No individual in most small or mid-sized companies can impact the organization’s future as much as the CFO. The reason is data.
Does not matter if your organization is a manufacturer, services company, non-profit, whatever type of company — the amount of business-impacting data you manage is increasing significantly and will for quite some time. This positions you to be the company’s knowledge executive, the person most responsible for turning raw data into useable information into much more valuable knowledge. As such, CFOs can and will play more of an essential role in enabling innovation that matters, especially as the business digitally transforms.
For this change to occur, however, disruptive forces have to first emerge that shake up everything from individual mindsets to how departments operate and cooperate.
Why? Because most companies are a mess data-wise. Information is siloed across systems. Paper use remains prevalent. Software doesn’t work as advertised or users outgrow it. The result is labor-intensive, error-filled, expensive processes driving the organization, and rogue spreadsheets or other system workarounds lurking everywhere. Consequently, what CFOs want and need from the company’s data – a single source of truth – becomes impossible to achieve. You end up stuck playing more of a back-office role, leaving little time to analyze accurate data or collaborate with business managers.
Smart management of corporate data should be highlighted as a critical success factor by the executive team but rarely is. Either no one is explicitly tasked with drawing up an improvement plan or an insufficient amount of time is devoted to discussing it. Despite this, one fact is irrefutable — business models are changing, the proliferation of useful and useless data is substantial, and how an organization chooses to invest in leveraging this asset will contribute meaningfully to its future health. Following this logic, the CFO’s role in shaping transformation efforts will be more relevant than ever. It is indeed a tough task and requires frank management discussion about culture change, because a business-as-usual approach will fail for most companies.