In business, there are two meanings for ‘crisis’. One denotes a threat that has become real. The other spells disruption and emerging opportunities. A functional head moves to stave off the danger. A business leader strategizes to capitalize on the opportunities even as the risks are kept at bay.
In the wake of COVID-19, a crisis that sort of straddles both meanings, where does today’s CFO stand?
A ‘Global CFO Survey 2020’ conducted by Everest Group and supported by WNS shows that CFOs are well on their way to becoming strategic business leaders. Towards their companies’ recovery and growth phases, they have stepped up to re-assess business strategies, identify business opportunities to improve cash flow, proactively plan for future-readiness of business, review compliance and controls, and enhance visibility into enterprise information. Additionally, they have set their sights on long-term viability, emerging liability and risk exposure, relevance of existing business models, business continuity preparedness and exploring new opportunities.
Architects of Future-proofed Digital Organizations
Futuristic CFOs are ‘eyes on the future, feet on the ground’ players in the boardroom. They have to lead the charge of the digital brigade to spur business growth and improve customer experience, something I have touched upon in an earlier blog. This means taking ownership of digital transformations and technology initiatives, both at an organizational scale, and within their functions. They should power performance-related dialogs leveraging digital tools such as robotic process automation, advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain. They also have to be proactive scouts of re-imagining and integrating operations, and tapping into emerging trends in consumer behavior. To this end, they need intelligent support from shared services and third-party service providers.
Everest’s survey indicates that a more active role is expected from third-party service providers — stepping beyond operational support to providing strategic partnerships in designing and executing digital transformations.
CFOs’ roles as champions of changing future odds will hinge on efforts and initiatives that will make the most impact on their organizations’ surge to lead in the new normal. Yet this will, by no means, be a one-time achievement. As unprecedented in scale and impact as COVID-19 has been, it will certainly not be the last crisis that businesses will face in the future. Ensuring that their organizations have an agile operating manual underpinned by a strategic vision is what will set apart the futuristic CFO.