Today there’s so much talk about disruption but how does all that relate to the CFO role? Let’s look at the CFO’s role in a company in terms of defending against, predicting and creating disruption.
The old-fashioned CFO
Starting with the old type of CFO who is focused on backward looking financial reporting, control, and compliance and how to keep up with regulation this type of CFO won’t do you much good when facing disruptive forces in your industry. The only way this CFO will help you is if disruption comes from the legislative side via de-regulation or opening of new markets. Having someone who keeps track of these developments could be of some benefit. Most often though disruption happens because someone finds a way to utilize modern technology through innovative business models. This is something an old school CFO will know nothing about.
The analytical CFO
How about the CFO that creates transparency through a deep understanding of the numbers and who knows how to lay out the land for the rest of the senior management team? Understanding exactly what goes on in your company always should make for a good defensive strategy against disruption. As soon as other companies are threatening your bottom-line the analytical CFO will pick up on it and alert the rest of the management team. This CFO will, however, lack an understanding of why disruption is happening and will not be able to offer much in terms of how to solve the problem or predict it in the first place.
The strategic CFO
As we move on through the types of CFO and their answers to disruption it is assumed that they encompass the skills of all the former types. Naturally, that will rarely be the case hence companies might prefer distinct types of CFOs depending on their approach towards disruption. The strategic CFO should both be able to offer some prediction in terms of where disruption strikes next as well as part of the solution. This is due to the understanding of the market the company operates in and how the company should develop in the coming years. The CFO will help identify what capabilities or products the company is lacking to prevail against future disruption.
The tech-savvy CFO
Clearly with a lot of disruption having it’s starting point in technology, despite the need for having an innovative business model being even more important, having a tech-savvy CFO could make all the difference in the world. A tech-savvy CFO will continuously upgrade and transform the company’s system landscape and infrastructure to give it flexibility and a constant boost to productivity. Today to be an effective CFO you need to have at least some knowledge of technology’s impact on your company. Better yet if you are completely on top of this area as you will otherwise find it hard to keep up with changing environment around you. The tech-savvy CFO will ensure you are always at least on par with the competition in terms of disruption and most likely ahead of most since it will not be technology that causes your downfall.
The disruptive CFO
The one thing a disruptive CFO does differently than the sum of all the other CFOs is asking the question of: “what comes next?” Change is constant and disruption could be lurking around the next corner however the disruptive CFO plays offense and will spend time discussing with industry peers, academics and entrepreneurs on where disruption strikes next and how your company can be part of it. The days of a CFO playing defense are over and to support the CEO best possible the CFO needs to be concerned with how to keep developing the company’s business model to not only win in the market now but also define and win in the market in the future.
Few companies have a disruptive CFO and current hiring trends would suggest that most companies on the look-out for a new CFO are only aiming for the tech-savvy one. That means if you can crack the code on how to be a disruptive CFO you will have a strong place in the market as you are offering something truly unique to a company.
What type of CFO or finance professional are you?