This article initially appeared in The Insight Forum Blog on July 9, 2013.
“Until you can manage time, you can manage nothing else,” warned noted management consultant Peter Drucker. Yet 38% of CFOs cited time management due to competing priorities as their biggest work challenge, according to a survey of 1,400 CFOs at US companies in 2011 by Robert Half Management Resources.
One reason frequently cited for lack of time is the changing role of CFOs in organizations. The passage of Sarbanes-Oxley, the financial pressures from the 2009 recession, and the need of accurate financial projections and scenario planning has expanded duties and responsibilities of CFOs for companies of all sizes.
Changing Responsibilities of a CFO
Historically, the role of a CFO was that of a watchdog who ensured that the organization’s books of account were accurate and that its assets were properly valued and protected. It required internal (management) and external (regulators, shareholders) reporting to be completed accurately and on-time. With the perspective of past events and a reactive mindset, the CFO’s focus was directed internally, with staff dedicated to accounting (controller), funds management (treasurer), and compliance (taxes and fees).
Today, CFOs are expected to provide those same services to the organization, but with a new perspective, style, and mindset. He or she is expected to bring a strategic element to the mix, anticipating future opportunities and risks, with an expanded relationship with the CEO, board, and regulators. Rather than just recording events, the CFO is expected to add tangible value to the corporation by working closely with operating units in operational and strategic partnerships. In short, the CFO is expected to have strategic influence, global fluency, proactive finance strategies, accurate operational projections, and operational intelligence, in addition to continuing to provide accurate, on-time financial statements and managerial information.