May 20, 2022   |  Read time: 5:30 minutes

In 2022, the roles of the CFO and finance teams extend beyond transactional/back-office responsibilities. Together they must act as trusted, strategic advisors to leadership to help drive the business forward.

Today, the skills CFOs need to be successful far exceed just the financial basics. To become more strategic, CFOs need three key skills: reporting, business analytics, and leadership.

Reporting skills

As CFOs can likely attest, it’s not an easy proposition to collect and consolidate operational and financial information across the entire business and convert that data into reports that they can easily share between departments.

Producing timely, accurate reports is critical, especially in today’s global business environment where access to the right information is necessary to enable company leaders to make strategic business decisions, as well as identify and avoid risks. In addition, the reports that CFOs and their finance teams generate, such as profit and loss reports, can help their organizations’ efforts to obtain financing.

In part, financial reports that are done well can offer insights into the past, present, and future, enabling an organization to navigate the complexity of the business, meet compliance requirements, manage volatility, and drive operational efficiency. As such, accurate financial reports are more in demand by company executives and more necessary than ever to run the business.

Business analysis

To become strategic partners, CFOs need the ability to analyze the massive amounts of information flowing into the business every day so they can identify their organizations’ strengths, challenges, and gaps, and thereby help executives make the best decisions. To do that, CFOs must focus less on business financial reporting and more on mapping out the future and then communicate that information clearly to company executives, including the CEO and members of the board.

Leadership

CFOs who want to be effective business partners must have the leadership skills to take full ownership of projects and ensure they’re completed. It’s no longer enough for CFOs to just handle audits and provide transaction reports.

In addition to helping company executives make the best decisions for the business, CFOs must also synthesize the various pieces of data so they can make sound decisions that benefit the entire organization. Today’s CFOs must see the “big picture” and play a significant role in the decision-making process.

Why CFOs say ‘no’ to modern budget, planning, and reporting tools

One of the main reasons CFOs say “no” to adopting new financial planning and analysis tools (FP&A) is because they’re comfortable with their basic Excel spreadsheets and don’t want to change their ways. CFOs are also convinced that FP&A software has a steep learning curve, that it will disrupt their regular routines, and that it’s too expensive.

However, other CFOs believe that FP&A software is too basic and too rigid for the needs of their organizations. They’re not keen on adapting their business processes to fit the software as there is little opportunity to customize the software to fit their needs.

So on the one hand, CFOs aren’t willing to give up Excel for FP&A software they believe is too complex and too expensive. On the other hand, they don’t want to invest in FP&A tools that are too basic and won’t allow them to customize.

However, saying “yes” to a “just right” cloud-based FP&A solution that brings together many data sources for user-friendly reporting and analysis can help CFOs be more strategic.

Say ‘no’ to Excel

There are a number of reasons why CFOs should say “no” to Excel if they want to become strategic advisors to the business, including:

  • Manual data entry is time-consuming and error-prone: Employees have to manually enter, remove, and/or rekey data into spreadsheets. As such, CFOs don’t really know if formulas are accurate or if employees entered data incorrectly, accidentally replaced data, or had overwritten data. Just one error in a spreadsheet, such as a misplaced decimal point, can undermine the accuracy of an organization’s reports and financial models.
  • Excel isn’t designed for collaboration: Excel spreadsheets aren’t collaboration tools, and consequently, they don’t let CFOs and their FP&A teams easily share information with each other or with other business units. Additionally, finance team members are often working on numerous outdated spreadsheets because they’re unaware that another employee has made updates.
  • Employees spend too much time consolidating, modifying, and correcting spreadsheets: Employees have to manually enter, re-enter, validate, and correct data in Excel, which is more time-consuming than scheduling automated reports and viewing the information. It also takes a lot of time for employees to manually copy and paste data from one Excel spreadsheet to another and check each formula individually. Completing these repetitive activities manually reduces worker productivity.
  • Excel isn’t made for in-depth analysis: Although Excel works for storing static data, it’s not equipped to handle the in-depth analysis today’s companies require. Excel isn’t designed for storing historical data. And because employees often update Excel spreadsheets to keep the size manageable, companies lose their historical data. This negatively impacts data analysis and comparisons as it’s almost impossible to compare data and identify trends over longer periods.

In addition to saying “no” to Excel, CFOs should also say “no” to solutions that are much too complex and that require complete overhauls of existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and other core systems due to poor integration. CFOs need to say “yes” to FP&A software that can pull information from ERP systems and other systems, offering a single pane of glass for all that data.

Say ‘yes’ to a ‘just right’ business analytics tool that enables CFOs and finance teams to be more strategic

To be more strategic, CFOs and their finance teams need cloud-based FP&A software that streamlines everyday financial reporting, forecasting, planning, and analysis — software that’s revamped for the real world consolidates all their data to a single source and provides dynamic reporting and analysis to offer insights into finance, profitability, and more.

They also need an FP&A tool that’s scalable, grows with the needs of their companies, enables them to get a complete picture of the business in real-time, detect anomalies, and draw insights from the data so they can make fact-based decisions and become more profitable.