BearingPoint Institute report shares insights and best practices from eight finance chiefs

Amsterdam, June 21, 2016 – European CFOs risk losing influence to marketing, IT and other business heads because they are not making full use of digital technology to provide chief executives with more strategic insights, value analysis and efficient processes, a report by BearingPoint Institute states. However, 75% of CFOs think digital has a significant impact on their business.1

As digital technologies (including software for analysing data in real time, tracking social media interactions with clients, and cloud computing) transform businesses, CFOs are ideally placed to focus more on strategy, analysis and predictions leveraging on their understanding of data and on their un-conflicted “guardian of the rule” position.

The changing roles of the CFOs

These technological and business developments mark the biggest changes in the role of CFOs for the last few decades. Customer-facing products and services, which boards believe will improve sales and profits, are getting more funding. In contrast, many of the CFO’s traditional activities are struggling to compete for boardroom funding against IT and marketing departments, which are seen as more innovative and integral to company strategy and profits.

However, our report finds that a minority of CFOs are breaking out of the confines of their traditional role. These pioneers are using digital technology and new business procedures, ranging from mobile apps/platforms and real-time analytic software to cloud computing and process robotics, to better explain what is going on now and what may happen in the future. This shift in their role makes them more indispensable to CEOs and is creating new ways to measure and improve company performance.

Digital trailblazers

Many CFOs find their field of vision crowded with rear view mirrors. Instead of being a strategic business partner to the CEO, transactional and retrospective tasks receive the lion’s share of attention and investment,

Damien Palacci, Partner at BearingPoint

Early adopters are collecting not just historical data but real-time data, drawing inferences using sophisticated algorithms that far exceed human analytical capabilities. Alongside rear-view mirrors, they are building powerful ‘heads-up displays’ enabling them to look ahead and project informed views based on predictions, simulations and data analytics.

Johannes Vogel, Director at BearingPoint

Real-time analysis of financial data is giving CEOs a more up-to-date picture of company performance. Also, CFOs are using big data technologies to give a broader view of business performance, including non-financial metrics such as consumer behaviour.

The role of the CFO these days must be much closer to the business, frequently even with direct interactions with the customer to check up on how happy he is with the company interaction experience, and to jointly define solutions.

Oliver Deleker, Head of Finance at Nordzucker 2


1 BearingPoint CFO Survey 2013/2014:
2 BearingPoint Institute „The exponential CFO“

Smart data, smarter companies

The transformation of the CFO role for the digital age is still in its infancy. Nevertheless, our report (based on interviews with CFOs at medium-sized and multi-billion euro companies) found similarities in the approach of innovative and digitally-savvy CFOs, including:

  • Use of software tools (such as Wdesk, Smart Notes, or even Google Analytics) to collate and organize an ever-growing mountain of information from documents, financial accounts and social media. The information is shared and integrated with workflow and collaboration technology to help achieve tasks and monitor workers’ access to data.
  • Use of software automation, rules engines and robotics (for instance Redwood Roboclose) alongside renewed ERP technologies such as S/4 HANA. The technologies are cutting time compiling financial reports from months or weeks to days. CFOs and their finance staff have more time to understand what the financial data means for the business.
  • Increased use of financial reporting “factories” or shared service centers, which use their critical size to cut costs and speed up financial reporting and the processing business transactions. Having documentation, approval and commentary in one place can help companies automate more than 70% of business tasks that were previously done manually.
  • Access to performance information via smartphones and tablets at any time at any place through mobile platforms and apps, leveraging cloud potential with new solutions such as Anaplan, Tidemark and new offerings from traditional vendors.

Read the full BearingPoint Institute paper here:

About the BearingPoint Institute

Founded in 2009, the BearingPoint Institute is an incisive, authoritative voice on business-critical topics, bringing together the finest minds from both within and outside BearingPoint. The Institute's ambition goes beyond traditional 'thought leadership’: we aim to equip business leaders with actionable insights and advance the science of management by combining our consultant’s experience 'in the field' with research into topical business issues.

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