The CFO of 2012 will bear little resemblance to one of earlier years. Your burdens are heavier, your purview wider, and the power you wield mightier. Yet how many of you are truly prepared to step into this glaring spotlight?
Just as the role of the CFO is taking on more influence in organizations, the CFO has to take on more skills. Perhaps the best way to start off this New Year is to perform a self-assessment, and figure out the proficiencies you have and those you lack — especially if those proficiencies involve technology-related responsibilities. You also can ask your teammates and fellow executives to chime in.
Look at the plate in front of you: What projects are on there that you are wary of leading? (Remember: No one can be prepared for everything)? But be honest with yourself and those around you. Trust me, if you aren’t now, any inadequacies will become apparent soon enough, and probably at the most embarrassing and critical time for the organization.
For instance, has the board demanded more frequent and more comprehensive reports on compliance? Maybe you’re up to speed on Sarbanes-Oxley but not the Payment Card Industry’s Data Security Standard; yet both are to be featured in your review. Brush up on the nuances of the standard now. Offer to take several of your CFO peers out to lunch if they’d share their PCI expertise with you. Register for on-demand Webcasts about the subject and make sure to come up with and submit questions for the speakers.
Are you being asked to assume responsibility for IT this year? If so, you’ll want to focus your studies on areas where you’ll have a deciding vote. IT might need you to weigh in on a move to the cloud and how that would impact current architecture investments or the risk involved. If you’re just coming up to speed on the cloud, subscribe to blogs and newsfeeds that prominently debate its merits and drawbacks. Again, consult your peers about their experiences and share their feedback with your IT team.
Is this the year you deploy business intelligence across the organization? BI requires intimate knowledge of how properly aggregating data can result in better models, what-if scenarios and forecasts. Diving into this technology with no background could lead to a catastrophic and costly outcome. Instead, seek out the data management experts in your organization to educate you about analytics. They can point you in the direction of courses and seminars offered by local colleges, industry groups, or vendors to become familiar with the technology.
If this year’s goals are performance management and streamlining corporate processes, then chat it up with the business leaders closest to sourcing and acquisitions. Also, consult your professional financial industry associations for a list of seminars and trade shows on this topic. Join email lists about performance management to garner insight about how to effect change in your organization.
Ignorance will not be bliss for CFOs being tasked with more organizational responsibilities. Stay ahead of the curve by making sure you have the awareness and education to effectively lead your newly expanded team.