your needs.
Cowen Partners is a national CFO search firm, driven to create value for our clients, and we have a long-standing record of placing exceptionally qualified Chief Financial Officers across all industries. In this post we highlight the average cfo salary for both public and private companies based on revenue size. Other variables apply, such as location and industry.
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