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Automating today’s CFO

28/03/18 Greg McHugh Head of Training & Acquisition

The world of technology remains as fascinating as ever. We expect to achieve many milestones and progress will be exponential in some fields. But in other areas the way in which we live and work may shift imperceptibly.

An intriguing survey was recently conducted by BeeBole with several CFOs and financial experts, asking them to predict which tech trends will shake up senior financial management in 2018. The responses focused on artificial intelligence, cloud technology, automated accounting, and how different technological developments are transforming the role of the CFO in business and turning the CFO into a strategic partner.

Today’s role of Chief Finance Officer (CFO) needs to manage the growing burden of regulatory controls whist being proactive advisors to the business by ensuring a focus on the bottom line. Complicating matters: today’s rapidly changing, highly competitive digital business environment, which demands timely information and insight, yet pressures companies to pare resources. Forced to do more with less, CFOs must balance digitalisation, performance, efficiency, and risk—but that requires digital tools as well as the agility to manage volatility and drive enhanced decision making at reduced cost.

Greg McHugh, Redline Executive Search Partner has over 20 years in the executive search industry. Having recruited many executive and senior management roles including Chief Finance Officers (CFO) and Chief Financial and Operating Officers (CFOO) in his time, we asked him what he thinks CFOs should be focussing their attention on in 2018.

“Many finance organisations lack such digital basics as automated processes, the ability to integrate and analyse data, and a workforce with digital capabilities.” says Greg. “The finance function is often hobbled by slow, legacy systems which don’t talk to one another. Without integrated data and a full set of digital tools, CFOs are unable to detect and quickly respond to real-time business changes. They risk falling behind their more forward-looking peers, who are already transforming their business models and gaining a competitive advantage from their digital investments.”

The findings of Deloitte’s recent study Technology, Media & Telecommunications predictions reported that businesses will likely double their use of machine learning technology by the end of this year. However, in the earlier part of the year, we have already seen AI tools which enable finance organisations to eliminate many routine tasks allowing finance professionals to free more time to focus on more strategic areas and therefore changing the skill sets that finance organisations pursue.

Recommended digital tools for the CFO

 

Higher-Value Business Advice

Digital tools such as predictive analytics, digital dashboards, AI, and advanced algorithms can deliver powerful new insights into how the business can improve its financial performance. As best-in-class CFOs and their finance teams focus their time on being astute and proactive advisors to the business, this is arguably the area where digital investments will have the greatest impact.

Streamlined Accounting and Compliance

Digital tools minimise compliance errors and enhance transparency while saving time. Process automation can further enhance accounting control and efficiency, with benefits that extend across the accounting function to areas such as taxes, accounts payable, and accounts receivable. A fully digital control system can even use algorithms to ensure data traceability and integrity and improve the overall control environment.

Better Planning and Forecasting

In today’s unpredictable, fast-moving business environment, plans and forecasts tend to have a short shelf life. Digital tools can provide the flexibility, agility, and responsiveness needed to manage this new reality. With automated on-demand budgeting, planning, and forecasting capabilities, finance staff can revise assumptions and inputs and get instantaneous feedback. For instance, changes in tax policy or foreign currency valuations can be quickly and easily modeled.

Enhanced Decision Making

With access to better, more timely data, finance teams can analyse patterns and trends, gain new insights, and respond more quickly to changes in the marketplace. AI, predictive analytics, machine learning, and advanced algorithms can reveal unexpected drivers behind business performance.

Armed with a digital foundation, CFOs can begin deploying a wide variety of digital tools that can dramatically improve the performance and efficiency of the finance organisation and increase the value it delivers. Doing so will yield dramatic improvements in the performance and efficiency of the finance organisation and in the value it delivers.

Should you need assistance to identify and recruit a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) please contact our Executive Team by clicking here. To have a confidential discussion about executive search services or broadly discuss assignments such as Executive job roles, please call Greg McHugh on +44 (0)1582 878853 or send an email to GMcHugh@RedlineExecutive.com