5 Elements CFOs Must Focus on to Fuel the Future of Finance

Finance leaders who devote resources to a few key elements will be well positioned to elevate their roles to that of a futurist, according to a new eBook from Workday.

Office workers in a conference room discussing information on a tablet

More than ever, CFOs are increasingly expected to go from their traditional roles as scorekeepers to technology-fueled futurists—and they’ll get there by thinking about the best ways to use artificial intelligence and generative AI within the finance function.

A majority of finance leaders already realize this, with 80% of executives expressing the belief that AI is required to keep their business competitive, according to the Workday “Global CFO AI Indicator Report.” 

The survey also found that:

In a new eBook, “Intelligent Finance: a New Framework for Finance Excellence,” Workday partnered with AICPA & CIMA and MIT Sloan Management Review Connections to reimagine the finance operating model, upskill finance talent, and develop an effective data strategy for building an agile finance function.

A Roadmap to Finance Excellence

Over the course of two years, the Future of Finance Leadership Advisory Group (FFLAG)—comprising CFOs and senior finance executives from Fortune 500 and Global 1000 companies, including Workday—developed the Finance Assessment Model for Effectiveness (FAME). The FAME framework offers a path for finance leaders to evolve from “scorekeeper” to “advisor,” continuing on to “business partner,” “value creator,” and finally to “finance futurist.”

The Finance Assessment Model for Effectiveness offers a path for finance leaders to evolve from ‘scorekeeper’ to ‘futurist.’

The FAME framework consists of five areas that CFOs must focus on to elevate the finance function:

  • Business: This element involves strategic planning and execution, as well as fine-tuning efficient business operations, managing stakeholders, and driving change management. Moving this capability into the future means rethinking performance metrics, such as KPIs, to create value for the enterprise. 

  • Technical: Moving toward a technology-powered future, this element involves growing finance and accounting functions by using innovation to automate routine tasks related to transactional processes and periodic reconciliations of the general ledger, as well as financial reporting and compliance with other regulatory obligations. Organizations will increasingly use automation, along with AI and machine learning (ML), to move toward a zero-day close, also known as a continuous close.

  • Digital: Understanding how to improve efficiency in finance and business processes lies at the core of the finance function’s digital capabilities, which involves creating value from an organization’s data and enacting digital transformation. Generative AI brings the potential to sharpen forecasting and analytical capabilities to create better insights, while also minding data governance guidelines.

  • People: Future finance teams will need people conversant with technology—people who possess the ability to imagine what tools such as generative AI can do for the organization. This ability will also form the basis for a recruitment and retention strategy for talented finance professionals.

  • Leadership: The finance leaders of the future will be the ones who use all the previous elements to create a culture of performance and innovation, while also promoting learning, coaching, and mentoring opportunities. With the ever-changing world requiring a multitude of leadership skills to help steer an organization through turbulent times, CFOs will need to exhibit agile thinking, put a value on insights, foster collaboration, and emphasize innovation.

One characterization of how a successful future CFO will have to think about their role comes from Don Rigler, senior vice president of Finance Automation and Cloud ERP at Salesforce.

Rigler, who is undertaking a wholesale transformation of its finance function to better support the CRM leader’s $50 billion revenue target, said: “It’s no longer just about reporting the news in a timely and accurate manner and ensuring controls. It’s really about protecting the total enterprise value and looking around the corner to identify future opportunities and threats.”

Read the eBook “Intelligent Finance: A New Framework for Finance Excellence.”

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