A recent job advertisement asked for the following skills: financial planning and management, cash management, accounting, and information technology strategy and vision. What was the job?
If you answered Chief Financial and Technology Officer or CFTO, congratulations.
Increasing reliance on technology in the workplace is having a huge impact on finance. So much so, the UK’s Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) has suggested that type of job will become much more common. The CFTO would have responsibility for technological investment as well as financial management and this trend has the potential to proliferate across Europe.
Just a decade ago it was unimaginable that the traditional CFO would need to be closely involved in cloud technology, cyber security and digital service delivery. Yet according to Gartner, 39 per cent of IT organisations say they already speak directly to the CFO. This shift in responsibility means that the CFO needs to be increasingly adept in leveraging this technology and be able to clearly identify its ROI.
To do this effectively, CFOs need to get closer to the innovative technology that has the potential to grow their business. They need to understand the forces that are shaping the way we live and work: the emergence of new technologies, the Internet of Everything, the digital industrial revolution. And as the CFO, they also need to measure ROI to ensure new IT solutions are as future-proofed as possible rather than focusing purely on the bottom line and cutting costs.
This will include the need for CFOs to be up to speed on security issues. An ill-prepared security programme could result in the loss of valuable business or customer information, seeing the company being fined for putting this data at risk. As such, knowing where and how information is stored increasingly becomes the CFO’s issue. Yet according to Gartner, just 18 per cent of finance professionals see security as a priority for spending in 2014, despite citing business intelligence and performance management as top priorities.
Most CFOs would agree that their role as a purely operational finance leader is over; the position is changing and putting them at the centre of important business decisions. This includes investment in IT and the security of company information. The CFO of the future needs to be able to use new technology to make better, more informed business decisions that directly impact business performance. From introducing a mobile policy that helps salespeople communicate better and therefore allows for incremental sales improvements, to implementing sweeping change that alters how the organisation communicates across departments, offices, countries or continents. CFOs need a fundamental understanding of technology and its capabilities to lead the change and make the abstract needs of their business a reality.