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5 FP&A Skills Every CFO Needs

The roles of finance executives and their teams have changed dramatically. Rather than being buried in spreadsheets and quarterly reports, modern CFOs and their teams need to be both analysts and strategists that can help steer their company in the right direction.

So, how exactly do you go about morphing into this new, challenging role? Below we’ve compiled a brief list of some of the most important skills and attributes CFOs need in order to succeed.

1. Ditch the accounting mindset

Unfortunately, we’ve seen many CFOs with great potential held back by what we like to call “the accounting mindset.

Rather than let us see opportunities to drive real change and value within our organizations, the accounting mindset limits our focus to conducting mandatory finance drills every quarter and spending hours in Excel. Instead of recognizing the potential for finance to play an active, collaborative role in forming and employing company strategy, this toxic mindset dumbs-down the role of finance professionals to that of bean counters.

If you want to succeed as a modern CFO, one of your first priorities needs to be ditching the accounting mindset. Be proactive and develop a clear-vision of what role you want yourself and your team to play within your business, and start building a strategy to get you there. Oh, and remember to be patient; unlearning old habits and transforming how you, your team, and the rest of your company see and value FP&A isn’t easy and won’t happen overnight.

2. Embrace technology

If you’re motivated by the idea of becoming a proactive, valued leader within your organization, you need to have technology on your side. Today, digital transformation is a top priority for business executives and it should be for you, too; data shows, for example, that 85% of execs dedicate ¼ of their total budget to digital transformation.

Unsurprisingly, research also shows that companies and executives that invest in technology are more likely to meet their core objectives, drive more revenue, save money, and generate expected ROI. There’s simply no denying that the proper use of technology can free up your team and let them focus on high-value analytics rather than data entry, spreadsheets, and other FP&A taskwork that can be automated and streamlined.

In order to head a successful digital transformation, CFOs need to:

  • Be more tech savvy.
  • Emphasize a culture that encourages growth, innovation, and constant improvement. 
  • Be strong leaders, team-builders, and collaborators.

3. Hone your people skills

While technology can have a huge impact on your team’s efficiency, the truth remains that your finance team is only ever going to be as good as the people in it. The new challenges CFOs and their teams face call not only for new tech solutions, but also a workforce with unique strengths, new approaches, and a solid vision. Nonetheless, hiring the right people for the job is still one of the biggest challenges facing finance executives.

If you’re serious about driving value and change within your company, you need to know how to find the right people for your team. Modern CFOs need to have tight people skills so they can guide their existing team members in meeting their full potential while also spotting the right talent to complement their existing team.

4. Improve your communication skills

At Apliqo, we believe CFOs and their finance teams need to be the voice of reason that guides the decision-making of a company’s key stakeholders. Unfortunately, many finance teams struggle to make their voices heard because their presentation skills are simply sub-par.

In one of his latest articles, Apliqo CEO Daniele Tedesco shined a light on the challenges of communicating FP&A effectively and shared some of his strategies of overcoming them. Some of the biggest challenges impeding finance teams in their communication Daniele identifies are:

  • The accounting mindset we mentioned earlier.
  • Financial literacy. Finance professionals often forget that the people they’re presenting to don’t have a finance background.
  • Lack of time and resources. More often than not, finance teams lack the time and resources needed to get their head out of Excel, analyze their processes, and identify ways to improve their workflow.

To succeed in FP&A today, CFOs and their teams need to seriously up their game when it comes to presenting and communicating. Knowing your audience, leveraging technology to improve your reporting and data visualization, and developing a clear messaging strategy are just a few ways to do that.

5. Become a business partner

Modern CFOs need to do a lot more than just keep their company’s books straight. More than ever before, businesses and their stakeholders are counting on their CFOs to play active roles in steering the company ship in the right direction. To do that, you need to ditch the accounting hat and become an agile, collaborative business partner that understands the company, where it stands, and where it wants to be.

To broaden your horizons and learn what it takes to be a successful CFO in today’s challenging, yet exciting environment, make sure to sign up for our FP&A Masterclass and follow our blog for more content like this.