BlogsTechnology and the Role of CFOs

August 31, 2016, by Ryan Miller

As technology rapidly morphs and expands, CFOs find that they must flex and grow right along with it—lest their businesses suffer irreparable damage.  And while most CFOs are painfully aware of this reality, most are not technologically savvy nor do they have the resources or time to acquire these skills.

In order to find success, CFOs must understand that—

  • Trends progress quickly, sometimes, it seems, overnight.
  • IT departments are slowly but surely branching out from behind their screens and into a support role for the entire organization. Think of them as a sort of “infrastructure” for the entire company; without IT, a company in today’s market has no support system.
  • Their success hinges on the ability to use and prioritize new technologies.

Though the thought of embracing technology might seem overwhelming given the scope of other tasks for which CFOs are responsible, a good question to keep in mind regarding technology is this: “If I could do X, what would the outcome look like?” Looking down the road at the possibilities that technology brings with it can help bridge the gap between now and later. Accepting these technologies now can solidify the structure of that bridge for later.

Once CFOs have obtained a good grasp on the scope of technology, many processes can be streamlined, saving manpower and money. For example:

  • The time spent gathering and inputting financial data will decrease, which eliminates clerical work. This leaves CFOs with extra time to analyze said data—and actually do something useful with it.
  • Roles that are purely transactional, such as accounts payable and accounts receivable, will be almost entirely automated. This will give employees time for analysis and thoughtful decision making, which often gets pushed aside in favor of transactional tasks.

As with anything new, challenges do exist with new technologies. CFOs must consider the following and weigh the risk and value such innovations might bring.

  • CFOs and their teams must retain active roles in the data management process. Understanding and overseeing the information that flows into an organization is critical. The finance department should be an active voice in this area to maintain requirements surrounding compliance issues.
  • As technology changes and grows, so do privacy and security risks. CFOs must understand these risks and demand that the data is responsibly managed.
  • When a new technology is being rolled out, CFOs must resist the urge to ensure that everything is perfect before the big reveal. The beauty of technology is that it can be tailored to fit specific needs, so if improvements are in order—and they likely will be—then they can be implemented.

As technology rapidly changes, so does the role of the CFO. Finance departments can no longer function independent of their respective IT departments. To find success in their field, CFOs must embrace these changes and allow room for continuous improvements.