Evolving into the CFO of the future

by Veronika Bienert

From big data to internet of things (IoT) and additive manufacturing: At the 2018 Hannover Messe, company representatives from around the world get a first-hand look at the technologies that will define our future – devices and solutions that are bringing us even deeper into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The halls are crowded with experts ready to explain how each piece of technology will improve your business in particular and the industry as a whole.

Walking in the midst of those trends of automation and future manufacturing as a CFO generally brings another set of questions to the forefront: how to finance these investments. I am convinced that modern financial officers aren’t just crunching numbers in the background. Instead, we as CFOs are situated in an ideal position to drive that digital transformation forward and take an active role in leading an organization through Industrie 4.0 with a deep knowledge of the competitive advantages that digital transformation generates.

As CFOs, we are situated in an ideal position to drive the digital transformation and take an active role in leading an organization through Industrie 4.0.

But how do we leverage those opportunities that digitalization opens up? Which requirements are key? A modern CFO is well-versed in the Industrie 4.0 era and approaches his or her work with a digital mindset – a breed of finance head that @Siemens Financial Services has dubbed “CFO 4.0” in its new white paper. In concrete terms, the CFO 4.0 needs to possess a specific skill set to optimally support his or her company through a digital transformation. The new SFS white paper outlines these skills as follows:

 

By leveraging these five areas of expertise, a CFO 4.0 can actively contribute to digital transformation. Moreover, a CFO 4.0 can seamlessly support the operational side of the company through its digital transformation without time-consuming roadblocks that emerge when new processes are forced through old structures. After all, integration and interconnectedness should extend to the finance function as well so that digitalization can succeed throughout the entire company.

 

In my opinion, data connectivity and artificial intelligence have the highest potential of triggering disruptive change and creating value in various financial services industries. The Oliver Wyman study that I shared on LinkedIn several months ago provides an excellent overview of the primary ways CFOs can prepare themselves for these changes. Unfortunately, it is not just as simple as shifting focus to a new set of digital priorities. As the German Finance Magazin reported in a recent article, CFOs risk getting bogged down in paperwork associated with data security in the digital world and often struggle to find time to generate ideas and plan for the future. But this forward-thinking approach to digitalization cannot be swept aside. We must find ways to streamline the reporting aspect of our positions in order to play an active role in shaping the unavoidable transformation to come.

 

As we reflect on Hannover Messe – either through personal experiences on the fairgrounds or in reading about the showcased innovations in the press – it is important to keep in mind how we as a company can drive digital transformation together. When we understand the commercial incentives and imperatives of Industrie 4.0, we’re in a better position to make them financially feasible.


Veronika Bienert is the Chief Financial Officer for Siemens Financial Services. 

 

 

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