CFOs now in the driving seat of business transformation

By Justus Siage CPA, Solutions Engineering Manager at Sage
Armed with tech-enabled insights to tell the story of financial health, CFOs are now on par with CEOs as influential leaders, says Sage’s Justus Siage

In recent years, Chief Financial Officers have seen their role shift from the passenger’s seat to the driver’s seat. While the role of a CFO used to be defined by crunching numbers to ensure a business remained on the road, with predictive technologies at their fingertips, CFOs have evolved from real-time analysts, to being key visionaries of a company.

As the modern CFO adds ‘master of technology’ to their tool kit, they are redefining their understanding of the trends, challenges and opportunities behind the numbers they’ve always counted on.

Now armed with technology-enabled insights to tell the story of their company’s financial health, CFOs are now on par with CEOs as some of the most influential leaders and figureheads in a business.

Simply put, the CFO is now in the driver’s seat of business transformation.

Two hands on the wheel

Far from being a passenger these days, the CFO is interacting continuously with teams across the organisation, from sales and customer service to marketing and HR – an astounding 93% of Australian employees noted that the CFO is embedded into nearly every facet of the business’s operations.

This allows them to gain an understanding of how future investments in technology and talent could elevate teams. Interconnected cloud platforms and applications enable the CFO to immerse themselves in any business function to truly understand their financial performance, challenges, and opportunities.

As the indispensable confidant, the CFO can often be found right by the CEO’s side. With the company’s overall financial data front of mind and digital technologies at their fingertips, the CFO is able to present accurate, concise, and relevant information to the CEO to support any major business decisions.

CFOs have found their place at the heart of the company – both literally and metaphorically. With two hands on the wheel, this central position is their route to making better-informed decisions on whole-of-company strategies and policies.

No self-driving cars here

The CFO is operating in an environment that can enable fast, efficient, large-scale data processing to produce accurate insights. Core to success in the role is bringing together human teams with emerging technology such as AI and machine learning.

82% of CFOs across Australia believe that AI and machine learning will have a significant impact on financial forecasting, with 81% agreeing that AI helps identify business-wide trends. These technologies support CFOs to predict, project and plan for the future. Not only that, but these technologies get to know the business as they go, becoming more refined and delivering better insights over time.

Critically, CFOs are bastions of long-term strategy and vision. Long gone are the days where the CFO was reading every line in the ledger, because AI technologies now have the power to do that more quickly and more accurately and can flag any anomalies. Only when an anomaly is found, will the CFO then need to step in and fix the problem quickly.

With the time CFOs save on digitising the proofing of ledger lines and other repetitive manual tasks, they can invest it in higher value activities. This means they can both develop key relationships and exert their data-inspired influence through being part of more customer conversations, colleague brainstorms and shareholder interactions.

Navigating the best route for the business 

Just as GPS is able to navigate the quickest route through using satellite data, CFOs rely on data-driven insights to make the right decisions for the business. In Australia, 76% of CFOs are now responsible for strategy and future planning decisions. They have taken into account not only financial data, but aggregated data from across the entire business, earning the trust of each department as they go.

This data provides CFOs with a birds’ eye view of the business, meaning that, when they want change to happen, it happens fast and effectively across multiple business units. This is not only because they have the right technologies in place to get the job done, but also because the CFO ensures the entire business is riding the wave of transformation together.

Even when a business hits traffic and slows down, the CFO can react with lightning speed because they’re already working with a future-focused approach. This is thanks to AI-driven predictive insights which provide the CFO with planned contingencies, financial projections, and strategies they can see before them.

Indeed, when disruption strikes unexpectedly, CFOs are able to consider a responsible approach that cares not only for finances, but for people, by carefully managing expectations to avoid panic. They have empathy and understanding, keeping all teams in the loop as to what the change means for them, while also planning ahead to best protect the business from such situations from happening again.


Driving off into the sunset

Compared to the previous iterations of the CFO, the modern CFO is more visible, more confident, and more trusted. They have what it takes to lead their business through transformation by relying on quality insights which empower them to be ever more strategic.

The modern CFO is always looking forward, driving the company to achieve bolder goals than ever before as they have a view of the bigger picture. The CFO is now firmly in the driver’s seat.

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