Yes, the job of a CFO has never been tougher, but there are already signs of what success could look like.
CFOs already know they have a tough job. They probably don’t need the constant reminders about why it’s so tough.
Just a few weeks ago there was a piece whose headline declared that 2017 will be the “proving ground” for CFOs and their teams, itemizing all the reasons they’re stressed.
“Finance leaders were already under considerable pressure to modernize business processes and help their organization stay ahead of disruptive competitors,” the article said. “A slump in oil prices and the recent EU referendum vote in the UK have only piled more pressure on CFOs to successfully lead their organisations’ strategy in a constantly fluctuating economic climate.”
“The wider adoption of cloud-based accounting and finance systems is expected to make it easier to share and view data going forward, giving all departments greater access to risk analysis.”
Those are just the macro factors. There can be just as much turmoil going on inside a particular organization. Think about Pearson, the publisher which has already announced plans to eliminate 4,000 jobs and sell off a variety of its non-core assets. Financial Director magazine recently profiled its CFO, Coram Williams, who sounded like a great role model for its peers in terms of keeping a level head.
Williams says his primary focus has been to “closely and forensically – and in a data driven way – look at what is happening in our markets. Having done that, you have to have that position clear as the CFO; and then you have to formulate the right response with your executive partners; and it then requires a focus on change management, cost management, execution and indeed resilience as you push that agenda through based on the analysis you’ve got.”
The Power Of Transparency
That doesn’t mean Williams is trying to steamroll people. It’s about making sure the data that informs your own decisions can be easily accessible by others. Consulting firm PwC did some research in this area, with a survey in which 75% of CFOs polls said partnering with other areas of the business on risk-specific metrics could lead to better decisions.
“The wider adoption of cloud-based accounting and finance systems is expected to make it easier to share and view data going forward, giving all departments greater access to risk analysis,” the firm said.
Once those partnerships begin to pay off, CFOs and other business leaders will not only find themselves better able to steer the ship through their specific organizational challenges but perhaps even some of the global challenges common to companies everywhere. And maybe, at that point, we can stop talking about how tough the CFO’s job is but how well CFOs are doing it.
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