How To Become A Strategic Partner For Your Business
Strategic. It is a word used so often in a business context, but do we ever really live up to the definition or are we just paying it lip service? As CFOs, are we keeping our eye on the big picture or do our day-to-day responsibilities cloud our focus on the overall aims of the businesses we work for?
Being more strategic is increasingly important as we, as CFOs, move from being transactional holders of the purse strings to being business partners who deliver insights and guidance to the greater business. While still talking with our finance hats on, we are now expected (and gladly taking up the position) to be the logic behind important business decisions that require a cost versus benefit assessment. For instance, taking a look at the latest sales forecast the team is so excited about – what is the revenue recognition impact of bringing in these new deals? Should the contract terms be restructured to provide greater benefit to the balance sheet? Or how about that latest acquisition that is being targeted; how will the short-term hit to cash reserves be balanced against the long-term uplift to revenues coming from a larger portfolio?
By applying the principles discussed in my last blog post to create back-office efficiencies and improving the effectiveness of the finance function, as a CFO we can apply saved time and resource into applying strategic value. We need to stop just being a view of the past and start offering real-time, forward looking financial & business intelligence. And importantly, we need to make it accessible to the wider business. This could be done through such tools as an ERP, where budget modules can be enabled to allow project managers a real-time view of how their projects are progressing and not having the finance team as the bottleneck in communicating such information. Or perhaps those standard month-end reports you provide to the board could be automated and shared via an internal social collaboration platform. So again, you are not delaying insights being shared and instead can become the interpreter who divulges what they mean to the business and what actions need to be taken to improve long-term performance and profitability.
Becoming a strategic CFO is about finding ways in which we can enable fast and accurate strategic decision making for the business as a whole. Our day-to-day responsibilities will still be there, and by applying efficiencies to operational processes we can transform the value we provide to all.