Blake Oliver, Senior Product Marketing Manager at FloQast, shared his thoughts on what it means to be a 21st century chief financial officer during his presentation at the 2018 Chief Financial Officer Leadership Forum in New York on November 28. In his presentation, “The 21st Century CFO: Conquering the Chaos of the Close,” Oliver offered tips to help CFOs adapt to new challenges and changing market conditions.
Although global organizations frequently embrace digital technologies, some organizations ignore finance innovation and transformation. In these instances, organizations struggle to provide CFOs with the digital technologies that they need to thrive.
For example, smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices have changed the way that consumers and businesses connect with one another. These devices drive anytime, anywhere engagement, and as such, enable organizations to foster meaningful interactions with consumers worldwide.
On the other hand, CFOs sometimes lack mobile technologies. Without these technologies in place, CFOs are unlikely to keep pace with a rapidly evolving global marketplace. Perhaps worst of all, CFOs who fail to integrate mobile technologies into their everyday operations may miss out on opportunities to help their respective organizations achieve various short- and long-term goals.
“Things have changed a lot thanks to mobility,” Oliver pointed out. “But the 21st century CFO … is still stuck in the past century.”
Furthermore, talent engagement, management and retention are becoming increasingly difficult for CFOs.
There is intense competition for finance talent in today’s global marketplace. Meanwhile, CFOs who fail to use the right mobile technologies and digital tools are unlikely to engage with top talent. And as a result, these CFOs may find it virtually impossible to add talented professionals to their respective organizations.
The push for top finance talent is unlikely to slow down any time soon, too. If CFOs fail to adapt to the global marketplace, they could cause their respective organizations to fall behind their competitors.
“It’s rapidly become more and more difficult to hire accountants,” Oliver said. “Going into the future … there is going to be a significant mismatch between the number of skilled workers and the number of jobs available.”
CFOs must consider how they will compensate top talent as well. Oftentimes, CFOs face tight budgets, and they must find ways to add talent without exceeding their financial limitations. If CFOs cannot effectively leverage digital technologies, they risk wasting valuable time and resources that otherwise could be used to explore ways to connect with top talent.
“In the United States, we will be paying a wage premium … over what we’re currently paying now,” Oliver stated. “That’s going to happen, unless we figure out a way to keep our headcount the same or reduce it.”
For the 21st century CFO, it is paramount to invest in state-of-the-art technologies that support a finance department’s everyday operations. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and other digital technologies often help CFOs collect and analyze data from a variety of sources. Plus, these technologies empower CFOs with the insights they need to make fast, informed decisions.
“The 21st century CFO is using cloud ERP and integrated applications that feed data automatically into their ERP system,” Oliver noted.
Additionally, the 21st century CFO must be ready to adapt to a constantly changing global marketplace. This professional should assess the technologies at his or her disposal, then select technologies that can be seamlessly integrated into an organization’s everyday operations.
Close management software also may prove to be valuable for the 21st century CFO. This software helps a CFO keep track of a finance team’s day-to-day activities and identify improvement areas. It may even allow a CFO to reduce or eliminate the need for regular finance team meetings.
“[The 21st century CFO] is using close management software instead of Excel spreadsheets to centralize and organization all of the close-related tasks within their team. Because of that, [this CFO] only has to have meetings when they are needed, not every day,” Oliver said.
Expect mobility to play a key role in the success of CFOs in the years to come. As CFOs search for ways to drive innovation and transformation, empowering finance team members with the ability to work from any location, at any time and on any device is crucial.
If finance team members can perform day-to-day tasks remotely, they can deliver meaningful contributions outside of a traditional office setting. These team members may become more productive and efficient than ever before, as well as help an organization lower its operating costs. At the same time, CFOs can leverage digital technologies to maintain constant contact with finance team members to foster ongoing communication and collaboration.
“[The 21st century CFO] can work from anywhere,” Oliver indicated. “You can work from anywhere, and your team can work from anywhere.”
Blake Oliver is an entrepreneur, accountant, writer, and speaker who specializes in cloud accounting technology. In 2016 and 2017, Blake was named a “40 Under 40” in the accounting profession by CPA Practice Advisor.