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The Role of the CFO Transforms with the Cloud

Professionals who spend the majority of their days working with numbers have not traditionally been thought of as leaders for influencing and providing significant insights on a company's strategies and business development. But thanks to innovations in technology - plus a host of factors that have elevated their position - CFOs are filling that role as well, as business success depends on a forward-looking mindset of all executives.

Indeed, Dan DeNisco, a senior vice president at Robert Half  Management Resources, told the Memphis Business Journal he believes that CFOs must take on an expanded role and have been embracing a different type of leadership position.

"Generally, the old stereotype of the accountant was that it was a green eyeshade-wearing number cruncher that was more of a gatekeeper or a tracker of historical information," DeNisco said. "That is certainly not the case today."

Service providers are taking some of the credit for enabling the shift, as technology changes have freed up CFOs' time and made their views and outlooks more accessible and accurate. Marc Linden, CFO at Intacct, a provider of cloud accounting and web-based financial management software, asserts that the use of the cloud will enable CFOs to become more involved in strategy and forecasting opportunities to gain insights on where business expansion can occur.

"[The CFO role will] evolve to performance management and ultimately, highly leveraged strategic activities, really helping the business view financial decisions strategically, identifying areas of business improvement, taking leadership in the organization, working on business development and becoming a value manager," said Linden during the recent Proformative webinar called "The Strategic CFO - Changing the Game for Finance."

CFOs Can Cut Accounting Inefficiencies
Linden revealed nearly 90 percent of all Excel spreadsheets have at least one error, something CFOs know all too well. Migrating to the cloud can reduce issues that stem from using outdated solutions to handle processes. Cloud-based financial applications can relieve CFOs of bottlenecks such as a lack of automated processes, unintegrated systems, and inadequate data. And they can accelerate processes, giving CFOs the opportunity to transform their businesses and improve productivity.

Real-Time Access to Information from Anywhere
Eighty-one percent of respondents to a 2012 survey conducted by CFO Research said a complete implementation of cloud-based systems would improve employee productivity throughout the company. This has a direct correlation to CFOs putting their workforce into a position to succeed because of the ability to access data in real-time. The cloud provides a collaborative environment for the entire team, and CFOs are able to control workflow by sending out personalized reports and dashboard for their staff, allowing employees to view the information that is most beneficial to them.

"Regardless of where and how a transaction is entered, that information goes into that single data repository with a single source of truth, and everybody who has the permission can access that information in real-time," said Linden.

Indeed, with a cloud vendor managing their virtual infrastructure, CFOs can be halfway around the world and see the most recent customer interaction or finance report. That and the fact that the cloud could give CFOs yet another way to expand their role may be reason enough for those who have not looked into cloud options to consider doing so. 

To learn more on this subject,attend CFO Dimensions 2013 in New York City, August 21-22. Register with code CFODKAR for a special $649 discount here.