Amid Good Times and Uncertainty, CFOs Can Provide Insights Across The Business


Over the years, we’ve watched CFOs across industries transform from back-office leaders into agile C-Suite strategists. It’s not hard to see why: with line of sight across the entire organization, CFOs are uniquely positioned to provide other business leaders with key insights that can drive growth and sustainability.

As the right-hand advisor to the CEO, the CFO has natural visibility into the various strategic and tactical efforts needed to achieve business goals. Especially now, during this period of unpredictability and instability, we see CFOs emerge as a catalyst for cross-functional, enterprise-wide collaboration.

To understand how CFOs can provide enterprise-wide insight, let’s first take a look at why CFOs have become such an influencing force, and then discuss how they can partner with other C-Suite members to provide reassurance and insight during times of both uncertainty and growth.

Why CFOs are the new influencer on the C-Suite block

Not that long ago, in a finance office not that far away, CFOs and corporate finance teams focused largely on accounting, reporting, and back-office responsibilities. Yet, as technology and data become increasingly more accessible, and processes continue to become more automated, finance teams have steadily evolved from data collectors and reporters to business partners and advisors.

It’s precisely this evolution—the combination of traditional finance and accounting applications with the principles of collaboration and business partnering—that has propelled the CFO into his/her natural leadership position within the business.

When we think about the modern-day CFO, it is someone who not only helps the business operate with a more agile business model but who can also partner with other business leaders to help them make better data-informed decisions.

How CFOs can partner across the business

Every decision that business leaders make has a profit and loss impact. As such, CFOs and their finance teams can help other business units evaluate different opportunities, revenue streams, and strategies—while keeping a pulse on total costs and returns.‍

This unique insight makes the CFO an excellent business partner to guide departments, such as HR, IT, and the supply chain, through nearly any economic situation or uncertain business environment.

Let’s look even closer at the partnerships CFOs can have with these three functions.

Optimizing human capital

At first blush, pairing finance with human resources might seem odd. Human capital is a major cost center, and CFOs are focused on protecting the financial health of a business—what one views as an investment, the other sees as an expense.

Yet collaboration between the two teams aligns them both more closely to the company’s strategic vision. We’re seeing more and more finance teams recognize and plan for the components of workforce planning. Today’s CFOs understand there’s more to HR than filling headcount; the right investments in human capital produce tangible bottom-line results.

A bad hire will cost a company both time and money. But by working with finance to understand which key workplace performance indicators impact outcomes such as increased or decreased turnover, HR can make more informed hiring decisions.

Making the right investments at the right time

A joint understanding of financial and technological strategies can help CFOs and CIOs improve the bottom line for their business. CIOs regularly field new technology requests from every team across the business. They need to determine which tools will drive tangible business results, and which ones won’t.

Before any investment decisions are made, the CFO can help CIOs evaluate the ROI of their proposed investments. While every company is different as far as their needs around technology and infrastructure, making the decision to invest in new technology will ultimately depend on how much cash the company has.

CFOs and CIOs can partner together to make the right decisions at the right time. Look at what’s breaking first. If anything is, replace it. If there is anywhere the business needs to save time, automate it. For example, if the finance team is trying to forecast cash on a complicated spreadsheet, they have a huge opportunity to automate and optimize that process.

Moving from value to profitability

During times of unpredictability, supply chain leaders are often left to react with very little time for insightful analysis. While CFOs are modeling out cash-flow forecasts, supply chain officers are trying to think through logistics. When the two teams collaborate more efficiently, they find plenty of opportunities to overlap.

For example, where can finance skills be leveraged for strategic projects? How can the two teams compare operations across regions, facilities, products, and channels to uncover insights? Performing cost comparisons for key metrics will provide both teams with deeper insight to improve business performance.

At a more macro level, collaboration between CFOs and the supply chain offers three key benefits:

  • Collaborative investments: Better communication and insight helps CFOs and supply chain leaders agree about which investments to make. This helps the supply chain execute on strategies that better anticipate and meet demand.​

  • Improved risk management: No business leader wants millions of dollars of unused inventory sitting in a warehouse — especially not a CFO. When CFOs and supply chain leaders work together, it reduces these risks and helps the business better manage inventory.

  • Reduced operational inefficiencies: A closer partnership between CFOs and the supply chain makes focusing on a shared business goal feel frictionless. As a result, alignment between the team strengthens and operational inefficiencies are reduced.

From investment opportunities, supply chain and workforce efficiencies, selling and marketing strategies, and, now, the wide-reaching impacts of COVID-19, CFOs have to know what’s happening across the business and how they can reduce uncertainty.

As we see more and more CFOs collaborate across the business to model different scenarios and its impacts on cash flow, they’re not only helping other decision-makers understand the nuances of their decisions — they’re also using that information to build better strategies for sustainable business growth.