Why the CFO should put purpose at the centre of change


Oracle director Nick Jackson says efficiency and resilience will help CFOs embrace change.

An organisation’s purpose should be the heart of every decision, no matter how big or small. For every short-term decision a CFO makes, they should also be thinking about the long-term impact – both on the business and, crucially, on customers.

CFOs should enable their teams to be as close as possible to customers, to be the partner they can trust to support them through uncertainty. 89% of CFOs now say levels of uncertainty are high, more than 2.5x that of late 2019. More than ever, customers and the rest of the business want to counteract this uncertainty with success. This relies on putting purpose first.

Customer success

If customers’ priorities are shifting, this is a clear signal to shift your operations. Reframing your operations in line with customer needs helps the CFO re-evaluate how efficient the business is. While initial cuts have already been made, CFOs should look to address any inefficiencies and their impact on performance before committing to further cost-cutting.

Two of the biggest drains on efficiency are dated systems and lengthy processes, from their impact on supply chains, which we explore in detail here, to IT operations or the finance function itself. Any areas of inefficiency can be identified by centralising data from across the business. Once any inefficiencies have been uncovered, the CFO do what it takes to put them right.

Say you discover the finance team spends more time chasing supplier payments than speaking to customers. This isn’t helping either business. If CFOs look to automation to take on some of the manual work, they could free up their team’s time to build these customer relationships . This would reduce time frames and errors, and still promise results.

Here, reframing operations with customers at the centre means CFOs can focus on efficiency, improve performance, and achieve the organisation’s purpose. Most importantly, all of this helps deliver customer success.

Lead with change

Once the CFO and finance team has built a closer relationship with customers, their needs can also be addressed by the rest of the business. It’s not finance’s job alone. This could be collaborating with the CIO and R&D teams, to ensure any future innovations align with customer strategies as well as the business’ purpose. Or it could mean working more closely with HR to ensure the business can meet changing customer demands, which we explore more here.

What comes from good collaboration is resilience. Resilience is a stand-out trait that customers look for in a partner, and the backbone of purpose. The CFO should aim to combine data and human insights from across the business, and its customer base, to get a real picture of what’s working and what isn’t, and how they can succeed now and in the future. This is key to building a resilient business.

Efficiency and resilience will help CFOs embrace change while maintaining a steadfast focus on the future. Doing this successfully will prove to customers that you are the partner that can lead them through this crisis. In turn, they’ll know you can deliver once it’s over – which will help your business thrive too.

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