The Future of Finance: 10 Things CFOs Need to Consider About Technology

CFOs need accurate data for planning. Learn how today's CFOs can leverage technology and data to improve forecasting, sales compensation planning, and more.

9 min read

Technology is becoming more and more important in corporate businesses as both an enabler for competitive advantage and a means to successfully reach sales goals and drive growth. In turn, this has increased executives’ roles in the technology adoption process, specifically CFOs.

In the accounting and finance worlds, companies are beginning to dip their toes into automation tools. While most organizations are open to automation, a select few are also beginning to explore artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities.

As part of CFO Alliance’s Q2 Breakfast Roundtable Series, Xactly CFO Elizabeth Salomon participated in a Q&A to discuss the future of finance with technology and talent recruitment. Here are 10 things we learned from the roundtable discussion.

1. For effective insight, CFOs must understand their company’s key metrics/leading indicators.

In a sales-driven organization, data is extremely important. CFOs need detailed data to fully understand their company’s current health and forecast future growth and obstacles. Using leading indicators, CFOs and finance leaders can evaluate the company’s progress towards sales goals and build a plan to remedy any underperforming metrics. 

2. “It’s all about the data. Technology is just the enabler.”

As a CFO, you help determine the data you need to successfully analyze and forecast for your company. In the roundtable, Salomon said that her focus is on obtaining the right data upstream and distributing it all the way through the ERP system. Technology enables her to move that data more efficiently.

3. Most “software” problems are truly data/analysis problems.

Leaders will hear that current software needs to be replaced because metrics aren’t looking promising–“I need this software/tool to solve this problem.” When a CFO and their team are not looking at the right data and metrics, poor performance can often be blamed on the software. In reality, it is not really a software problem, but a data/analytics problem that technology solves and ultimately, enables the team to conduct more efficient analysis.

4. Is more data better? Only as long as it’s the right data.

With the right technology, the data possibilities can seem limitless. However, there’s a big difference between a surplus of data and the right data. Technology makes it much easier to gather data, but it’s important that you’re getting the data that gives insight into sales and product performance, marketing ROI, and other measures of progress towards company objectives and goals.

Use your data tools wisely to create reports that show insight and analytics of the big picture, but also provide enough detail to complete the entire data story.

5. Data doesn’t solve problems–action does.

While the term “analysis paralysis” might not be a common one, it should be one you remember and actively work to avoid. Analysis paralysis happens when companies compile insightful data and analytics, uncover issues and obstacles in their path to growth, but fail to take action to remedy poor performance.

It’s important to understand that data will help uncover problems because you can pull data to measure almost anything. However, that data will not solve those problems–only people can. Once you’ve uncovered problems, it’s company leaders’ responsibility to develop action plans and provide the means necessary to make changes and improve performance.

6. The role of main technology buyer is shifting from CIO to CFO.

Traditionally, CIOs were the buying authority for all new technology. Today, the CFO role is evolving as they are becoming the main technology buyer, especially data and analytics tools, in companies because of the their high involvement in data analysis and sales forecasting and planning.

As CFOs and finance leaders become more involved in technology adoption, it’s important to remember to step back and consider the tools you are implementing and the effects they can have on your business. Leaders should also take advantage of the benefits of involving technology users in the buying process. Input from individuals who will be using the technology can be the difference between buying the right and wrong technology tool.

7. Gathering data is one thing. Communicating data effectively is another.

Because analysis paralysis (see above) can be a big problem for companies, it’s important to focus on communicating what the data tells you and the action plan moving forward. Ultimately, the data should indicate if your incentive and territory plans are creating equal opportunities for sales reps and if they are driving the right behaviors to achieve sales objectives.

Using AI tools will help automated the data collection process. The time saved using technology should then be invested into effectively communicating metrics and next step plans, so that sales leaders and their reporting reps fully understand what is expected of them and their role in the success of the company.

8. The future of finance is data analytics and artificial intelligence.

Finance relies heavily on data and analytics to accurately forecast each year. Having the data at your fingertips will only make this job easier. The introduction of machine learning predictive analytics will help companies predict possible outcomes and make well-informed decisions based on their forecasting data.

9. Recruiting finance talent starts with the right mindset.

Recruiting for any role can prove to be a difficult task–first finding talent, then retaining them. Finance is no exception. For Xactly CFO Elizabeth Salomon, finding top finance talent isn’t always a challenge when you don’t look purely at candidates’ resumes, but rather their mindset.

Salomon said the mindset starts with her and is something she looks for in every person she hires to her team–being a business person first and a finance person second. With a business-first mindset, individuals will be driven to learn, take the analytics, and find solutions to challenge the status quo and drive for change.

10. Culture is the most important part of retaining talent.

Alongside the right attitude and mindset, culture fit is one of the most important aspects of attracting and retaining top talent in any field. Even star talent recruits will struggle to succeed in a position if they aren’t a good culture fit for your company. It’s important to find a good mix between talent, drive to learn, and culture fit when recruiting top talent in any field.

About The CFO Alliance Roundtable Series

The CFO Alliance is a certified CPE provider. As part of their membership, CFO Alliance members and colleagues gather for quarterly Breakfast Roundtable Series.

Xactly CFO Elizabeth Salomon is responsible for the overall financial strategy and direction, supporting Xactly’s growth strategy. She was featured as part of the Denver Q2 Breakfast Roundtable. Learn more about her career in finance here.