The role of the CFO has changed radically in recent years. Significantly affected by the large-scale introduction of digital practices in the work environment, CFOs now find themselves at the heart of strategic challenges. Previously confined to finance optimization tasks, CFOs now find themselves having to confront new challenges and are becoming increasingly involved in the overall strategy of the company.
The CFO: Implementing the strategic vision
Under the effect of several years of economic crisis, the traditional CFO is now making way for the open and strategic CFO—a value creator, performance driver, innovator, and communicator. One that is connected and mobile.
The CFO's role and contributions are no longer limited to their core business and will be reflected by ten major transformations:
- From a silo approach to an integrated value chain: Automation promotes fluidity of processes and helps to mitigate, even eliminate, the current silos between the different activities of financial departments.
- From an individual approach to a coordinated approach: AI-powered automation solutions through the precision of the algorithms help improve decision-making by suggesting the best actions to take.
- From an asynchronous approach to a real-time approach: Technological power is making it possible to accelerate the financial processes, to the point that they can be run in real time.
- From an elitist approach to a mainstream approach: Artificial intelligence is becoming more widespread and is now within the reach of companies of all shapes and sizes. In the financial domain, software solutions that incorporate AI offer very competitive quality/price ratios, even if the technologies in question remain invisible to the end user.
- From a mechanistic approach to an intelligent approach: Human interventions are now focused on taking care of complex problems and exceptions, whereas repetitive tasks are fully left to the machine. Processes are optimized and the risk of errors is minimized.
- From a design approach to a machine learning approach: Earlier technologies had to be continuously reprogrammed by humans, whereas AI is able to learn on its own, allowing faster, better, and more efficient processes to take place and continuously enhance various functions.
- From an intermediation approach to an interoperability and collaboration approach: The introduction of AI contributes to the streamlining of processes, making them more effective and collaborative and facilitating interactions between the various stakeholders both inside and outside the finance department.
- From a forecasting approach to a predictive approach: The learning abilities of machine learning are not only making it possible to reach conclusions about the past or the present, but are also making it possible to conduct accurate modeling of the future—modeling that is far more powerful and relevant than the traditional methods of projecting past trends in order to anticipate future trends. Predictive models have broadly reached a mature stage of their development and are increasingly demonstrating their effectiveness in finance departments.
- From a tedious approach to a staff empowerment approach: By eliminating the tedious tasks performed by human resources, AI is reshaping skills for the better, enriching the tasks and jobs of staff in the financial departments to focus more time on keeping customers happy, building more positive and productive supplier relationships, and other value-added tasks. All made possible by spending less time filling in spreadsheets and data entry.
- From a cost center approach to a value center approach: Through automation, financial management is being positioned more as a value creation center than as a cost center, as a performance driver rather than as a cash manager. According to a study by PricewaterhouseCooper, 48 percent of financial managers at companies of all sizes are of the opinion that automation will allow the finance position to increase in efficiency and improve internal control.
The CFO’s secret weapon? Automation!
The transformation of the finance position is bringing with it a number of constraints. For the sake of performance and agility, CFOs must now become the embodiment of modernization and thought-leadership to their customers, suppliers, and peers.
In order to meet the new challenges with which they are now faced, CFOs can count on automation as a significant ally and an important first step in their digital transformation journey to help optimize processes, gain time, increase productivity, and reduce costs.