Richard Sampson, SVP EMEA at insightsoftware, explains why the role of the CFO has expanded and how the CFO can become a storyteller when armed with the right data.
Richard Sampson, SVP EMEA, insightsoftware
Decades ago, the perception of the CFO was as the “head bookkeeper” and in many organisations their strategic impact was limited to simply “looking at and presenting the numbers” and recommending departmental improvements.
But the role has expanded.
The finance team is now made up of stewards, technologists, data scientists, strategists, and catalysts – to name but a few.
A 2018 McKinsey survey said that CFOs report the number of functions reporting to them has risen from four to six since 2016. During that same period, twice as many CFOs report having primary responsibility for their company’s digital initiatives. That would have been unheard of at the turn of the century.
So why is this?
It’s because the finance team is now incredibly agile as they start to diversify their software stack to make a raft of business decisions.
If you think about it, every department relies on financial data for decision making. Given that the CFO is at the nexus of a company’s data ecosystem, it only makes sense for that person to take the lead on re-imagining how data reporting works.
And when armed with the right data, the CFO becomes something different altogether: a storyteller.
Once upon a time in finance
You might wonder what storytelling has to do with finance.
Well, CFOs and their finance teams are charged with assembling data into a clear and accurate story of the company. Like any good narrative, this story will be a complete arc of where the company has been, where it is right now, and ever more critically, where it could head in the future.
But you can’t just tell any story: It has to be the right story – and that requires knowing your data inside and out.
A powerful narrator
Unleashing a powerful narrative means enhancing the usual way of presenting data. For example, a monthly financial statement shared as a static PDF with a select few footnotes here and there can be interpreted by most, but doesn’t tell the full story of what is happening in an organisation. Effective financial storytelling should be about a data story arc from beginning to end, guiding executives directly to the key insights and activities that sit behind their data. Adding interactivity further enhances decision making, providing the CFO with easy access to supporting data, so they can answer questions as they occur.
This is where CXO Software and the power of automated EPM (Enterprise Performance Management) reporting comes in handy.
Investing in world-class, automated financial reporting means organisations have 49% fewer reports, half the number of FTEs completing business performance reports, and spend 1.4 fewer days in the reporting cycle, according to the Hackett Group Business Performance Report 2018. And with these time savings and lower spend, CFOs can dedicate time to storytelling, with more time for analysis and engaging presentation.
Becoming a storyteller
Getting to the “storyteller” stage is not difficult from a technical standpoint.
We get the basics ticked off first: CXO Software connects to your EPM data source and is supported by automated data flows. This means the arduous job of collecting the data is obsolete, and data analysis takes prime position quickly, producing actionable insights for making sound decisions.
Ensuring these insights are aesthetically pleasing to the eye is also key, especially if you need a non-financial audience to grasp the crux of a story. We are visual beings after all. A dynamic EPM dashboard can enhance all aspects of the financial reporting cycle, allowing you to create storyboards that tell your story and encompass commentary from other team members to explain variances and outliers to executive management.
CXO Software is a finance-owned reporting solution that comes with a raft of best-practice content, enabling the finance team to build the right dashboard for themselves, which is fit for the right storytelling purpose.
Happily ever after
Telling the right story is also a whole lot easier when you have the right roadmap to get you there. Most award-winning novelists will share that they outlined their best-seller before they ever wrote a word. Why shouldn’t your story start the same way? Your data unlocks the story you want to tell. Having the right data backdrop, automated workflows, and visual presentation elevate the CFO from someone who stares at spreadsheets to an impassioned storyteller, driving an organisation forward based on sound decision making.
To learn more about CXO Software, visit our website here.
This article originally appeared in FinancialDirector on October 15, 2019.