Seeing Around Corners and Flying Through Walls - The Rise of CFO 3.0

It’s time for the annual Sage Intacct New Year’s Reading List (all linked within this post)! Last year we shared content on topics such as twitterizing your chart of accounts, the concept of GLplus, and 5 ways accountants have mastered AI. This year our series will be focused on one topic: CFO 3.0. We hope you enjoy our insight and feel comfortable replying with your thoughts and ideas for what the CFO of the future might be like given new opportunities in the marketplace today.

WSJ Article

Toward the end of last year, an article appeared in the Wall Street Journal that discussed how Mark Garrett, CFO at Adobe, said that his team struggled to stay current on hiring and fulfilled job reqs because of the enormous amount of data they were consolidating from disparate systems into Excel spreadsheets. Mark was quoted stating, “I don’t want financial planning people spending their time importing and exporting and manipulating data, I want them to focus on what is the data telling us.”

Adding additional context to the conversation, P.F. Chang’s CFO, Jim Bell, had another take on relationships between staff changes and profitability: “If I was trying to do this on a spreadsheet, it just wouldn’t happen.” From the article, we surmised that CFOs and finance leaders have begun to gravitate away from Excel toward smarter, more capable solutions like those mentioned.

What’s going on here? Since when does finance reject Excel? As we enter the new year, it’s obvious that a shift is happening. The early CFO, or CFO 1.0, was The Historian. Next came CFO 2.0, the Real-Time Analyst who caught issues based on real-time dashboards. It now appears that we are beginning to see a new version: CFO 3.0 - The Futurist.

Before we define this new version, let’s take a moment to consider how we arrived here. What’s driving the marketplace? We found the most succinct answer here. As Tom Siebel points out, the low cost of storage and computing power, coupled with the internet of things revolution, makes available large portions of data for smarter solutions. In short, we can get to answers more quickly by comparing the previously incomparable to discover new trends and relationships that are otherwise beyond our line of sight.

While working on our recent webinar, “5 Things Every Data Driven CFO Should Have on Their Holiday Wishlist,” we polled a number of CFOs and CEOs to see what they hoped to accomplish next year:

  • Wish #1: Better Data. Know your past, predict your future by building a time machine with your back office technology.
  • Wish #2: Better, more responsive insights that help your business reach light speed.
  • Wish #3: A faster payoff to the technology we adopt. “Payoff my tech stack mortgage,” as one CFO told us.
  • Wish #4: Spend more time with influential people and influential companies. As Jim Rohn says, "You are the average of the 5 people (and companies) you spend the most time with."
  • Wish #5: Know sooner, understand better – time to create multiple contingency plans for when opportunity knocks or adversity strikes.

ResultsWhen this wish list is lined up with what Tom wrote, you have a perfect match between need and capability. The final driving point, according to our Data Driven CFO white paper, is that CFOs need answers more quickly, more frequently.

To put this entire conversation into a single frame: what CFOs are telling us is that change is coming so fast and so often, from so many new places and in so many different combinations that the entire role is under threat of not being able to retain the role as Financial Advisor to the health of the business. But isn’t the whole point of the modern CFO to be the ultimate advisor to your business? Constant change requires constant communication, and this means less time with glass and pixels but more time with people who need your fiscal expertise. Such becomes the case for CFO 3.0 – Master Jedi – seeing around corners and flying through walls as they guide their business to scale and profitability.

Next week, check back and we’ll explore the ways that you can embrace CFO 3.0 in 2018.

[ Published: January 11, 2018 ]