The role of the CFO: Change is afoot for finance and the cloud

Cloud technology is revolutionising the way companies do business, including the way they store, process and manage data. As a result, organisations are reaping the benefits of cloud, whether its increased flexibility, collaboration or reduced costs. Despite these benefits, there is one department that has historically been reluctant to embrace the cloud – finance and its CFO.

[clickToTweet tweet=”73 percent of #CFOs said that they would now trust the #cloud to store financial #data. #Finance is more eager than ever to learn about how cloud #technology can make a more #strategic and meaningful impact on their #organisation.” quote=”73 percent of CFOs said that they would now trust the cloud to store financial data. Finance is more eager than ever to learn about how cloud technology can make a more strategic and meaningful impact on their organisation.”]

According to Adaptive Insights’ CFO survey revealing confidence relative to data and technology, 73 percent of CFOs said that they would now trust the cloud to store financial data. This is more than double the number of CFOs who trusted cloud three years ago (33 percent). It is clear that despite previous concerns, finance is more eager than ever to learn about how cloud technology can make a more strategic and meaningful impact on their organisation.

Moving towards cloud

Finance practitioners are becoming increasingly drawn towards cloud technology in recent years, not least because it frees them from the back-office, number-crunching roles, to positions in which they increasingly generate insights and analysis that have a direct impact on business results. Businesses are demanding more from their finance teams and at a facer pace, but having to deal with a large number of Excel spreadsheets means they often lack the agility and time on analysing performance. With cloud-empowered planning, finance teams can make the well-needed shift away from labour-intensive static planning.

Also top of mind for many finance professionals is exploring ways to efficiently integrate data to establish a single source of truth and further streamline manual tasks so there is more time for strategic analysis, forecasting and scenario planning. According to Adaptive Insights’ CFO survey, 60 percent of CFOs indicated data integration as the top technology hurdle that most stands in the way of getting actionable reporting information. Relying on manual spreadsheets only gets them so far to deliver quality, and relevant and actionable data to stakeholders, while cloud technology delivers data that can be relied upon.

Other key areas of focus for finance are workforce planning and top-line planning. These are issues in which finance has often played a limited supporting role in the past. However, now that finance professionals can produce a range of scenarios and forecasts – such as the impact of Brexit on business – they are being positioned as the core of the strategic brain trust at many organisations.

Skills and collaboration

Finance no longer shies away from soft skills. Indeed, finance professionals often have a reputation for lacking key soft skills, such as communication and collaboration. However, many question whether finance teams have just been limited by the tools it has traditionally used. While Excel and other static planning tools have a place in this world, they can often be inefficient at generating insights that lead to great collaboration and interaction. Add to that the fact that manual processes are so time-consuming that there is often no chance for meaningful analysis, and it is little wonder that the stereotype of finance huddled in solitary cubicles has taken hold.

The persistence of this challenge was demonstrated in Adaptive Insights’ CFO survey, which revealed that 77 percent of CFOs said major business decisions have been delayed due to stakeholders not having access to data in a timely manner. Cloud technology has opened new possibilities for finance to make a big impact. The fast, easy and powerful capabilities of cloud solutions provide finance with actionable data and insights that encourage better collaboration and provide a seat at the table with internal partners and leaders.

There is a growing expectation that finance will deliver the story behind the numbers, crafting narratives that provide context and clarity on what the data means to the organisation – both now and in the future. And finance practitioners are learning that they do not have to be remarkable orators. They can add significant value by simply becoming more well-rounded and expert in developing metrics and forecasts that shed light on strategic decisions and future plans. Put simply, as the game changes in finance, better collaborative skills are fast becoming core competencies. By honing them, finance practitioners will bolster their profiles and, ultimately, their careers.

Build a community

Cloud technology has opened the door for finance departments to make an unprecedented impact on business results. Since many finance professionals will be wading into unchartered waters, it is up to the finance community to offer up thoughts on building cloud technology into their business model. After all, it makes sense for finance to benefit from a community of like-minded professionals.

Ultimately, sharing ideas and best practices, tackling new challenges and networking are invaluable, and will make all finance teams much more efficient. Whether they do that via online or in-person interactions, it is the people who are eager to learn, collaborate, and build an engaged community that will make the biggest and last difference.

Rob Douglas, VP for UK & I for Adaptive Insights
As vice president of Adaptive Insights for the UK and Ireland, Rob is responsible for leading operations and customer satisfaction within the UK and Ireland market.  With more than twenty years in the financial planning and data analytics industry he is completely adept at understanding customer painpoints with legacy systems and is a specialist at identifying ways to alleviate these.  Prior to his role at Adaptive Insights, Rob spent more than seven years at IBM within their Business Analytics unit, following IBM's acquisition of Cognos, where Rob had spent nearly five years working with companies to do more with their data.

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