The role of finance leader is changing from technical expert to strategic business partner. Here are three key areas to focus on to make sure you don’t fall behind the curve.
Two forces in particular have elevated the role of finance in organisations: the rise of SaaS compliance has forced companies to make sure they’re getting accounting right, and the 2008 crash showed how important financial planning and analysis are in helping businesses navigate tough times.
To keep up, Kelly says CFOs need to go from simply reporting on a company’s past performance to becoming a true business partner who can help drive results for the companies they serve.
She recently joined us on The CFO Playbook, where she shared her insights on the key areas that CFOs need to focus on to keep up with the evolving role of finance.
Here are the three main takeaways from that conversation which you can apply to your role.
CFOs of today must look past the numbers to fulfill their roles.
Kelly believes that CFOs need to move beyond simply providing the figures – they need to understand what those numbers mean and how they will influence the company’s future decisions.
For Kelly, this means focusing on the big picture:
‘You’ve got to zoom out and come back to the big picture of this data-driven decision-making. Not just handing over the numbers but actually understanding what the numbers mean for the future.’
How can you do this? Ask yourself what your business’ numbers mean, what you need to be doing differently, how you can improve, and what is performing really well.
Make sure you don’t get bogged down in the details. Instead, use those details to fill out the bigger picture of your organisation’s finances and future plans in order to make the best possible decisions.
To go from simply providing data and analysis to unlocking insight to fuel future growth, Kelly says CFOs need to find the middle ground in the following four areas:
The important thing to remember, says Kelly, is balance. Landing on the far end of any of these extremes could steer you in the wrong direction.
She also believes that how you balance these dimensions might change depending on your personality, the environment you’re in, and what is required of you by the company at any point in time.
People, processes, and technology are the building blocks for a successful company. If these elements are solid, then your company will be geared toward success.
Kelly has been in senior financial positions at multiple companies, and every time she steps into a new role, her focus goes to these building blocks.
‘I lay out what are the functions I’m leading, what are the things we need to accomplish over the next year, and what are the elements we need to put in place to accomplish those things – whether it’s people, process or technology’.
If you can get these three things right, says Kelly, then everything else tends to fall into place. But until those foundational elements are well established, you’ll have a tough time reaching your goals.
More and more, companies are elevating the role of finance in their businesses, which means they are asking more of their CFOs.
In order to be ready for this financial evolution, you have to look at both the big picture and the tiny details – and you have to meet a lot of people halfway.
Kelly’s tips for CFOs can help you hone your leadership skills and build up both your company and yourself to succeed for years to come. Good luck!