By Jeff Ryan, MD of AWCape, a Platinum Sage business partner for HR, payroll and financial solutions
As businesses become more digital and technology-driven, the role of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is rapidly evolving.
In the past, the CFO was primarily responsible for financial management and ensuring compliance with regulations. The role has primarily been a “behind the scenes” one – except when presenting financial results and forecasts.
However, with the increasing importance of technology in business, the CFO is now also expected to be a key player in the digital transformation journey. Most CIOs and CHROs report to the CFO, or the CFO performs all these roles. And because of this, many CFOs are well-suited to become CEOs in the future.
If you’re a CFO who aspires to become a CEO, you need to be prepared for the transition. Below are 5 ways to prepare yourself for the role.
1. Embrace a Cloud-First Strategy
One of the most significant changes in recent years has been the move towards cloud computing. The cloud offers numerous benefits for businesses, including improved scalability, flexibility, and cost savings. This “move” to the cloud is no longer a future requirement but as CFO, you should have expectations of a cloud-first strategy.
This means evaluating all of your IT investments and determining when to move or upgrade them to the cloud. You will need to work closely with your CIO and IT team to ensure that the migration is done correctly and that the appropriate security measures are in place.
A cloud-first strategy will not only save your organisation money, but it will also position you as a leader in digital transformation.
2. Drive Employee Engagement
As CFO, you’re responsible for managing the financial health of the organisation. However, you should also be paying close attention to employee engagement. Engaged employees are more productive, more likely to stay with the company, and more likely to advocate for the brand.
One way to drive employee engagement is to ensure that team members have access to the tools and technology they need to do their jobs effectively. This could include anything from collaboration software, mobile devices or even as simple as having reports available of employee metrics e.g. leave and sick days taken, hours worked etc.
You will also want to ensure that employees feel valued and appreciated. This could be through regular feedback, recognition programmes, or opportunities for growth and development. By driving employee engagement, you’ll be creating a culture that values innovation and is ready for digital transformation. If engagement is not your strongest skillset, then upskill and ensure you have experts with you to assist i.e. CHRO, PR managers, Change Managers etc.
3. Build Strong Relationships Across the Organisation
To be an effective CEO, you’ll need to have strong relationships across the organisation. This means building strong relationships with other C-level executives, as well as with managers and employees throughout the company. As CFO, you likely already have strong relationships with other executives, but it’s important to continue to build those relationships.
You’ll also want to be visible throughout the organisation and get to know the employees at all levels. By building strong relationships, you’ll be better positioned to lead the organisation through digital transformation. You can no longer be in the office behind a screen with numbers – CEOs spend most of their days with people.
4. Influence in the Digital Transformation Journey
As the CFO, you’ll likely be responsible for the financial aspects of the digital transformation journey. However, you should also be playing a key role in driving the transformation. This means working with other executives to develop their department’s digital strategy, evaluating potential technology solutions, and working with IT to implement those solutions.
You will also need to ensure that the business is prepared for the cultural changes that come with digital transformation. This could include training employees on new tools and technologies or helping to create a culture of innovation.
By influencing the digital transformation journey, you’ll be demonstrating your ability to lead the organisation into the future.
5. Do you see the big picture?
Finally, to become a CEO, you’ll need to develop strong leadership skills. This means being able to communicate effectively, make difficult decisions, and inspire others. You’ll need to be able to see the big picture and develop strategies that will help the organisation achieve its goals.
You will also need to be able to manage people effectively, set expectations, provide regular and constructive feedback, and address performance issues. To develop your leadership skills, consider taking leadership training courses, seeking out mentors or coaches, and reading leadership books, articles and podcasts.
The role of the CFO is rapidly evolving, and many are now being groomed to become CEOs in the future.
To prepare for this transition, CFOs must focus on a cloud-first strategy, drive employee engagement, build strong relationships across the business, influence the digital transformation journey, and develop their leadership skills. By embracing these five strategies, CFOs can position themselves for success in the CEO role and lead their organisations into the future.
And then, as the business landscape continues to evolve, CFOs and CEOs need to stay ahead of the curve and continue to develop their own skills and knowledge to remain competitive in the industry.