Strategy, Legal & Operations

The role of CFO will never be the same again. Here’s why

Discover how the role of the CFO is quickly evolving and learn why automation can make life easier for you and your team.

Today’s finance leaders face tough challenges—from economic uncertainty and shifting compliance, to cybersecurity risks and team performance.

Pair this with the introduction of new technologies and an abundance of financial data, and the role of the CFO is quickly evolving.

Many are finding themselves with new responsibilities, and the potential affect they can have on the direction of their organisation is growing fast.

In this article, we explore what this reimagined CFO role looks like, and the importance of automation in your effort to fulfil it.

We cover the following:

The changing role of a CFO

The days of a CFO being confined to the back office are gone. Businesses now expect them to take a more strategic role and make decisions that drive performance, accelerate growth, and push innovation.

This elevates the impact you can have on your organisation, and your role in growing its profitability.

These new responsibilities are changing what it means to be a CFO.

Now, you need to take more ownership of data, reporting, and analytics, so you can make sure your decisions are well-informed and lead to better outcomes.

Alongside new duties, you still need to continually evolve and enhance the performance of your finance department. This includes driving digital transformation to give teams technology that help them do their best work.

As a strategic CFO, you’ll have a bigger effect on the business than ever before. While this is exciting, it also means you’ll be spinning more plates.

So, it’s vital you find ways to work efficiently and unlock time, energy, and focus for the most valuable tasks.

Automation helps you do exactly that.

By offering a way to balance your responsibilities, automation can ensure you deliver that impact and drive your career forwards.

Finance automation opportunities

Technology can be used to automate work in almost every area of business. But when it comes to finance, the benefits are widespread.

This is true for you, and the professionals in your teams.

There are three main ways automation delivers value:

  • It can lift the burden of financial admin, so you and your team can focus on more strategic tasks
  • By eliminating manual data entry and other repetitive tasks, it reduces human error, making your financial data more accurate and reliable
  • Financial processes can be executed much faster, allowing you to quickly surface the insights you need to make confident decisions.

This makes automation a key opportunity for any strategic CFO, facilitating both business success and improved employee performance.

Automation benefits for businesses include:

  • Increased operational efficiency
  • Cost savings from reduced manual work and fewer losses from human errors
  • Improved data entry and accuracy that reduces risk of errors in financial calculations, and reporting
  • Time savings that allow people to focus on activities that require human judgment and creativity
  • Enhanced data analysis and informed decision-making
  • Greater compliance thanks to fewer errors and potential violations
  • A better ability to scale the business without incurring costs
  • Gaining competitive advantage by being able to respond faster to market changes and customer needs.

Automation benefits for employees include:

  • Less time spent on manual tasks and more time for engaging tasks
  • Enabling professional development by giving people the opportunity to learn new skills, take on more challenging projects, and grow professionally
  • Improved work-life balance
  • Increased job satisfaction, engagement, and motivation
  • Reduced stress by alleviating risks associated with manual and repetitive tasks
  • Better collaboration and communication among team members by providing a centralised place for data sharing and task management
  • Empowerment and autonomy of their work.

Despite these benefits, our research found that more than 50% of finance leaders are yet to automate processes around their top pain points.

Those with the least automation spend only 18% of their time on value-added tasks, while those with the most automation spend almost 58%.

Automating the financial close

If you’re ready to embrace automation and thrive in your role as a CFO, where do you start?

Well, there are endless tasks and processes that can be automated using quality financial software. Look for areas where either you or your team spend a significant amount of time on manual tasks.

In a Sage research report, Fast close. Faster insights, we asked more than 1,000 finance professionals to share their thoughts on people, processes, and technology within their organisations to see where automation has huge potential.

A great example is the financial close, which typically involves a lot of manual activities and happens on a regular basis (at the end of every month and year).

Our research found that the average company takes seven working days to close its books—a figure that has largely held steady for the past few years. Those seven days translate to roughly a third of your working time each month, or the months a year—an average of 720 hours.

That’s valuable time you could be spending on what really matters, including:

  • Data analysis
  • Training and personal development
  • Strategic planning
  • Team building
  • Personal wellbeing.

As well as the time you’ll free up, automating the financial close ensures your data will be ready for reporting much sooner. This means you can quickly get the insights you need to inform decisions as part of your strategic role.

“The potential to reclaim two full days each month through automation is a remarkable opportunity for CFOs and their finance teams,” says Sandi Main, senior director of product marketing at Sage.

“By leveraging automation tools and technologies, finance departments can streamline manual tasks, improve efficiency, and accelerate the closing process.

“This newfound time can then be redirected towards activities that drive value for the company, such as financial analysis, forecasting, and proactive decision-making.”

Put your data to work

To truly embody the role of a strategic CFO, you’ll need to rely on more than experience and intuition.

Though these are both essential, the responsibility to shape the future of the organisation means you’ll want some hard evidence to inform your decisions.

While automation not only gives you more time to be strategic, it also helps you surface valuable insights more quickly.

By capitalising on the financial data your business produces, you can excel in almost every area of your role, including driving financial growth, nurturing the best talent, and maintaining compliance.

An agile data-driven approach will help you manage rapid change, whether that’s sudden market shifts or changing consumer behaviour and expectations.

Automating the financial close is a great place to start, but you should explore software that also automates the generation of key financial reports and statements. This way, you’ll always have accurate information to hand, and can collaborate effectively with other stakeholders in the business.    

Final thoughts

As your role continues to expand beyond the finance function, it’ll become increasingly important to prioritise your time for the most valuable activities.

Using automation to eliminate hours of manual work will help you make a greater impact on the business, drive your career forward, and bring countless benefits to your team.

You’ll make more use of your financial data and feel confident in your strategic decisions—even when making them quickly.

But above all else, you’ll strike a balance. One that goes beyond your life at work.

Sara Arthrell, head of industry solutions marketing at Sage, concludes: “Through automation, finance leaders and their teams are empowered to lead a more balanced and fulfilling life.

“It’s about prioritising what truly matters to create a bigger impact—whether you’re building a team, developing your career, or taking better care of yourself.”

Fast close. Faster insights

In this annual report, discover how financial professionals are closing the books faster with automation and learn how you can do the same.

Download the report

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