SAP’s finance leader is just one example of how to grapple with change, including the increased automation of business processes.
Mana Mojadadr does not look like a robot. She doesn’t write like a robot, either. But it’s really how she thinks that proves she’s the kind of financial leader who will thrive no matter how automated the world becomes.
In “If robots are replacing CFOs, why did I become one?” the chief financial officer of ERP giant SAP’s Italian branch offers a thoughtful take for the readers of Information Week about how technology is really changing the way she and her teams work. Her main conclusion is that what sets long-term successful CFOs apart from the rest is not just an attitude towards data but the ability to use it in creative ways. She does not, however, suggest it’s an easy transition to make.
“Most of these executives said strategic planning is their top priority within the enterprise, surpassing other priorities like performance management or even increased cash flow.”
“Some of us will thrive. And some of us will hate it,” she writes. “If you think about it, when the Industrial Revolution took place in the 18th and 19th centuries, it meant we could overcome the limitations of our muscle power. Two hundred years later, we’re now in the early stages doing similar things with our mental capacity, thanks to the virtue of technologies to infinitely multiply it.”
For Mojadadr, there is a big difference between being displaced (which is what she sees technology doing regarding certain finance function tasks today) and being completely replaced. It may seem like a nuance, but it’s important one.
Consulting firm McKinsey sees the world in much the same way. Its CFO practice site explains not only the kinds of services it offers finance department clients but tries to capture the key drivers of strategic CFOs:
Boards view CFOs as the most important corporate executive after the CEO. But in today’s business environment . . . Corporate performance is increasingly tightly managed. Risks, including cyber issues, are growing. People within the business have higher expectations, especially when it comes to data and advanced analytics and the impact on value creation from disruptive business models. And it can be a struggle to deliver the best service in finance at minimum cost.
Finance leaders seem ready to take on that struggle. According to a story on PYMTS, the 2017 CFO survey from accounting firm Grant Thornton showed their attention is aligned in the right direction.
“Most of these executives said strategic planning is their top priority within the enterprise, surpassing other priorities like performance management or even increased cash flow,” the story said. “Analysts noted that this recognition of a CFO as a strategic aspect of a company has its tradeoffs and requires these executives to balance the traditional responsibilities of the role with more contemporary demands.”
No one is born a strategic CFO. You have to be ready to become one.