Changing CFO Role in the Digital world

S Kathir Kamanathan, CEO, Lanco Tanjore PowerI still remember when I started my career in early nineties, Finance function would be limited to Book keeping, Audit, statutory compliance etc. By that time most of the companies had migrated to computerised accounting and some into advanced ERP. The strength of the team used to be large with each activity being controlled and monitored.

With the vibrant growth in economy, there are three vital roles in business namely CEO, CFO and CTO. We have come a long way as far as technology is concerned. Apart from ERP now we use Blockchain, Big data etc to make right decisions in the prevailing complex environment. We have also travelled a long path in the Finance function over the years, wherein the Role of CFO has undergone a massive transformation so as to contribute to sustainability of business.

The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the company, due to his pivotal position and significant responsibility, is expected to play a critical role in the changed environment. In the traditional role he was responsible only for book keeping and recording debits and credits. In the 21st century, globally, this role has been transformed to include aspects such as risk management, strategy building, developing business models, business planning and many other.

Emerging technologies require today’s CFOs to engage deeply with the business operation leaders to understand the benefits of these new capabilities, the used cases, the investments required, and of course, how to measure the value created. CFOs feel rising pressure to leverage new technology,
such as cloud computing, robotic process automation and various analytical tools, to improve the performance of their organizations. The introduction of Digitalisation free up time from administrative tasks to further focus on analysis and insight generation to shape future desired outcomes. While CFO’s are not required to hold degrees in Computer Science or IT, they must keep themselves flowing and updated with the trends as the technological developments are here to stay.

Tomorrow’s CFOs and their finance functions will need to be very adept in leveraging this technology. It means less time on recording and verifying the numbers, and more time making the data connections and explaining the number implications to the business – applying the finance lens on decision making.

Technology is evolving very quickly, providing the potential for CFOs to reconfigure finance processes and drive business insight through big data and analytics. The CFO forms part of the think tank of Top management and his views are crucial to make informed key decisions. In many companies now, CFOs are elevated as CEO too due to their business knowledge.

Today, finance function is even more important and every activity of organisation is associated with finance. The introduction of technology frees up time from routine tasks to further focus on analysis and insight generation to shape future desired outcomes. CFO’s can spot new opportunities and new profit centers and can identify groups delivering greater values to the organisation.
The regulatory environment of today has also become stricter. The compliances and data are closely monitored and it will only stretch further. With the introduction of CFO as a KMP under Company’s Act 2013, and the further growing recognition they now have an increased personal stake in, and accountability for, regulatory adherence in the companies. So, keeping pace with the changing environment it is imperative to have a good hand in contemporary technology.

The requirement of time is new generation CFOs for upcoming time, who can break stereotypes, welcome new ideas and have the spirit of innovation. New demands require investing in right talent which has acquaintance with modern day tools so the CFO also needs to work closely with the HR department. Since the competition is global and this technological shift is not going to be reversed, the visionary CFOs understand that they not only need to manage complexity in all of its forms but also acknowledge it as an opportunity.

In conclusion, I would like to say the Sky is the limit for dynamic CFO’s in todays Digital World and every problem is an opportunity.