The future role of the CFO?

We have seen first-hand how the pace of change in technology has had a significant impact on business and most especially on finance functions.

In the Mid 80’s Global IT spending stood at over $340 billion. In slightly over 20 years, the Global IT spend stood at approx. €560 billion … and by 2016, more than 2.1 billion devices will have the HTML5 browsers.

So what does that mean for you, as a CFO.

As a CFO in;               You dealt with;
1980 – 1989             Mini-computers, Calculators and lots of continuous green paper printouts
1990 – 1999             Emergence of Client Servers + Lotus 123 / MS Excel v1.0
2000 – 2009           Emergence of Cloud based computing + MS Excel / Office
2010 – 2029            ? … Disruptive technologies (eg 100% cloud based ERPs)

The result of the developments in IT have meant that the role of CFO, over the past 30 years has evolved from a pure Book-keeping and Accounting function to one where the CFO is continually asked “How can finance add more value?”

The standard reply is usually;
o   Provide better insights
o   Lower costs

However there is now a growing body of thought that these answers are not the complete answer!

Cloud Computing
With the advent of “Cloud Computing + Big Data” … one picture that is emerging from a number of recent ‘discussion papers’ is that, in the not too distant future, the role of CFO maybe more appropriately entitled the CPO (Chief Performance Officer).

Key responsibilities may include;
o   Mining Big Data to identify performance improvements
o   Building more robust forecasts based upon competitor / market actions
o   Providing real time information to all stakeholders
o   Putting finance skills into the business (rather than business skills into finance)

With the development of better and better technology, there may also be an increased move away from;
o   Transactional activities – Data Processing
o   Data Gathering for reports
o   Manual spreadsheet manipulation for reporting

Question Mark

So some of the challenges that you will need to consider into the future will be;
o   What can you do to keep the role of CFO relevant to the future needs of your organisation?
o   If the Finance function, as we currently understand it, no longer exists as a separate function … how will you continue to develop ‘talent’?
o   As the level of automation increases, what role will the CFO play?
o   What are the new career paths that may ‘open-up’ to you?

These are some interesting points to consider!

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