People & Leadership

3 pillars of successful CFOs: Strategic leadership, technological integration, and work-life harmony

Discover the 3 critical areas of success that constitute the foundation of contemporary financial leadership.

While CFO roles as reliable stewards of finances are indispensable, the best modern CFOs are far more potent as catalysts of transformative change.

The Sage Secrets of Successful CFOs report delves into this evolution, pinpointing the traits and strategies shared by the most influential leaders in finance.

It identifies 3 critical areas of success that constitute the foundation of contemporary financial leadership: cross-departmental collaboration, technological fusion, and, notably, achieving work-life balance.

This triad underscores the shift from a singular focus on financial management to a broader, more integrated approach.

You will be able to explore the benefit of breaking down traditional silos to foster unity, using the latest in technological advancements for greater efficiency, and, crucially, nurturing a harmonious balance between professional endeavour and personal well-being.

Here’s what we’ll cover

Redefine your strategic influence

The Secrets of successful CFOs report reveals there has been a 30% increase in cross-departmental collaboration over 5 years, with CFOs moving beyond traditional budget management to enhance teamwork and break down silos.

Championing cross-departmental collaboration with diverse perspectives lets you develop a holistic approach to problem solving and decision-making.

This shift indicates a broader trend of the finance function becoming integral to strategic planning and execution, aligning financial objectives with overall business goals.

Michell Guzegul, CFO of Empeon, says: “In an executive team, the expectation is to excel in one area and be a multi-faceted leader who can adapt and learn as needed.”

Prophix CEO Alok Ajmera adds: “The CEO-CFO partnership has traditionally been strong, but closer collaboration between the CFO and other C-suite peers, including the CISO, CMO, and CHRO, is expected.”

3 benefits of cross-departmental collaboration

Breaking down silos

Dismantling the barriers that inhibit innovation and agility encourages departments to share insights and resources.

This leads to improved efficiency and effectiveness in achieving general business objectives.

Cultivating a culture of teamwork

Collaboration nurtures a sense of belonging and commitment, driving motivation and productivity.

When individuals from different departments work together, it promotes an understanding and respect for others outside their bubble.

Driving innovation

Cross-functional teams are breeding grounds for innovative ideas.

Diverse perspectives can spark creativity, leading to groundbreaking solutions and product, service, and process improvements.

5 actionable steps for a CFO to enhance collaboration

Initiate regular inter-departmental meetings

A routine of meetings with other department heads opens dialogue and aligns departmental goals with your financial strategy.

You can identify potential synergies and areas for collaboration.

Develop cross-functional teams for specific projects

Forming teams with members from various departments, including finance, operations, and sales, will let you comprehensively measure projects for financial viability and operational and market feasibility.

Implement collaborative tools

Advanced project management and communication tools can significantly enhance collaboration.

Look for platforms that offer real-time communication, project tracking, and document sharing, making it easier for your teams to work together regardless of physical location.

Foster a collaborative mindset

Beyond structural changes, cultivating a culture that values and rewards collaboration is crucial.

Demonstrate collaborative behaviour, recognise and celebrate successes, and integrate collaboration into performance metrics.

Encourage cross-training

Facilitate opportunities for employees to learn about functions outside their department.

Cross-training enhances individual skill sets and fosters empathy and understanding across departments, contributing to a more cohesive organisational culture.

Technological integration: Own the tech-finance fusion

Technology’s role extends beyond mere efficiency.

You enjoy job satisfaction by using data to make more informed decisions, optimise financial operations, and contribute more significantly to your strategic goals.

Tech-savvy CFOs report 20% higher job satisfaction.

Sage CEO Steve Hare says: “Digitalisation powered by AI will be revolutionary and enable significant automation of business workflows.

“There will also continue to be a focus on data insights. CFOs have a lot of data and will look for more effective ways to gain insights from that data.”

“At the same time as bringing people in, you critically examine the tech you have in place and whether it’s fit for purpose today and tomorrow,” says Simone Goodman, CFO of Forecast (Sage Intacct customer).

“Does it play harmoniously with your systems, and can it scale with your business? If not, rip it out and replace it.”

3 benefits of embracing technology in finance

Enhanced efficiency and accuracy

Automation of routine tasks (such as AI-powered accounts payable automation in Sage Intacct) reduces manual error and frees up valuable time for strategic analysis and decision-making.

Improved decision-making

Advanced analytics and machine learning offer deeper insights into financial data so you can carry out more accurate forecasting and strategic planning.

Competitive advantage

Using Ai and machine learning could position your business as a leader, capable of adapting to market changes and quickly seizing opportunities.

5 actionable steps for integrating technology

Assess your current technology stack

Begin with a thorough assessment of your existing technology infrastructure.

Identify areas where processes are still manual or where existing solutions are outdated.

You may highlight significant opportunities for automation and optimisation, paving the way for more efficiency.

Invest in AI and machine learning

AI and machine learning can make financial management much less of a manual process.

Sage Intacct AP automation, outlier detection, and financial forecasting tools significantly boost operational efficiency and analytical capabilities.

You can automate complex processes, uncover insights from vast datasets, and predict future trends more accurately.

Foster a culture of continuous learning

Encouraging your team to stay updated with the latest technological trends and advancements is crucial.

Implement a learning culture through regular workshops, webinars, and courses on new finance technologies and data analytics.

This equips your team with the necessary skills and fosters an environment of innovation and adaptability.

Collaborate with IT and other departments

Effective tech-finance fusion requires a close relationship with IT departments and other stakeholders.

This collaboration ensures your technological investments are aligned with overall business objectives and that your finance team has the necessary support to implement new technologies.

Use cloud solutions

Cloud-based finance solutions like Sage Intacct offer flexibility, scalability, and security.

Transitioning to the cloud can facilitate real-time financial reporting and analysis, enhance collaboration, and reduce IT overhead costs.

Embracing cloud solutions is a strategic move towards a more agile and resilient finance function.

Work-life harmony: The balance between life and work

The balance between work and life is pivotal to your success and sustainability as a financial professional.

The report sheds light on how achieving this harmony enhances your personal satisfaction and health and significantly contributes to your effectiveness and resilience.

This equilibrium allows CFOs to operate at their best, bringing clarity, innovation, and strategic foresight without the accompanying burnout.

In recognising the importance of work-life balance, the report provides actionable insights and strategies specifically tailored for CFOs and financial professionals.

From practical advice on delegating effectively to embracing digital tools that streamline operations, it’s the start of your roadmap for surviving and thriving.

Balance the ledger of life

The report says that CFOs struggle to balance the ledger of life for professional and personal harmony, noting only 27% achieve satisfactory work-life balance, despite 95% feeling professionally successful,

Achieving a work-life balance is crucial for sustaining long-term success and personal happiness.

For CFOs, this balance is essential for your general well-being and sets a positive example for your team.

A balanced life can lead to improved focus, greater creativity, and stress reduction, enhancing overall performance and satisfaction at work and home.

“Like most CFOs, I often exceed the average of 37.5 hours each week. However, I genuinely enjoy what I do. It’s more than work,” says Lewis Dangerfield, CFO of Osprey Group (Sage Intacct customer).

Balance might include a willingness to adapt to hybrid working models. He says: “I think 2024 will be a period where CFOs need to support businesses to embed an approach that fits their needs and workforce’s expectations.”

Benefits from a balanced ledger of life

Enhanced performance

A well-rested and mentally healthy individual can perform tasks more efficiently and creatively.

Reduced burnout

Maintaining a balance can mitigate the risk of burnout, preserving your long-term health and career longevity.

Improved personal relationships

Investing time in personal relationships contributes to a supportive and fulfilling personal life, which can act as a buffer against work-related stress.

6 actionable steps for achieving a work-life balance

Prioritise and delegate

Start by evaluating your tasks to identify which ones require direct attention and which can be delegated or automated.

Use technology and lean on your team for tasks that do not necessitate your expertise, freeing time for strategic work and personal endeavours.

Set clear boundaries

Establish and communicate clear boundaries regarding your availability.

This might involve specific times when you will not respond to work emails or calls, ensuring you have uninterrupted personal time.

It’s essential to respect these boundaries consistently to cultivate a culture of respect for personal time among your team and colleagues.

Invest in personal well-being

Actively schedule time for activities that contribute to your well-being, such as exercise, pursuing hobbies, or spending quality time with family and friends.

These activities should be treated as non-negotiable appointments in your calendar, akin to important business meetings.

Embrace flexibility

The modern workplace offers flexibility regarding where and when work can be done.

Take advantage of flexible working arrangements to better integrate your work and personal life, adjusting your schedule to accommodate personal commitments.

Seek support

Don’t hesitate to seek support when needed.

This could involve professional counseling to manage stress or lean on a supportive network of friends and colleagues.

Sharing challenges and solutions can provide new perspectives and strategies for balancing responsibilities.

Reflect and adjust regularly

Work-life balance is not a one-time achievement but a continuous process.

Regularly reflect on your balance, reassessing priorities and adjusting your strategies as your professional and personal life evolves.

Final thoughts: The path forward

With a more considered strategy involving cross-departmental collaboration, successful CFOS can break down silos, unlocking new levels of innovation and efficiency.

By embracing cutting-edge technologies, they can use data analytics and automation to enhance decision-making and operational effectiveness.

And still, amid the whirlwind of corporate growth, successful CFOs remain committed to achieving a harmonious work-life balance, proving that success is not just measured by profit margins but by the well-being of the team driving those profits.

Consider work-life balance not as a luxury but as a critical element of professional excellence.

Let insights from Secrets of successful CFOs inspire you to redefine the boundaries of your role, embrace innovation, and achieve professional and personal fulfilment.

The commitment to this holistic view of leadership—where professional achievements are balanced with personal well-being—defines the essence of the modern CFO.

It’s an approach that ensures business success and will help you build a more fulfilling and sustainable career.

In pursuing excellence, remember that authentic leadership flourishes when you successfully balance the scales of your life with the needs of your business.