Sage reveals: CFOs need to collaborate within organisations to remain resilient

Panel of experts agrees that the lines between CFOs' and CEOs' roles are increasingly blurring.

On 6 August, FutureProof SA CFO Lerato Nkabinde, Sage Africa & Middle East executive vice president Pieter Bensch, Sage chief technology officer Aaron Harris, and Fin24 editor Ron Derby explored the Sage CFO 3.0 research study, highlighting the fundamental shift in the role of the CFO.

The research presented in an exclusive virtual event, hosted by Sage, showed how finance professionals are navigating the current disruptive business environment while supporting their organisations to adapt faster, uncover opportunities and realise new levels of efficiencies. 

Pieter said that the role of the CFO has evolved from managing compliance and accounting activities to providing strategic leadership.

“The role of the CFO has changed dramatically from a number cruncher to a driver of digital transformation,” said Lerato. “We have had to use our business acumen skills to help drive our organisations’ strategies instead of leaving it to the CEO.”

Ron said that he used to believe that CFOs don’t make good CEOs, because they couldn’t see beyond the numbers. However, he believes that CFOs today have a much clearer insight into their business and a much broader mandate. 

The panel agreed that the lines between the CFO and CEO role had been increasingly blurring as CFOs take on similar responsibilities to their CEOs. 

Pieter said that there is much greater collaboration at c-level, between the CHRO, CFO, CEO and CIO around driving the strategy and digital transformation of the business. “Where this collaboration overlaps, we see the blurred lines.”

He explained that his finance director Jordaan Burger is getting a lot more involved in the company’s strategic decisions and technology projects, whereas in the past, he was only responsible for the Finance function in the organisation.

Aaron explained that, in this digital world, everyone in the business needs to cooperate. “Designing that product takes a partnership between the CFO, CTO and everyone else in the business.”

He referred to a board meeting with Sage’s global leaders, in which the chairman of the board asked him whether the CFO was giving Aaron all the money that he needs to achieve his innovation and agenda as the CTO. “My honest answer to the chairman was that, what’s more important than the amount of funding that I get, is that we’re all aligned within the leadership team around the activities, initiatives and priorities. I don’t want to spend that innovation budget ineffectively or inefficiently.” 

Lerato agreed with Aaron around the alignment of the exco, saying that the role of the CFO has become that of a value-adding business partner. “In order to be a value-adding partner, you need to collaborate with all the stakeholders in the business so that you can understand what is happening within the organisation,” she said. “When you get to the final impact, which is the numbers, you already know what happened and can provide valuable insights for the future.”

Keeping CFOs up at night

Covid-19 is creating new challenges for South African CFOs, including ensuring compliance across a decentralised network, and a distributed workforce. With senior financial decision-makers involved with remote worker management, compliance has risen to the top of the agenda.

“It is the CFO’s role to ensure that the company and its customers’ data is safe,” Lerato said. “However, with the increasing uptake of digital transformation and AI, some of that pressure is taken away from CFOs.”

Riding the technology wave

Sage’s research showed that nine out of 10 CFOs welcome automation performing more of their day-to-day accounting tasks in future, and 40 percent believe that AI and machine learning will improve forecasting and financial planning even further.

“Too much of the way we talk to finance leaders is in technical jargon. We talk about AI and machine learning as if they are these magic capabilities. But we don’t actually explain what they do and what problems they solve, and we don’t put it into terms that matter for the business leaders,” Aaron said. “Machine learning is not an outcome that we all should be looking to achieve; it’s a technology that can enable these great business outcomes.”

With everything changing, especially from a technological perspective, CFOs need to have certain skills to ensure they can weather the Covid-19 storm without lifeguards. 

Lerato believes that, with everything that is changing, CFOs have to be adaptable and strategic in everything that they do. “Technology is supposed to help CFOs make strategic and value-adding decisions with real-time information. So, they need to be able to think about the future and be resilient.” 

This, says Pieter, is what Sage’s research aimed to reveal and support. “As finance enters the CFO 3.0 era, CFOs need tools that enable them to deliver on their core competencies, and be confident in driving the digital agenda throughout their organisation.”

Supporting CFOs on their journey to a digital future

In August, Sage released its award-winning Sage Intacct to the South African market, providing CFOs with a new platform addressing the challenges finance professional face in digital transformation. 14 Business partners will be ready to help Sage customers in South Africa unlock the power and value of this financial management platform. 

“As a cloud-based financial management platform designed for and by CFOs and finance professionals, Sage Intacct provides deep multi-dimensional accounting, automation for efficient financial operations, sophisticated visibility for real-time decision making and a low cost of ownership,” says Pieter. 

Aaron says: “We are committed to providing financial leaders with tools that not only enable them to digitalise and automate core processes in their function, but also to drive the strategic growth agenda in their business. Sage Intacct empowers CFOs to streamline complex financial processes and deliver the rich financial and operational insights they need to scale and transform their organisations.” 

Earning its reputation as a leading accounting and financial management software, for the past four years, Sage Intacct has achieved the highest product score for Core Financials for the Lower Midsize Enterprises use case in the Gartner report ‘Critical Capabilities for Cloud Core Financial Management Suites for Midsize, Large, and Global Enterprises’. 

Sage Intacct has also been named a Leader in the new IDC MarketScape: Worldwide SaaS and Cloud-Enabled Midmarket Finance and Accounting Software Vendor Assessment. Gartner published its 2020 Magic Quadrant for Cloud Core Financial Management Suites and Sage Intacct was again positioned in the Visionaries Quadrant.

For more information go to the Hub.