Top Challenges Facing CFOs in 2019

From expanding regulatory requirements to greater security risks, many CFOs will likely find new waves of work rolling in to their desks — with unprecedented scale and velocity — in 2019. How should they go about prioritizing these new responsibilities, and how can they effectively intervene in areas of daily business operations where they may not have the direct authority to do so?

In this article, we'll answer these questions and more, at the same time breaking down what CFOs today can do to not only survive but thrive in an uncertain economic environment.

Adopt the latest tech tools — or get left behind

Along with most other departments within the organization today, the world of finance and accounting is rapidly changing, with a raft of new, innovative and digitally advanced tools transforming the way day-to-day work gets done. For example, enterprises that are prepared to adopt robotic process automation (RPA) and similar tools within the finance function will see clear competitive advantages, as these tools can significantly cut down on redundant manual work while providing real-time insights into performance and standardizing processes across the board.

Yet, many finance functions today remain stuck in the past. Whatever the root cause — whether it's because they're ill-equipped to harness the latest technology breakthroughs, lack the skills to do so or regard such investments as less than urgent priorities — that's a mistake forward-thinking CFOs today can't afford to make.

Align risk with strategy

In a fast-paced digital economy characterized by constant disruption, the number and types of different business risks that confront large enterprises might seem overwhelming. And finance leaders today must start taking the reins to align such risk with overall strategy.

Why?

Part and parcel of CFOs' expanded roles in strategic planning is the expectation that finance leaders today will proactively work to ensure that wide-ranging business risks are not only assessed, but integrated into enterprise strategy. That means strategic planning must take into account business risks that could potentially derail it, as well as the potential upside such risks entail. And it also means continuously working to make processes at once more transparent and accessible to stakeholders.

Influence without authority

Despite having greater scope in terms of oversight than ever before, CFOs today may sometimes find themselves in murky water when it comes to actually influencing daily operations. And that challenge underscores why it's so important for CFOs to build relationships with wide-ranging stakeholders in order to effectively influence key outcomes, even in scenarios where they may lack responsibility for direct oversight.

As an example, the finance function is typically divorced from day-to-day planning and execution of business teams in most large organizations today. Yet, the finance team can clearly provide any number of valuable insights that should be incorporated into decision-making. Which initiatives should be prioritized, because of potential bottom-line impact? Which deserve capital allocation right now — and which do not? These and other daily decisions should have CFO oversight. Effective CFOs, therefore, must be able to influence without authority.

Key takeaways

As we have seen, CFOs face a number of challenges in the year ahead, from adopting advanced analytic tools to aligning strategy and risk. What's more, it's imperative for finance leaders to provide input on — and have the capacity to influence — wide-ranging business decisions, even within functions or teams where they may not have direct authority or oversight. But CFOs who keep these three areas top of mind in the new year should be able to not only adapt and succeed, but deliver greater business value, and with greater scope, than ever before.