Dear CFO, it's time to think about the future of finance.

Are you a Business Partner, Storyteller, Data Modelling Analyst, Data Scientist or Transformation Lead?

Dear CFO,

As new technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine learning (ML) continue to shape the financial landscape, the finance function must go through a significant transformation to keep up with the evolving market. 

The finance function of the future will play a key role as the custodian of performance and will embody five key roles:  Business Partner, Storyteller, Data Modelling Analyst, Data Scientist and Transformation Lead.

Let's delve into these roles

The Business Partner plays the role of a bridge between your organizations, its market, and its management team.  They act as an advisor and should have a holistic understanding of your organization and its competitive landscape.  They will require strong business acumen, critical thinking, and a robust business understanding that brings an outside view in, spending less time explaining the numbers and more time working with the business.

To achieve this understanding, early investment in your leaders of tomorrow is essential.  Ensure they spend time in various departments such as sales, marketing, and production.  The ideal Business Partner also has a thorough understanding of accounting, treasury, and IT environments, making them well-rounded and effective.

An essential characteristic of a good business partner is being proactive.  It is all about being proactive and identifying new opportunities for added-value services that can help the company to achieve its goals.  To be proactive, finance professionals need to keep their ears to the ground and stay up-to-date with the latest market trends and strategies.

The Storyteller is the emerging role that is becoming increasingly important in the finance organization.  Once upon a time, in the world of finance, numbers and spreadsheets ruled the day.  But as companies began to realize the importance of effectively communicating their financial performance to stakeholders, the role of Storyteller emerged. They bring value to the company by adding the “why” behind the numbers.  Due to organizations’ increasingly complexity and the number of available KPI’s, it is getting more difficult to convey a clear message without getting lost in the details.  

Effective storytelling of finance analytics starts with a clear description of a problem with proposed improvement ideas.  The Storyteller facilitates the decision-making process by inserting recommendations and decision-making points and provides contextual comparison to peers and other details the audience can relate to.  Storyteller visualizes the organization as a character from a book, making it memorable and highlighting essential metrics tailored for the audience.

The Data Modelling Analyst is an ERP power user able to develop powerful models that enable fast decision-making while driving business opportunity and impact.  By becoming proficient in finding and expressing data-driven insights, they produce improvements in the decision process.  They are data experts and play a critical role in the finance function of the future.

The Data Scientist acts as a translator between Finance and the IT Finance Team, focusing on AI and machine learning (ML) with a strong knowledge of the mechanism behind it, and a deep understanding of the organization’s data lake.  The Data Scientist has a significant rope to play in predictive analytics, using lessons from the past to run various scenarios trying to predict what could happen, resulting in significant reduction in planning /budget time and burden.

The Transformation Lead is responsible for driving the organization forward and holding leaders accountable.  A Transformation Lead must have a thorough understanding of the organization’s current state and where it wants to go.  They should act as a role model, inspiring employees’ behavior to encourage and embed change into the organization’s culture.

Although not mandatory, any significant transformation should have someone appointed to lead the change, significantly improving chances of success by enabling change acceptance, increasing team agility, and helping break down silos.

As CFO, there are two aspects to focus on to prepare the next generation of Finance.  Firstly, auditing systems to increase the ability to leverage all information available in a reliable data lake is essential.  Second, developing a career path for the team to generate a holistic view of the spider web career path  by exposing key talents to all areas of the organization.  It is also important to invest in the development of your team’s soft skills to empower them to become the next generation of best-in-class Business Partner and Storyteller.

In conclusion

The finance function of the future will require a shift away from traditional roles towards a focus on business partnership, storytelling, and the use of AI and ML to derive insights from data.  Successful CFOs will embrace this transformation, build a team of exceptional talent, and lead their organization into a new era of financial leadership.

I hope this brief has been informative as I believe these changes in finance will impact your finance function in the future.

This article was written for GENCFO by Christine Fromont, NS Franchise Finance Head (CFO) at Novartis Pharma. 

Christine co-led the development of mid and long-term strategic plans at Novartis Pharma, optimized the portfolio through BD&L, M&A, go-to-market models, and divestments, and led the Franchise Finance Leadership Team worldwide. She is also a trainer for the Novartis Finance Academy, where she shares her expertise in storytelling and business partnering excellence.

Any views or opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any companies for which the author has been and is working.

We are delighted that Christine will be speaking at the GENCFO Summit on May 24th, so to hear more from Christine on future talent register for her session here.


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