In the 2000 movie, What Women Want, Mel Gibson’s character has an accident that grants him the ability to read women’s minds and hear their thoughts.  He learns a lot through this process and is ultimately more empathetic and understanding towards…what women want.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, we at GKH have not been afforded such magical abilities to uncover What CFO’s Want (I wonder if Mel would do this as the sequel?).  We have however taken an “old school” approach and simply asked CFO’s what they want.  We’ve also scoured the internet for research on this topic so we can deliver content and services to meet this expectation.  The two most relevant and recent studies were 1) Kaufman Hall (KH), October 2016 – Surveyed 380+ Finance Executives in the US and 2) Robert Half (RH), January 2017 – Surveyed 160 CFO’s & Finance Directors in Australia.

Our feedback is in line with the research and it turns out there are 5 stand-out things that CFO’s want in 2017 and beyond.

  1. 90% want to use data to make better decisions (KH)

“CFOs want to make a bigger impact on operations across the board,” said Abe Cohen, vice president of marketing at Kaufman Hall. “The data is supporting the notion that CFOs are transforming into business advisers.”

  1. 77% want more agility (KH)

Less than 23% of respondents are very confident about their company’s ability to maneuver past unforeseen business obstacles, due in part to outdated financial planning and analysis (FP&A) tools and processes.

“Organizations spend way too much time every year going through the ‘annual budgeting process’,” Cohen says.

The length of budget cycles, inefficient reporting, and access to data and general problems caused by an over reliance on Excel are the primary challenges facing the FP&A function. More than 50% say they take longer than three months to complete a budget.

  1. 70% want better systems to improve processes (KH)

Although they might not like to admit it, nine in ten finance departments say they’re still using Excel as part of their financial planning and budgeting system. “Resource constraints” is the number one reason for inefficiencies, according to the survey respondents, followed by “outdated processes,” and “insufficient tools.”

“Over-reliance on Excel has many pitfalls,” Cohen said, “and not everyone involved in the planning process is an Excel expert.”

CFOs say having the ability to pull data from multiple sources into a single report would greatly increase productivity, along with better processes to mine data and improved dashboards and visualizations.

  1. 54% want assistance with talent management (RH)

David Jones, Senior Managing Director of Robert Half said, “CFOs will need to constantly re-evaluate their businesses’ strategic direction, prospective business models and revise operational processes in order to improve performance in a highly competitive financial landscape. In order to tackle this challenge, finance leaders need the support of efficient financial models, technologies, and most importantly – highly skilled staff.”

To meet the challenges ahead, more than half (54%) of CFOs say talent management – staff acquisition, retention and professional development – will be their main priority for 2017.

“Having the right team of professionals in place is not just critical to the effective working of the finance function, it also underpins the ability of the finance function to ‘value add’ across the business. In order to meet the increased demands of the company, CFOs need to make their finance teams more efficient, equipping them with the right skills and ensuring the correct processes are adopted.”

  1. 49% want to improve financial policies and procedures (RH)

As companies endeavour to explore new ways to streamline business practices, updating internal financial policies and procedures comes in second on the list of priorities for the year ahead for 49% of CFOs, followed by 44% who say they’ll be focusing on increasing profitability.

What do you think, has the research pulled a Mel Gibson and read your mind?  Does the research really support “What CFO’s Want”?

Excerpts from this article are courtesy of CFO Magazine and Robert Half.

 If you would like to discuss how GK Horizons can help with any of the above please contact us.