CFOs Are the New Technology Evangelists

The modern finance function has evolved from its classic governance role to a strategic mandate as a full business partner and value creator. Modern CFOs have become technology evangelists, taking the helm at finance organizations that recognize the value of digital technologies and new cloud-delivery mechanisms for finance and the business at large.

These are among the findings of a new research report, “Empowering Modern Finance: The CFO as Technology Evangelist,” commissioned by Oracle and Accenture, in collaboration with Longitude Research. The report explores the ways in which modern CFOs and other finance executives are adopting emerging technologies within their organizations to enable the development of new capabilities and to transform the role of finance.

The study includes in-depth interviews with CFOs, other finance executives and other experts from companies across a range of industries. It’s also based on an online global survey of 975 senior finance executives and 300 line-of-business executives.

More than two-thirds of the survey respondents agree that the CFO is a strong evangelist for the transformational potential of technology. Nearly 75 percent of finance executives think technologies such as the cloud, mobile technology and social media will change how finance is structured and run.

According to the study, CFOs are committed to upgrading the skills of finance professionals with applications that have analytical, mobile and social capabilities embedded into the workflow. A growing number of these executives are sponsoring enterprisewide transformation projects in which finance can bring its operational knowledge, analytical insights and budgetary discipline to bear on behalf of the business.

Instead of reactively analyzing historical data and presenting static reports, finance organizations are working to understand what is happening and why, according to the study. They are then providing proactive guidance on what actions should be taken to support broader business objectives,

Forward-looking CFOs, the report notes, are empowering their finance teams with sophisticated analytical tools and modern applications with embedded business intelligence and analytics to enable real-time, forward-looking planning and decision-making capabilities.

Another finding is that today’s finance departments are both service providers and collaborative strategists, embedding analysts into key lines of business to help with analysis and decision making. Finance also provides business unit managers with access to self-service, drill-down reports that they can use to analyze information on their own, as needed.

Finance teams also use the latest social, mobile and collaboration tools to help them stay closely linked to the vision, strategies and activities of their business partners.

The study notes that modern finance is committed to operational excellence across all service dimensions. The foundation of that is a common finance language that relies on standardized, globalized business processes and real-time data. Finance also automates or outsources routine transactions when possible to speed up the delivery of information and insights to the rest of the business, and to free up analysts to focus on higher-value tasks.

Increasingly, CEOs are looking to their finance chiefs to help identify new growth opportunities and oversee investment strategies that can deliver on growth expectations, the report says. As finance chiefs have become technology evangelists, they’ve realized how critical data insights are to unlocking new value across the entire business.