Uncertainty is nothing new. Yet as the pandemic showed, finance leaders who were able to adapt quickly and act appropriately to changing conditions around the world were better prepared to help their organizations not just survive but thrive.
An exclusive focus on finance, accounting, and profitability alone no longer fully describes the skill set a CFO must master. Over the past couple of years, finance leaders have faced challenges such as enabling digital transformation, remote working, environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics, and a growing need for soft skills. To continue navigating what seems to be an accelerating rate of change, CFOs will require agility, both personally and organizationally. Easier said than done. They’ll require the right talent, tools, and technology to drive change and generate value.
“Business leaders are really looking for CFOs to be more strategic, drive insights around operational change, guide business strategy, and create value for the company,” Barbara Larson, Workday’s CFO, said at a Bloomberg event titled “Chief Future Officer Briefing: The Next Generation CFO.”
Leading the finance function is no longer about merely overseeing the general ledger and producing financial statements. The CFO continues to evolve into an enterprisewide role, meaning the most effective leaders are those who are forward-looking and focusing on value creation. “They are embracing technology to figure out what they want to do with all their data—and rethinking talent as well,” Larson said. “Data powers all businesses.”
Finance leaders are continuing to move from their profession’s record-keeping origins into a more aspirational, visionary role. But they’ll need to have a solid understanding of the business to conceptualize how technology can change the way finance works, integrating such elements as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and robotic process automation (RPA) on an enterprise wide scale. “It’s important in the CFO seat not just to have a view of transformation within finance, but how you can partner with IT to drive transformation across the organization,” Larson added.