Tomorrow's finance enterprise

Introduction

In this report we ask a simple question: what are the key influences shaping the future role of the CFO and tomorrow’s finance enterprise? The report draws on all of our ongoing CFO-focused research and includes highlights of a 2014 survey of 1631 ACCA and IMA members around the world.

Executive summary

What are the key influences impacting the future CFO function, and what determines its likely success in a world of significant change? ACCA’s and IMA’s previous reports have dealt with talent, career paths, the changing nature of the CFO role, technology and big data. Yet pulling all of the issues together, what do we see as the issues that will make or break future CFO success.

We think there are five issues shaping the destiny of finance:

1. Volatility and risk shape the future

Economic volatility and risk dominate as key influences impacting the top finance job. The environment brings new levels of scrutiny to the role of the function, the effectiveness of the investments it makes, and the quality of support provided for enterprise decision making. Yet the function continues to be pushed on providing the information that matters; finance chiefs see the reality of the environment and the clamour for information, but the task is more difficult in a landscape that will change quickly and where risk proliferates. Culturally this is a big challenge for many finance teams too; the finance organisation needs to adapt to operate in an environment with greater uncertainty and ensure it doesn’t stop innovation.
 

2. Enterprise stategy supported by smarter finance delivery

Successful alignment of the finance organisation to the strategy of the business is essential. By transforming the finance organisation, the future CFO team must ensure the right processes, systems and metrics are in place to aid strategy execution, deliver richer information insights and drive cost and process effective finance operations. As CFOs continue to step up to the strategy role, having the right operating model for the finance team which is agile, scalable, and aligned to the changing needs of the enterprise to flawlessly deliver the controllership agenda and support the enterprise strategy is an imperative.

3. Value driven and data centric

The assets that drive corporate wealth are increasingly not what they used to be; in the knowledge economy intangibles such as information, branding and talent are central to future value creation for all sizes and types of businesses. Understanding how the business generates value is core to the future CFO role; in the push to drive sustainable return on enterprise assets, finance leaders need clarity on where growth will come from and where to allocate enterprise capital. But they can’t do this unless they get their hands on the right data. The CFO function has a critical future role to play in getting the enterprise data basics right as a starting point for better decision making.

4. New technology frontiers

Finance leaders will need to prioritise investment in technology to drive growth, and digital technologies will become a core finance leadership enabler in all businesses. The current finance technology landscape remains overly complex for most, and simplification is sought. Smarter CFOs recognise the limitations of prevailing technologies, and have a responsibility to ensure that social, mobile, cloud and analytics technologies become strategic tools in driving enterprise change, new business models, and improve the contribution of the finance organisation to support enterprise strategy and compliance with regulatory obligations.

5. People matter - it's always about talent

The quality of talent available to the CFO function could make or break its future success. A different premium is being placed on the leadership skills that matter; the capacity to manage change, more effective communication, the ability to think strategically and demonstrate a real and deep understanding of the commercial drivers of the business, and to think innovatively. But the big question for the function is this: with changing finance delivery models and new sources of talent opening up, where will this new pool of executive finance leadership talent come from?

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