Maximizing business performance: The Next-Gen CFO

By: Cheryl Carr, CPA , Wipfli LLP

CFOs have always been focused on helping organizations achieve financial results. But for next-gen CFOs, taking ownership of financial performance has evolved into something greater than just improving numbers.

The role now requires CFOs to expand their knowledge and be tuned into all aspects of an organization, from operations to finance to human resources.

They need to step into being high-level decision-makers, capable of identifying issues affecting financial health and implementing the appropriate solutions. They also need a broader perspective that incorporates both internal and external data in mapping the future of an organization.

To help next-gen leaders stay effective despite the changing CFO role, here are three key areas of focus:

1. Technology

Technological advancements are happening at an ever-increasing pace, leaving many organizations struggling to manage their digital strategy. For next-gen CFOs, it’s critical to gain experience in how organizations can manage technological change.

While modern CFOs aren’t expected to be experts on the latest tech, they will need to identify digital solutions that can solve issues impacting an organization’s financial performance. They also need to understand the processes involved in major technological undertakings, such as system conversions, so that they can guide an organization in navigating financial risk and pain points.

Helping an organization shape its response to new technology is another crucial responsibility.

The rise of AI is top of mind for many organizations, as its advantages in automation and data analysis become more apparent. An effective CFO should be able to work with other leadership to establish how they’re going to use AI to increase efficiency throughout the organization, how they plan to upskill employees whose jobs would be impacted and other important considerations.

2. Soft skills

Leadership soft skills are becoming a distinguishing factor for effective CFOs.

Next-gen CFOs don’t just have to interpret data, they also need to oversee the process of communicating that analysis with the rest of the organization and then implementing the respective changes. Doing that effectively requires a deep understanding of an organization’s culture, strong internal networks, and trust from people throughout the organization.

If CFOs want to move past financial management into being strategic leaders, they need to continue to strengthen their soft skills foundation.

3. Collaboration

Along with soft skills, the ability to collaborate is vital for next-gen CFOs.

It used to be common to find departments siloed within an organization. But as the rate of change has accelerated across industries, so has the need for collaboration.

Organizations need to have a group of leaders capable of working together closely so that they can address issues or implement changes quickly. Especially when falling behind in this area means potentially missing out on key opportunities in the market.

As financial leaders, CFOs play a large role in that collaborative work. They should be positioned at the center of an organization, with a clear read on the issues that are impacting other departments.

For example, if the organization is experiencing high turnover, those challenges shouldn’t stay isolated in human resources. The CFO would also need to understand important data, such as headcount mix, to predict how turnover could impact overall financial health.

How Wipfli can help

Effective leadership is crucial for a successful organization. Wipfli’s executive coaching services can help your top talent maximize their potential. We offer one-on-one coaching that focuses on building relationships and taking clear, actionable steps for growth. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you develop exceptional leaders.

Struggling to fill your CFO position? Wipfli’s outsourced CFO services can provide you with next-gen CFO capabilities during your search or on a more permanent basis. We give you guidance to help maximize your business performance tailored to the level your organization needs.

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