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Author's profile photo Neil Krefsky

CFO: From Scorekeeper to Storyteller

Is your CFO a high-performing asset who heralds innovation or a number cruncher focused on compliance and keeping the financial house in order? CFOs are expected to do more than present numbers. They must monitor, interpret, and share what they find in those numbers.

Great CFOs aren’t running on a hamster wheel trying to keep up with reporting and compliance issues – they’re providing invaluable insight that takes a business to the next level.

In a recent Game-Changers radiocast, panelists Bill Fuessler, global finance risk and fraud leader for global business services for IBM; Nick Castellina, research director for the Aberdeen Group’s business planning and execution practice; and Neil Krefsky, senior director for development and execution of the product marketing strategy for finance line of business solutions at SAP, discuss the evolution of the role and current expectations.

CFO as trusted confidant

Fuessler reviews a recent CFO study in which CEOs were asked which member of the C-suite they most depend on for strategic advice. The overwhelming choice was the CFO, underscoring how much more important and complex this role has become. It’s no longer a debate of whether a CFO should add strategic value to the business, but how much strategic value a CFO should bring to the table.

Krefsky details the evolution: “About 10 years ago, we all remember Enron and things that came up there where compliance came top of mind. It pushed that strategic debate to the back burner. In the last five or six years, the debate resurfaced to where I wouldn’t even say it’s a debate anymore. It is an expectation.”

Command of the cloud and Big Data

So what are these top-performing CFOs doing to set themselves and their companies apart? They are looking at Big Data for insights around the customer, which leads to increased understanding and greater success with new profitable growth initiatives. One example offered by Fuessler is an insurance company that used external data such as demographics and life events information. The company wanted to determine the best actions for profitable growth. It combined the financial demographics and life events to grow sales to current customers by 20%.

Castellina points out that Big Data can streamline and simplify the three “Vs” of data to facilitate information sharing:

  • Volume: More data is coming in than ever before, from every disparate source imaginable.
  • Velocity: Data is generated, moved, and shared more quickly than ever – think “viral” content.
  • Variety: This data is both structured and unstructured and must be sorted and analyzed accordingly.

Krefsky adds, “With the advancements in Big Data, the CFO is really empowered. The tools are out there to take that strategic role to the next level where they can now not only consume all of this information but translate it into actionable business guidance. Rather than just simply being the scorekeeper, they can be the storyteller and, even more importantly, the fortune-teller.”

Krefsky sees a company’s customer base dictating how readily a CFO adopts new technology. Companies that cater to millennials are typically on top of cutting-edge technology. To find out more about what it takes to be a stellar CFO, listen to the full radiocast.

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