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Why Should Your CFO Become a Storyteller

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Today’s CFO juggles with a dozen different major responsibilities, increasingly accountable for the strategic direction of the company in addition to the traditional number crunching. Traditionally, the finance role was all about reporting the numbers. Now it’s about telling the story behind the numbers. As the keeper of an organization’s financial data, the CFO is uniquely placed to tell a story primarily because numbers do not lie.

More importantly, an increasingly agile set of technologies has enabled CFOs to be even better storytellers, make more effective and efficient decisions, and collaborate with others to run the business in the future. The new pedigree of CFOs is expected to be on top of developments in data analytics in order to manage forecasting and predictive insights. In the face of rapid technological changes, and as you engage in your generational technology investments, there are three key imperatives to be followed:

1) Accept your role as a storyteller

In an ever evolving and an increasingly difficult-to-navigate world, you’re calling as a storyteller has never been stronger. You have the authority to guide your organization’s strategic decisions and to act as effective business partners throughout your organization, establishing trust with each interaction.

The decision to embark on any digital imperative, particularly in an increasingly capital-constrained environment, is no small task. Those investments may be generational in nature for the future of your company. That is where your trust-based role comes into play, championing your organization to make the right decisions, build an achievable case for change, and strive for accountability every step of the way.

2) Take the lead in your digital journey

The Office of the CFO is frequently critical in the scope and remit of any digital endeavor—often the first, or an early, release.

For instance, according to the PWC CFO Pulse survey, 2020 of the business executive community, 75% of CFOs indicate that they are allocating more resources to “digital” in 2021, with half of CFO respondents indicating a significant increase from previous years. The digital investments are expected to focus on data analytics, automation, cloud and customer transformation, and—perhaps unsurprisingly in a post-pandemic world—customer experience. They are examining how digital can help to accelerate revenue growth in the coming year. Other high-priority areas for investment include cyber risk management (69%), tax scenario planning (63%) and domestic expansion (55%). In terms of risk, 67 % of CFOs believe policy and regulatory risks will become more pressing over the next four years.

Keeping these developments in mind, it is important for you to take the initiative and lead your organization from the front. It is also critical to establish a stable financial and data-rich foundation. On the back of an improved enterprise data model, the CFO community is investing in digitizing finance processes, which includes end-to-end automation and consideration of a more risk-aware culture.Given the context, this is the right opportunity to set the tone for your entire organization by leading from the front.

3) Demand a return on your investment

As Chief Storyteller, insist that investments in the digital space pay off and result in a significant improvement in your organization’s ability to navigate this increasingly complex world. This could imply developing new capabilities, improving existing ones, or completely eliminating capabilities and activities that do not add value to the enterprise.

Whatever it may be, it is necessary to demand incremental value achievement along the way. Don’t leave the promise of improvement until the very last minute. There are ways to craft digital endeavors that return incremental value to your end-user communities these days and to be honest, it should be the norm, not the exception.

To summarize, we are living in an exciting time—one in which uncertainty and change can breed opportunity, including a higher calling for the CFO community.  So, the question is, as the Storyteller of your organization, what are you going to do to write your story?

(The author Kaushik Mitra is Senior Director, Cloud ERP, Oracle and the views expressed in this article on his own)

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