The CFO as Catalyst for Change - How finance can take the lead in business transformation  

14 January 2014:

The role of the CFO continues to evolve. Tasked with steering their businesses through the worst economic times since the Great Depression, CFOs used their expertise in cost management and operational efficiency to ensure the survival of their organizations. Those who succeeded earned the respect and confidence of executive management, the market, and external shareholders, helping to elevate the role of CFO from financial steward to corporate strategist and change agent.

Today, CFOs must find new ways to sustain performance and grow the business. Rapid technological change, the rise of emerging markets, more empowered consumers and employees, and more active government intervention have all combined to disrupt traditional business models worldwide. As their influence has grown, increasingly it falls upon the CFO to not only manage disruption, but to also identify and invest in the business models, products, and services that will lead to sustainable, profitable growth.

The tools and structures that served finance leaders well in the past may no longer work so well. Cost levers that used to be effective are becoming less so, as margins become squeezed and incremental operational efficiencies are harder to uncover. Volatility makes it more challenging to set priorities and plan for future investments. Complex organizational structures hamper the ability of CFOs to gain visibility into performance across the enterprise. And disruptive technologies, such as big data, cloud computing, mobile and social media, have given rise to new forms of competition that are challenging even the most established enterprises.

Longitude Research commissioned by Oracle and Accenture recently surveyed 930 CFOs across Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America to understand how finance executives are leveraging their growing influence to manage change and drive growth in this disruptive environment. What we learned
was surprising: despite their increased profile, CFOs realize that their role as corporate catalyst remains incomplete. They recognize that there is still insufficient collaboration between the finance function and the business, and that they are not playing as significant a role as they would like in either strategy or business transformation.

How then should CFOs address these challenges? While the past few years have brought uncertainty and volatility, they have also provided CFOs with a unique opportunity to demonstrate their abilities in a whole range of strategic areas. Above all, the work that many have already completed has given them a platform to drive change across the whole business, not just within the finance function. In short, they should assume the role as the key catalyst for change across the entire enterprise.

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Source: Oracle

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