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Today’s Finance Professional Must Be a Jack of All Trades

  • By Thack Brown
  • Published: 8/9/2016

ThinkstockPhotos-504608006Why are finance professionals being asked to do more? Because of finance’s connection to business results, it is increasingly seen as strategic business partner, ensuring financial stability and helping guide investment, operational and business performance and intelligent risk.

To achieve new objectives while maintaining our core role as finance leaders, we must minimize the effort spent on transactional tasks and information gathering, and maximize the effort dedicated to being a business partner. Fortunately, many of the digital tools transforming the way we work can help. Here are a few suggestions for successfully managing adjacent functions as part of the expanding scope of digital finance.

Information Technology

In today’s digital world, organizations need real-time financial information to make informed decisions and effectively manage day-to-day operations. Technology must enable end-to-end finance process coverage in real-time, steering enterprises toward success. The finance executives who lead the pack can deliver clear, actionable and forward-looking insights to company decision-makers.

An SAP study revealed that 84 percent of financial professionals believe that success lies in the ability to translate the flow of data into swift and decisive action. By working closely with IT and leveraging technology to automate financial processes and bring new flexibility to financial reporting, finance can not only widen the breadth of data insights available, but also deliver those insights faster than ever. By being highly adaptable and open to new technology, finance can guide investment decisions that will allow their organizations to capture more of the market, reduce costs and realize higher profits.

Risk management

CFOs today are continuously evaluating investment opportunities and making decisions based on current economic conditions, rather than looking back at budgets. Solely relying on a typical year-end cycle and operational budget is no longer realistic because we are living in an era of real-time business.

The rhythm of finance has changed and, as risk managers, finance needs to be aware of what is going on in the world to stay competitive. Whether the market is fluctuating due to a rumor in China or a change in commodity prices is heavily influencing corporate results, CFOs that leverage real-time insight are in the best position to manage risk in a global business environment.

Human resources

Acquiring top talent has never been more important in today’s business climate. To compete, companies must offer desirable compensation, which can be flexible in how it’s structured, delivered and tied to performance. For finance, this means spending time with HR, developing compensation strategies that retain employees and reduce turnover. This can be made more efficient by investing in advanced talent analytics.

Analytics allows managers to design a performance measurement framework that tracks employees’ growth and development within the organization. When flagged by a statistical lapse or error, HR can work with the employee to improve efficiency and performance, or reevaluate the financial benefits of the situation. With finance running in real-time, CFOs can identify HR-related costs not only on an accounting level, but also can consider a contingent workforce as a valid and strategic option.

Mergers and acquisitions

During periods of M&A, heads of finance are in a unique position, able to see the long-term value of investment options. With the help of agile and predictive analytics, CFOs can visualize the best and worst case financial scenarios resulting from a potential merger or acquisition, then steer terms and conditions towards the optimum outcome.

To ensure sustainability and long-term growth of the combined entity, CFOs must also become an operational manager during the integration process. This means managing corporate governance issues and complex negotiations while continuing to run the day-to-day financials.

Overall, the role of the finance professional is continuously expanding and evolving. In order to stay on top, it is time we start reevaluating our technology, preparing our teams for the future and challenging the status quo.

Thack Brown is the global head of line of business finance at SAP.

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