CFOs are now business value architects rather than cost controllers — and their operating models are being reshaped to reflect that. To re-architect outdated operating models, CFOs are finding new ways to adapt their organizations to a new value proposition. In many cases, that can be an uphill climb.
At a recent CFO conference sponsored by Accenture Strategy at Harvard University, I heard from CFOs about how digitalization is affecting operating models. Many finance chiefs are looking for change and want to move beyond traditional models to those that drive growth and value. But are hesitant – afraid of disrupting the business when the original model is already working.
Some attendees were concerned about taking the business forward under contradictory mandates, making it difficult for them to focus sharply on re-architecting the way their firms operate. They question how to drive growth while also running traditional finance functions, such as quarterly reporting and budgeting. They wonder how to control risk but fuel digitalization, which can actually fuel risk.
To begin to lead change in their organizations, CFOs need a better understanding of changing market dynamics. While they understand that digitalization is driving corporate change, many finance chiefs still feel they need much greater knowledge of emerging digital technologies.
Some have experimented with new ways to provide growth but are looking for more experimentation and agility in financial systems and acquisitions so they can have greater involvement in breakthrough projects.
Even though changing the business will involve an ongoing education for CFOs in the coming years, there are a few first steps to consider when assessing how to shift to an operating model that creates value successfully.
Despite their doubts, the CFOs at the conference agreed that their primary operations focus is no longer about accounting or spreadsheets. It’s about becoming a predictive, analytic powerhouse that generates value for the organization.
Christian Campagna is a senior managing director for CFO and enterprise value at Accenture Strategy.