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Role of the CFO

The finance department is a service function that provides accurate, timely, appropriate information to the right people, and in a proper format.

Unfortunately (… actually, fortunately…) finance executives frequently rise through the accounting ranks that require precision, accountability, and balancing.  Analyses and presentations are often prepared directly from automated records, general ledger accounts, and subsystems.  The result?  Quite often, columns of numbers can be easily traced –to the nearest two decimals – to any system.  Precisely.  An effective accounting system will always have an audit trail, andthe systems will balance. Wonderful data … raw data.

In small-to-mid-sized companies, the finance department frequently receives a request for accounting data.  In response, the report writer guru will develop an ad hoc report, and the system will generate this precisely auditable, traceable, nearest two-decimal summary to respond to the question.  The data is delivered, and the finance organization continues their mission of accounting.

Unfortunately, this is not good service.  A progressive, 21stcentury finance organization will try to understand the reason for the information request, and add value … be proactive.  The finance organization has the keys to the kingdom, and in their most effective mode, will probe the rationale for a question so they can prepare a more effective response. Once understood, they will develop a financial summary that solves the information need.

Example:

The CEO asks the CFO for a summary of commissions paid to the company’s sales reps, and to the contract manufacturer’s reps. 

Response A:

Report writer guru develops an ad hoc query, selects all the sales reps and contract rep files, prints the data, and sends the list to the CEO.

Response B:

CFO asks the CEO the reason for the summary, and discovers that the CEO is trying to understand if the company should change from contract reps to company employees in certain regions.

In Response B, the CFO requests data from the report guru.The CFO then summarizes the past two-year’s regional sales and gross margin (by quarter), ranked from high-to-low, and presents a what-if analysis showing the costs as if the contract reps were company employees. The CEO and the CFO had a one-hour meeting to discuss the results, and decided to convert two contract reps to company employees.

Which CFO does the CEO prefer?

Which CFO are you?