Welcome to our new article series about the future of the CFO role. While much is being written about “what” is changing, we focus on “how” to prepare for and embrace these changes. Simply put, we believe that CFO’s must lead the charge in establishing and maintaining resilient data management disciplines in their organizations – this is no longer a function of IT, but a strategic lever to survive and prosper.
Our goal is to inform, provoke thought, and encourage collaboration on this important topic. This is the road less travelled – but together with your valued feedback, it can become the mainstream ‘norm’ of the future.
Our journey begins now …
Data has the power to transform every business, yet organizations are in a constant struggle to unlock enterprise value from this invaluable asset. There have been numerous attempts in the past and present to address this issue, ranging from Enterprise Data warehouse (or now, Data Lakes) mandates, Master Data Governance/Management tools, to expansive overhauls of an organization’s Chart of Accounts in the quest for ‘Golden Records’.
Based on what we have seen and experienced firsthand, the undercurrent in majority of these efforts have been technically focused and driven by technology where the CFO has mostly played a passive role. Yet there are mounting pressures on the CFO to be a more proactive contributor to strategic decisions through insights derived from financial data – data that they hold responsibility for its timely and accurate capture, process, analysis, and reporting – whether it be for statutory reporting, risk compliance, or business planning.
Our view is that data will shape the organization structures of the future. Walls between departments will be torn down, teams will look vastly different than they are today and data will play a central in re-defining accountabilities and responsibilities.
This means that data management will need to be at the core of the organization and teams must be re-organized as fluid functions that surround data. Finance will be key to enabling this shift.
“How can Finance prepare for and embrace these changes?”, we asked ourselves. When looking back at the numerous projects and initiatives we were a key part of, we recognized an emerging pattern of success – a “Modern Finance Playbook” so to speak – one which we will be sharing with you in our series on this topic matter.
At its highest level, we have distilled this down to “The 5 Pillars to Data Nirvana” as follows.
The 5 Pillars to Data Nirvana™
The “5 Pillars to Data Nirvana” is comprised of five distinct but interlocking components, each of equal importance spanning processes, system investments, and cultivation of talent.
This Pillar establishes how the CFO function should be organized relative to the firmwide organization. The focus will be how data management disciplines will be intertwined with the Finance function and what talents to cultivate.
Data management as it relates to the CFO. This Pillar builds upon the first and is specific as to how the CFO ownership of data management will provide a faster and more nimble organization
While much has been covered in this domain, the interaction with the CFO function will be a focus. Successful enterprise data strategy mandates must be driven by beacons of light aligned with an organization’s strategic goals and categorically focused on areas of highest value to the organization to inertia.
There will be a lot of resistance. Setting the right tone from the top from the get go will be instrumental to the success of this shift. Change will need to be proactively managed alongside thoughtful messaging and easing of transition.
Controls over data should not be an afterthought or bolt-on processes. Where possible, these should be embedded and integrated as part of the business processes and related work flows. This Pillar defines the harvesting of the organizational benefits noted in the prior topics through efficiencies and enhanced controls through the elimination of reconciliations, data transformations, etc.
We look forward to your valued feedback which, in turn, helps us set the future direction and focus on this article series for the broader benefit of our profession. We are here to help.
About the Authors
Keith F. McDermott, CPA is a seasoned finance executive and U.S. Certified Public Accountant (CPA) having held senior management positions at MUFG Securities, JP Morgan Chase, and Credit First Boston to name a few. At each of those organizations, Mr. McDermott has been instrumental in cultivating data centricity and stewardship across finance, accounting, and risk compliance teams. More importantly, Mr. McDermott has been successful in pivoting the role of Finance from data stewards to strategists, empowering the team to draw deep insights through data analytics and harvesting tangible enterprise value.
Alex C. Leung, CPA, CA is Managing Director at The Goal Getters (TGG) and Chartered Accountant (CPA, CA) with more than 20 years’ experience in business advisory and management consulting. As a Finance Director at Brookfield Asset Management (BAM), Mr. Leung led a team responsible for BAM’s Financial Applications portfolio (e.g., Expense Management, Private Equity, Loan Administration, Enterprise Performance Management, Data Analytics). While at PwC, Mr. Leung played a lead role in developing and administering the firm’s Sarbanes Oxley (U.S.) and Bill 198 (Canada) compliance framework for Real Estate.
About The Goal Getters (“TGG”)
Since 1991, The Goal Getters (“TGG”) has helped organizations across North America maximize value from their Corporate and Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) solutions. We are Certified Partners to leading CPM & EPM solutions that have consistently delivered quality business solutions from streamlining end-to-end financial reporting, designing executive level analytics, to simplifying planning and budgeting cycles. Our operations continue to expand with offices in Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and Calgary to better serve our clients in Canada and the U.S.