The post-pandemic economy represents a uniquely challenging time for chief financial officers (CFOs). COVID-19 created massive disruptions in normally stable corporate areas, upending costs, and altering the workforce. Executives, and CFOs in particular, must leverage a different kind of strategic thinking than in previous economic situations to effectively navigate this new environment.
To help understand the unique challenges facing today’s CFOs, we completed our second biennial CFO survey in 2022. This survey featured in-depth interviews with more than 50 CFOs at leading global companies across industries and sectors, with around three quarters from financial services and the remainder from the healthcare and travel sectors. Our results found that CFOs are struggling with many of the same issues confronting other executives. However, their position within the company simultaneously offers more opportunities and challenges to overcoming these hurdles. If companies can help CFOs navigate these challenges, they can unlock many strategic opportunities for business growth and development.
COVID-19 has left us changed. Now that we are moving into a post-pandemic world with a recessionary and inflationary environment, CFOs should take their lessons from the pandemic and help become a more strategic player in business operations. This includes helping company leaders with strategic decision-making, supporting better financial planning and analysis, and positioning teams in different ways with different capacities.
This point of view kicks off a series of pieces exploring the CFO survey in-depth focusing on the challenges and opportunities of business partnering. Subsequent pieces will focus on financial planning and analysis, as well as talent management.
CFOs overcoming barriers to strategic business partnering
Through the survey, we identified the top three success factors for CFOs who can successfully partner with business leaders on decision making and strategic thinking. Very few CFOs operate with these factors in place, creating opportunities for further investment to improve their partnerships:
Timely access to quality financial and non-financial data
Only 21% of CFOs indicated they had access to the data they need, when they need it. To solve this challenge, CFOs should create a focused initiative to improve the sourcing of data, including accessing data faster, requiring less adjustments and manipulation for the data, and accessing the data at the right level.
Creating a common data layer
Only 40% of CFOs have taken steps to build a common data layer to serve as a single source of truth for all inputs. Creating this platform will allow all information needed for processing and analysis to be stored in one place, making it easier for CFOs and their staff to access and use that information for reporting, analysis, and planning purposes.
Developing the right teams
Talent in analytics is not usually found in the finance function. To access this capacity, CFOs often must “outsource” through other analytics teams who may not know the finance function as well nor have the necessary relationships to handle dialogues with various business leaders. Having the right team members with the appropriate skills to analyze data, synthesize helpful insights, and liaise with business leaders will help CFOs cultivate their strategic capabilities.