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The evolution of the Chief Financial Officer

People in business attire going over numbers in a meeting using the Surface Hub.


With Digital Transformation changing the way businesses operate, executive roles are changing just as rapidly to meet today’s challenges head on. Organizations that fall behind risk losing market share to their competition. The chief financial officer (CFO) role has emerged as a key change agent within organizations for spearheading transformation. CFOs are the rising superstars of the business world: the starting quarterbacks of strong and effective executive teams.

The evolution of the CFO role began during the financial downturn of 2008: as budgets shrank and spending oversight grew, a keen financial mind was invaluable in steering organizations. Possessing insights crucial for growth or even survival, the CFO’s importance began to grow. Boards demanded deeper insights, closer attention to operations, and more informed decision-making.

The perception of CFOs has shifted too, from that of a number cruncher to a business partner, placing equal importance on financial and compliance matters as they do on strategy and vision. As their role continues to grow, their vision often intersects with and informs unexpected departments such as human resources and information technology. As the arbiters of business spending, their decisions help organizations pick the right products to run leaner and smarter, preventing projects or programs from becoming costly and complicated. CFOs have quickly become regarded as agents of digital transformation, a necessary and valued player that can help businesses thrive and adapt to rapid change.

With their increased importance and expanded responsibilities, CFOs also face increased scrutiny. External and internal sources expect CFOs to demonstrate business leadership in addition to mastery of their core competencies. Fortunately, modern technology has enabled advances in communication, data collection, and real time analytics—making it easier for CFOs to pinpoint important data, collaborate seamlessly throughout organizations, and make more informed decisions. They enable and empower those around them, take charge of developing talent, and make critical decisions. Instead of poring over past performance, they increasingly help predict and model the growth and future of their organizations.

Solutions like Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations empower CFOs to focus on what matters. Horizontal and collaborative leadership, shared insights, accessible data, and increased teamwork allow for more flexibility and a wider range of input.

With keen insights and a long history of “righting the ship,” the prominence of the CFO will only continue to grow in the coming years. In a rapidly changing environment, filled with uncertainty, a strategic and empowered CFO can change the game completely. Learn more from these resources designed specifically for CFOs and Finance organizations:

  • The CFO Spotlight Series highlights how valuable the role has become, and the strategies CFOs have been using to drive digital transformation in their organizations.
  • For CFOs thinking about how technology can help overcome challenges and elevate business performance, the 2019 Financial Trends Report investigates the trends that will help finance professionals better evaluate and manage risk, build innovative corporate strategies, and grow their businesses.