Value preservation will always be table stakes for finance. But for mid-market companies today, CEOs need a finance chief who can drive value creation as well. As technology advances and key functions become automated, “The focus is no longer reporting on the past,” says KPMG Partner John Mulhall. “CFOs need to have insight into where the business is going and be able to communicate that effectively.”
Whether forecasting total revenue, rolling out a new product, or seeking a course correction, companies rely increasingly on their CFOs for competitive, data-driven insights. “There really is no other role in the organization that’s been given the permission and also has the capability to integrate strategy, financial outcomes and operational analytics,” says Mulhall.
The bottom line: mid-market companies need CFOs who are strong business partners. To meet expectations, CFOs must be able to:
- Embrace extreme automation. Together, robotics, advanced analytics, cloud applications, blockchain, and other technologies are expected to create an all-new operating model, empowering finance to deliver more value with less effort. In addition to automating core finance and accounting (F&A) processes and reducing labor requirements by up to 70 percent, the new model may enable finance to harness the data inside F&A processes and provide new kinds of insights.
- Learn the language of predictive analytics. AI and machine learning can help mine internal and external data to get a holistic view of customers, competitors, suppliers, partners, and employees, and then detect and interpret marketplace signals globally. The CFO can anticipate changes, making it easier to stave off disruption. He or she can also better manage capital asset investment, optimize budget planning, and even manage supply chain risk using sophisticated algorithms.
- Link company strategy, financial projections and management metrics. Ideally, the CFO should participate in the development of the company’s strategy—or at least understand how that strategy will translate into future finance outcomes and related metrics. Says Mulhall. “CFOs need to measure, on an ongoing basis, how well the business is delivering against the strategy — not just waiting to report on financial outcomes, but understanding and predicting operational drivers.”
Ultimately, says Mulhall, the goal for mid-market companies is to be able to take advantage of the latest technology – so they can free up resources to focus on strategy, anticipate potential challenges, and leverage disruption into opportunities for growth. “The technology is so advanced that people in the CFO suite will soon be performing new roles,” he adds. “It really is a new era.”