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Time for transformation: answering your questions

Want to know what it means to be a "purpose-driven CFO?"

We recently held a webinar with Andy Burrows where he talked about how the CFO will be the head coach in the business. Check out Andy's answers to the questions posed during the webinar.

Q. What will be the impact of AI in the execution of the CFOs duties?

Very little impact on the CFO role in particular. On the Finance function in general, the impact in the foreseeable future is only in bigger businesses, in relation to things like forecasting and business driver analysis, and perhaps fraud prevention.

It's at a very experimental stage of development, so people shouldn't be too concerned about AI.

Q: How can we, as emerging CFO's be better prepared to understand the true impact of digital transformation, AI, automation, blockchain etc.?

Keep reading, connect with thought leaders on LinkedIn and join groups. But always take caution when reading anything from people who may have vested interests - organisations/events that are sponsored by software vendors, Big4 consultancies, etc. There is a lot of hype out there.

Be more concerned about the strategic challenge to your business from digital disruption (think Amazon, Uber, PayPal, Facebook, YouTube, etc) than new tech for Finance.

Q: How can we relate BPM to small scale business?

The BPM elements mentioned are relevant to businesses of all sizes. I use this framework in my own tiny business. Whatever the size of business, it takes thought to apply it.

Q: How do you suggest we introduce this to other executives as they still see the role of FD as the old way?

Great question. There are lots of factors, including age and personalities in the Exec. It often takes time and is not easy.

My approach would be to:

  1. Always have the numbers nailed (it gives confidence and credibility);
  2. Always be ready to help (at some stage they will always need the numbers guy to do some modeling);
  3. Always over-deliver and demonstrate business understanding when helping with the numbers work;
  4. Never shy from saying what you think (as your credibility grows from all the above, you will gain more influence);
  5. Have the BPM and other frameworks and techniques fresh in your mind (and even posted round your office), so that you can explain where you're coming from if necessary in discussions on BPM and strategy.

Q: How do you influence your Finance Director to change his mindset from the old school scorekeeper mindset to become a head coach as you put it?

It depends who you are. If you are the CEO or other CXO then influence by making clear the expectation that the FD needs to provide insight and guidance on business performance.
On the other hand, if you are the Financial Controller, or within the Finance team, simply try to do your work with a purpose-driven mindset (I am here to help with business performance).

Have a business partner mindset - always do great work and be willing to help and share your knowledge and insight with your colleagues in the business.

Gain a reputation as someone who is solid, reliable and who cares about the business... and you'll be the next Finance Director!

Q: What are typical key performance areas a country head of finance should be looking at given key responsibility is to drive clearer performance management. across the business, in a group organisational structure?

Difficult to generalise, because as you say responsibility is across the business. I'd take the same approach in whichever kind of divisional structure you have - identify the value/performance drivers, make sure strategy is focused on those, and measure results with those.

Group structures will normally not change what the value drivers are, but politically who has responsibility for them (Group/Division/Country/BU, etc).

Q: Given that many businesses are choosing to work more in an agile way (rather than traditional waterfall approach), what are your thoughts about the role of finance and how we use / modify the techniques you’ve spoken about today ?

I think the BPM Wheel framework generally fits very well in an agile culture. It's all about being ready to change tactics and strategy depending on what the performance indicators show.

If you're meaning specifically how does it change the way Finance should look at business change projects (using either traditional Waterfall or Agile or Lean Project Management), we should be open, but take a risk-based approach.

For example, in the digital age, it is risky in the long term not to be innovative.

However, if we allow the business to plough too much money into risky innovations, then the business could fail anyway.

The trick is finding ways to "fail fast" at the same time as limiting exposure (using pilots, market testing, prototypes, beta groups, etc).

To find out more about how the finance function is changing and how it could affect you, check out the AICPA & CIMA Finance Transformation conferences in London, New York and Johannesburg.

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