Category Archives: Finance Transformation

The Sage CFO 3.0 Research Launch

Knowing that CFO transformation is one of my favorite subjects (having run a planning company for six years) the folks at Sage invited me to moderate a set of panels at their San Francisco and New York media events this week.  Sage is launching the results of a research study where they surveyed over 500 CFOs of primarily medium-size businesses about the ongoing transformation of the CFO role, and their outlook on topics ranging from the evolution of finance to advanced automation (robotic process automation, or RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine-learning.

In addition to a fine selection of customers for each panel, I was pleased to have two thought leaders joining me as well: Rob Kugel from Ventana Research, and Jack McCullough, president of the CFO leadership council and author of Secrets of Rockstar CFOs.  Sage CTO Aaron Harris even helped out with a few questions after giving his presentation that helped tee-up the panel.

Among the more interesting findings:

  • 98% of CFOs say their job has changed in the past 5 years.  Fortunately, none of our panelists were in the other 2%.
  • 94% believe that financial management tools success increase productivity in the department.
  • 46% of finance professionals reported an increasing demand for business counsel beyond just basic reporting and analytics.  Finding more time to offer such counsel is an ongoing theme in CFO transformation.
  • 92% are hopeful that AI/ML can further increase automation in finance and help create more such time for strategic matters.
  • Yet 83% say that their organizations may be yet be culturally ready to adopt more automation technology.
  • While only 25% saw themselves as change agents, nearly 75% reported that they were leading digital transformation efforts at their organizations.  Humble people, those CFOs.

In addition to a  great joke (question:  “how do you know when you’re talking to an extroverted accountant?”  answer:  “they’re the one looking at your shoes when they’re talking.”) we heard a few colorful stories as well, my favorite from Jack who at age 19 was hauled into the CFO’s office for questioning as to why Jack referred to him as the “CFNo.”  Expecting to be fired from his first job, Jack was instead thanked, “that’s quite a compliment,” said the CFO 1.0, “I’m pleased to hear you’ve been calling me the CFKnow.”  Jack dodged a bullet on that one, for sure.

Thanks to Sage for inviting me and best of luck on the continuing journey to transform finance.  You can get a copy of the full Sage CFO 3.0 study here.

Finance Transformation Themes from the IE FP&A Conference in Boston

After attending our amazing, sold-out Future of Finance Tour session in Minneapolis earlier this week, I swung out to Boston attend a chunk of the IE Groups’s FP&A Summit.

I had some great conversations with delegates and attended several interesting sessions.  Transforming finance was, as expected, a big theme.  Here are some of things I heard:

  • Old-school finance used to say, like a TV anchorperson, “we don’t make the news, we just tell you about it.”  This finance-as-spectator role is passé.
  • We need to transform FP&A from the engine room for report production — “here are the variances, don’t ask us about them” — to an active role in working with the business.
  • FP&A needs to no longer be the data crunchers, but insight providers who can tell the story in the data.
  • Finance needs to engage with the business.  Interact with them.  Sit with them.  Ask them.  Iterate with them.  Financial processes (e.g., forecasting) are inherently iterative and require finance to interact with subject matter experts (SMEs).
  • FP&A needs to challenge the conventional wisdom or common knowledge about the business.  It’s amazing how often common rules of thumb (e.g., which products are profitable and which aren’t) simply aren’t true when you dive into the data.
  • Finance should be more focused on having a seat at the table than knowing what the table cost and how far it is into its depreciation cycle.
  • “I spent years leveraging my ‘CPA’ doing copy / paste / attach from Excel spreadsheets into board books and presentations.”
  • While overuse of Microsoft Excel is definitely part of the problem, Excel is also definitely part of the solution.   “There are over 1,000 person-years of Excel experience in this (not very big) room.  You can’t throw that out.”
  • “I fell out of bed knowing how to do that in Excel.”
  • In leveraging technology for FP&A the cloud is now a given — five years ago that was not the case.

And the old classic, which I really believe in:  finance needs to focus on becoming a business partner to the CEO and the business.

It was a great conference and I’m glad I stopped by.