By Kimberly Simms, Chief Customer Officer at Planful

It’s hard to believe that years before the challenges of the last 18 months even began, the finance and accounting community was already buzzing about how chief financial officers were increasingly being asked to do the impossible.

Now, CFOs have a very different take on what it means to do the impossible. Putting numerous detailed plans in place for future scenarios that may or may not happen is part of daily life normality. 

The smartest and most forward-looking CFOs have done more than grow accustomed to the uncertainty in the business landscape. They have acquired the right people, processes, and technology to make sure their business strategy thrives. Regardless of whatever future scenario comes to pass, today’s CFOs have 3 major priorities:

1. How do you get more effective & efficient?

A lot of professionals across the spectrum were caught flat-footed in recent times, with many realizing that the old way of doing things no longer works. Flaws were exposed in our healthcare system, education system, our government, and elsewhere. 

The office of the CFO was no exception. When budgeting and planning cycles accelerated, some CFOs found their legacy or spreadsheet-based systems could not keep up with the new pace. Frequent scenario planning became increasingly important as the world grew more uncertain, and many CFOs were hindered by siloed processes and a lack of accessible data.

Today’s leading CFOs have decided to make substantive changes to modernize processes and technology, to not only increase efficiency and efficacy by leaving antiquated tools behind, but also so they can react with speed and agility—no matter what is being asked of them.

2. How are you contributing to the business and elevating organizational financial IQ?

At Planful’s virtual user conference, Perform 2021, we are sharing tips and thought leadership from industry experts on how to help your organization stay ahead of changes and elevate the financial IQ of the organization, as uncertainty continues. Sessions will focus on how to:

  • Recognize opportunities for the business. 
  • Lead teams through change.
  • Create a proactive data-driven culture.
  • Build competencies to plan continuously. 

Following these tips is important to raising financial IQ, but it’s far too much to take on for those still working with countless spreadsheets or antiquated legacy tools. Staying ahead means giving your teams modern technologies built for purpose—and doing it now. 

With technology platforms that combine financial planning and operational planning—and are infused with data that informs fast-decision making–CFOs can work with leaders in all corners of the business to spot new opportunities and make decisions that help the company scale. It’s possible to realize this quickly and see value within weeks or even days, quickly increasing knowledge outside of the finance organization. This allows for better, faster, and more informed decision making.

3. How can you ensure you’re motivating, retaining, and managing a high performing team, in an ever-changing landscape?

If there’s a “new normal” for the CFO, it’s doing the impossible. It’s budgeting for an increasingly remote and global workforce, while navigating “The Great Resignation.” It’s working with leaders across the business to educate and enable them to adapt to an ever-changing landscape and execute a more resilient business strategy. It’s asking high-performing teams to make more decisions—and make them faster—with less information.

While some CFOs may want to throw up their hands in dismay, as their finance and accounting employees tediously and slowly pore over piles of spreadsheets, leading CFOs are embracing the challenges of what motivating, retaining, and managing a high performing team requires. 

They are tackling these challenges with modern, fit-for-purpose technologies that help retain and attract digital natives. These individuals prefer to operate in a connected world and are not willing to adopt painstakingly manual ways of working.  

Doubling Down on Growth

Now is the time to accelerate back office digital transformation and plan for growth. “Accelerate Now” is the theme of Planful Perform 2021 this year. We’re giving the podium to finance and accounting professionals who have already put technology in place to run a business in a world that’s impossible to predict. This is especially crucial as these leaders are at the center of many critical choices across the business.  

CFOs are expected to steadily guide the ship, armed with many growth scenarios and projections at their fingertips, ready to deliver them to the CEO and board more frequently than ever. CFOs can’t predict the future, and they might often get future state projections wrong. But, by being agile and frequently assessing a range of scenarios with leadership, they will most certainly be directionally correct. 

These are the leaders in the Office of the CFO that we are celebrating at Perform 2021, they are amongst the most forward-looking finance executives in business today. Our community knows that while our day-to-day lives and daily routines may be shifting constantly, it doesn’t mean pausing work, life, or progress toward goals. Since the future is not growing more certain, the way we plan for the future is the thing that must change. 

Finance and accounting professionals used to have a different definition of “doing the impossible.” But what they are doing on a daily basis now is far more difficult—and that trajectory of difficulty is expected to continue. Fortunately, many leaders are solving these three major priorities by putting the right people, processes, and technologies in place. These are the CFOs who are bold enough to take action and embrace the challenges at hand.